You’ve probably made several attempts to live on a budget. You have good intentions of saving for retirement, paying cash for your next car, or steering clear of financing your next Black Friday shopping spree. Yet, somehow you always fall off the wagon when it comes to honoring your intentions. You probably last only three months on a budget, and I’m sorry to be so blunt, it’s more than likely because your budget sucks.
It’s not you. You totally rock! You’re here at Life and a Budget trying to snatch your financial life back into its proper place and I feel you. I know where you’re coming from, but sometimes you need someone who’s going to cut it straight with you. It’s obvious your friends or ya’ peoples ain’t telling you, so I’m going to go ahead and drop nine reasons on why your budget sucks. Don’t worry, you can do something about it.
Reason No. 1 Your Budget Sucks: You think your credit card limit dictates the amount you list as income on your budget.Your $3,000 credit limit with American Express is not an emergency fund! Click To Tweet
Your $3,000 credit limit with American Express is not income. This is worth repeating. Your $3,000 credit limit with American Express is not income! Your income is the amount of money you have earned either through employment, child support, alimony, pensions, investments, and/or other passive means. Also, your $3,000 credit limit with American Express is an emergency fund either. Your emergency fund consists of income you have set aside for a rainy day.
Reason No. 2 Your Budget Sucks: Your budget depends on your upcoming pay.
What would you do if you didn’t get paid? If you’ve set up your budget to depend on each paycheck, there’s always a possibility of not getting paid. You know, people make mistakes. Payroll could be tripping and forget to approve next Friday’s paycheck. If that happens, what would you do when your landlord asks you for the rent money that’s due Friday evening?
When your bill payments depend on your next payday, you are living in a paycheck to paycheck cycle. Nothing would get paid if your money didn’t hit the bank. The best way to get out of this cycle is to set aside some of your income and get ahead of your expenses. Your goal should be to forget about payday because your livelihood would no longer depend on the next paycheck.
Reason No. 3 Your Budget Sucks: You neglect irregular or unexpected expenses.
I’ve already explained my position on unexpected expenses. They aren’t unexpected. Life happens and we all know it. Why not prepare for those crazy days? Overdue library book fees, parking tickets, insurance premiums, school fees — all of these are irregular expenses. August is the eighth month of every year. So if you have kids in school, it’s a good idea to go ahead and start preparing for those expenses.
There are multiple ways to tackle irregular or unexpected expenses. You can take an average of all of your expenses from the prior year and divide it by twelve. This should give you a rough estimate of how much you need to set aside each month. Lump all of these expenses together in a slush fund or create different savings buckets.
A lot of people put irregular expenses into one specific savings account; however, I prefer using savings buckets. This method of saving has become more popular with the rise in popularity of online banking institutions that allows multiple savings accounts.
I personally use Capital One 360 to meet our savings goals. (If you sign up with them using my referral link and deposit $250 from a non-Capital One 360 account, they give a $25 bonus. Be sure to read the rest of the details to qualify.)
Reason No. 4 Your Budget Sucks: You don’t allow for bad days or mistakes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again...you need a buffer. Any amount would be better than nothing at all. We all have bad days. You might forget about a subscription renewal fee one day. On this same day, your power bill might be scheduled to automatically withdraw payment. If there isn’t enough money in your account, you will incur an overdraft fee.
Overdraft fees can be avoided. I mean, you can tell the bank to turn them off for Pete’s sake <insert eye roll>. You could also micro-manage your money down to the last penny, but the easiest thing to do would be keeping a little extra cash in your checking account.
A buffer in your account will save you from more than overdraft fees. It will help you get a month ahead of your expenses so you can escape the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. It will also provide a little extra cushion for those unexpected expenses I keep bringing up. Just do yourself a favor, keep a little extra change in your checking account. It will, at least, eliminate one reason why your budget sucks 😁.
Reason No. 5 Your Budget Sucks: Your budget doesn’t include savings.Reason No. 5 Your Budget Sucks: Your budget doesn’t include savings. Click To Tweet
If you don’t have savings this means you’re not getting paid. Seriously, if all of your money is going towards bills, this means you are working for the light people, the rent people, the car people, the school people. You’re working for all kinda people. No one wants to work forty hours a week and have anything to show for it.
The purpose of working is to accumulate wealth and you can’t accumulate wealth if you’re not paying yourself first! It is imperative to sit aside ANY amount of income for yourself before you start paying the people your hard-earned wages. Don’t make everybody else rich while you work your life away.
