It’s totally understandable to be apprehensive about taking a long, hard look at your finances.  Budgeting, retirement funds, savings rates… there’s a lot of information out there, and it can seem overwhelming.  There’s also a whole lot of budgeting brow-beating, telling you everything wrong with not wanting to look at your finances.

Don’t worry.  I get it, it’s scary.  That’s why this post is here – to help get you excited about starting down the path to financial health (or, y’know, at least make you hate the idea of starting down the path less).

 

Consider reading this post a baby step, a small movement towards greater financial health.

 

  • Ask me to help!
  • The anxiety of knowing is less 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, it just 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 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.”

  • Find someone else to help
  • It’s not a massive change, it’s a bit of changes here and there (that add up)
  • 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 take another 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; that’s what the money’s being set aside for, after all.

That’s not the only thing I’m saving up for: not to get too political, but I’m not a fan of money in politics.  That said, if my money will help a candidate that I support, then I want to support them as much as I can.  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.

Saving for big expenses becomes, not just easy, not just effortless, but fun.  It’s a powerful feeling to know that you can spend big on the things you want, and not have it scuttle your finances.

I know 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.)

  • No answer is “wrong”
  • Budgets aren’t restrictive – they’re organizational
  • 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 goes 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).  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, it’s been proven that [[[[[[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.

  • 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.

If someone judges you for budgeting… first off, why?  That’s an honest, straightforward, non-aggressive, and valid question.  Why would you judge someone for trying to get control over their finances?  Seems like a worthy goal to me.

Secondly, this is a pretty rare problem anyway – I certainly don’t blather on about my finances to people who might judge me (this blog notwithstanding).  People don’t tend to talk finances ([[[[[[[which I think is a bad thing]]]]]]]]), so this stigma is pretty vacuous.

  • Write down your financial goals and life goals.  Then budget around those