Budgeting for People Who Hate Planning
Although potentially life-changing, there are two things that most people hate doing — dieting and budgeting. Whether it’s weight loss or a better financial situation that you seek, neither task is easy, they’re often frustrating or boring, and it tends to take quite some time before you see significant results. With budgeting, it’s more about crunching numbers than crunching abs, but if you hate math or just planning in general, there are several ways to make this important task more exciting. (See also: How to Spend Less Without Starting a Budget)
Find the Motivation
Your first step to better budgeting is finding a motivating factor that will keep you surging onward even in the face of boredom. I used to dread budgeting too, but after printing up pictures of things I would like to have or do (travel, new laptop, etc.), I noticed a substantial boost in my enthusiasm level. Having these pictures (or just visualizations, if you prefer) with me constantly — on the refrigerator, in the car, on the bathroom mirror — was helpful in keeping my mind focused on the goal at hand. We don’t live in a fantasy world, though, so in order to achieve our goals, we need to put in a little (or a lot of) effort along the way. Visualizing or seeing your goals in pictorial format serves as a constant reminder why you’re planning out your financial future in the first place. If you need an extra "kick," then perhaps keep a diary or start your own blog to keep track of your process (again, keeping you continuously focused on the end goal).
Seek Inspiration From Others
The Budgeting Babe has an excellent list of budgeting blogs on her website. Check out some of the blogs listed to help you kick-start your own foray into the realm of numbers and dollar signs. And consider starting your own blog or diary (or discussing your budgeting goals with a trusted friend or spouse) to keep yourself accountable for your financial situation, and thus, more likely to succeed.
Make It Fun
Now that you’re motivated and being held accountable, let’s get down to the actual process. All work and no play makes one a dull budgeter. Challenging yourself to spend under $___ amount in a given category each month can get your mind off the mind-numbing calculations and more engaged with the goal of saving money. If you “win,” then at the end of the month, go out and splurge a little as your reward. Just as the dieting process is nearly impossible for most people without a break (comfort food!), budgeting will grow old very quickly if you don’t reward yourself for milestones along the way.
Furthermore, there are some websites and smartphone apps that can help you compose your budget in the form of colorful pie charts, which are more fun to work with and look at than just a plain spreadsheet. Two of the best websites for this process are Mint and PearBudget.
Take It Slowly
Again with the dieting references, “crashing” your way through this mildly unpleasant task is not going to work. In order to maintain a suitable level of drive and succeed in creating a functional budget, you ought to take things in little steps. Phase unnecessary expenses out slowly and factor in a savings category as your excess income builds up over the course of time. Also, fewer categories will help — not only does this mean there is less to keep track of overall, but it decreases the amount of time you’ll need to spend pouring over spreadsheets and bill categorization. Speaking of bills, having as many online payments as you are comfortable with can speed up the initial formation of your budget, producing a low-maintenance, almost-automated system to help guide you through your finances in the future.
Budgeting isn’t difficult unless you make it so. Take a personal finance class or read blogs if you need added help (coming to Wise Bread is a fantastic start!). With proper planning (with fun elements thrown in), you will have a budget up and running in no time.
Tell us about your budgeting tips in the comments below.