If you feel like you have nothing to save from each paycheck, it’s time to either cut expenses or bring in extra income. You could work overtime, babysit, start a side-hustle, take a survey or two. It doesn’t matter how you do it (well, as long as it’s legal), make an effort create a surplus each month. Your surplus shouldn’t be everything that’s left over after the people get paid. Your surplus should be the money you snatch off the top. Let everyone else get paid with whatever’s leftover.
Reason No. 6 Your Budget Sucks: You are trying to make someone else’s budget work for you.
I’ve read up on all the different ways to budget. There’s the 50/30/20, zero-sum, cash budget — I won’t get into all of them because that’s another post for another day. I will say the type of budget you choose in itself does not matter. What does matter is whether the budget you’ve chosen is something you’ll stick to in the long-haul and help you achieve your financial goals.
You can’t expect your best friend’s budget to deliver the same results for you. You are two completely different people with different personalities. You might even be living completely different lifestyles. Why would a budget that works for a 20-year-old single person work exactly the same for a 35-year-old married couple who has three kids?
Regardless of what method you choose to use for your budgeting system, make sure it’s something that will work for you. If you have a family, your budgeting style must reflect them as well. Never compare your finances or the way you handle your money to someone else. There’s a reason they call it personal finance. Take whatever budget method you prefer and tweak it so it works for you.
Reason No. 7 Your Budget Sucks: Your budget isn’t built to handle regular car or home maintenance.
This is a pet peeve of mine. It amazes me when someone gets bent out of sorts over a flat tire or dead battery. It’s amazing because car maintenance or repairs shouldn’t be a surprise. Cars aren’t built to last forever and as soon as you drive it off the lot you’re at risk of a flat tire or some other type of car emergency.
So, why is it so many people can’t understand this type of expense should be just as expected as their car note? When you create your budget, go ahead and include car maintenance. It’s shouldn’t be an option. If you have a car, it’s expected.
If it will help, use this little trick. Let’s assume you have a car payment (because all of us haven’t gotten on the replace your car in cash train yet. Just being real). Instead of putting the actual amount of your car note into your budget, overestimate the expense. Say your car payment is $240, put down $270 in your budget category.
Have the extra $30 automatically withdrawn from your checking account on the day you make your car payment. The car people will get paid and your car maintenance coins will stack up. Next time your tire is flat or your battery dies, you will already have the money set aside to use. The same little savings trick can apply to your home maintenance savings as well.
Reason No. 8 Your Budget Sucks: There is a leak in your budget.
Leaks. I’m not going to lie — this little problem sometimes gets the best of me too. You buy a candy bar here, a piece of gum there, a newspaper, a nail file — everywhere you go change is falling out of your pocket. Those coins add up!
I don’t like itemizing my budget. I can’t wrap my head around budgeting for every single thing I spend money on, but that doesn’t give me a pass to spend frivolously either. To keep a seal on leaks, go ahead and create an expense in your budget for “everything else”. Everyone needs a little fun money or spending money to do something with.
Reason No. 9 Your Budget Sucks: You’re living above your means.
If you’re accumulating debt to keep up with your current lifestyle, you’re living above your means. The only way to get back down to your level would be to cut your expenses and live off the actual amount of money you make, not the money you wish you made. Everybody can’t be like the Kardashians. Trying to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous when you’re working in a cubicle along with the rest of us is not a good look.If you can only afford cubed steak for dinner, don’t purchase the filet mignon on credit. Click To Tweet
TLC said it best, “stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.” If your money can only afford you a boat to ride on the lake, don’t try to buy a yacht. If you can only afford cubed steak for dinner, don’t purchase the filet mignon on credit. If your dream is to live like a baller with a big body Benz, save up for it instead of financing it. Live within your means.
Okay, I’m done.
I want to see you win. I believe there is room for all of us to win with our personal finances if we’re willing to put in the hard work that’s involved. Like it or not, chances of winning the lottery are slim and the most many of us have to work with are those paychecks. To make those paychecks go as far as they can go, we must create budgets that will work in our favor — not budgets that suck. So, if any of the above applies to you, don’t fret my dear. Next week I’m going to follow up on how to create a budget that won’t fail.
Don’t be shy. Has your budget ever sucked? Does your budget still suck?