It’s totally understandable to be apprehensive about taking a long, hard look at your finances. There’s a lot of information out there, and it can seem overwhelming.
That’s why this post is here – to help get you excited about starting down the path to financial health (or at least help you hate the first step less).
Consider this post a baby step, a small movement towards greater financial health.
Tip #1: The anxiety of knowing is better than the anxiety of not knowing
This is something you’re going to have to trust me on until you take the plunge. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve delayed; it doesn’t matter how much money you could’ve saved by doing this before; it doesn’t matter how late you are to the party.
Knowing about your finances doesn’t change them, but it gives you more control over them. No matter how bad the situation, at least you have a foothold, something that you can measure and attempt to change, instead of handing over your credit card and hoping that the charge goes through.
As the Chinese proverb goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now.”
Tip #2: It’s empowering to have a handle on it and to know what your money is doing
My girlfriend’s mom is a big fan of travel. We went to Germany a few years back, and we plan on going to Japan this summer. Before I started budgeting, that sort of large expense would paralyze me: where would the money come from? Do I have to get a secondary job? How much is the right amount to save?
With a handle on your finances, none of these questions are stressful at all. I did a bit of research, figured out how much I’d need to save, and made a new category in my budget. Done. When we pool our money to pay for the trip, it won’t hurt a bit; I’ve got money set aside, specifically budgeted for the trip.
That’s not the only thing I’m saving up for: I’ve started saving up money for the 2020 presidential election already, and should comfortably be in time to make the maximum contribution to my candidate of choice. I like to support my representatives as much as possible, and budgeting is a great way to support the changes you’d like to see in society.
Saving for big expenses becomes, not just easy and effortless, but fun. It’s a powerful feeling to know that you can spend big on the things you want.
Starting off is scary, but how badass are you gonna feel when you pay for your vacation and don’t feel the dent in your finances? (Here’s a hint: pretty. Damn. Badass.)
Tip #3: Cash budgeting – a different way to budget
While I encourage digging down into your spending and seeing exactly what’s there, there are other ways to budget, too. Cash budgeting works great for some people.
Cash budgeting works like this: when you get paid, you withdraw x amount of dollars from your bank account, and that’s the money you have until your next paycheck. Keep it in an envelope in your house, put away the credit cards, and just use cash.
There are a few advantages that cash budgeting gives – one, you don’t have to look deep into your finances and see everything you might’ve “done wrong” (though I think this is a silly concept anyway, as explained above). All you have to do is look at your spending, month-by-month, and allot yourself a reasonable amount in accordance with that data. Two, people who use cash to buy things spend less than those who use credit cards – if you get 3% cash back on your card, but you spend 10% more, is it really a better deal?
If you’re hesitant about sitting down and going category-by-category into your finances, maybe cash budgeting will be less of a daunting task for you.
Tip #4: No one’s judging you for budgeting
There seems to be this stigma around budgeting: I’ve heard “but isn’t budgeting for poor people?” bouncing around the internet.
Let me be clear: no. Budgeting is for people who want to gain control over their money.
It doesn’t matter what your income is; it doesn’t matter what you spend your money on. Budgeting can, and will, help almost everyone better their financial health. Would YOU judge someone for trying to better themselves?
If there’s stigma around budgeting, it’s a silly stigma. If budgeting helps you, then budget. The only people the haters are hurting are themselves.