A budget is a plan. Having a plan for how you want to spend your money is not something that should cause anxiety or panic attacks. Money is a tool – and it’s your tool. This is how you get started making your money work for you. It’s not a quick fix for paying tomorrow’s bills, it’s a commitment to getting you and your money together doing all the things you need and want to. It’s time to play along at home. Take a deep breath, read the links, and let’s rock this budget thing.
- Week 1: Accept that “budget” is not a bad word and make a list of all the things that make you happy. Why? Because if you are working your face off to make money but aren’t happy and don’t know what makes you happy, a budget won’t help you in the long haul.
- Week 2: If it makes you happy, you should probably figure out how to do it more. Be more intentional about you spending by taking a couple seconds before each purchase this week to see if that purchase is related to something on last weeks happy list. Bonus challenge: do as much on your happy list as you can without spending money. Why? Because at all income levels I’ve seen people not thinking about where their money goes and why it goes there. Intentional spending is amazingly powerful. Spending by habit is not.
- Week 3: Let’s talk about what a finish line is (and isn’t) and figure out where are you right now, today. Why? Because you need to know where you and where you are before directions to a new place can make any sense.
- Month 2: You’re ready for the first of the month. It’s still not a budget. It’s stretching before you work out. It’s looking before you leap. It’s taking a month to track what you spend and earn. Why? So you don’t make up random numbers that look good on paper (but don’t match your reality) and fail at budgeting. You do you this month, just keep track of it. No judgement.
- Month 3: This is how you make your first budget. Why? Because hope is not a plan, but this budget is. You are ready. You were born for this.
- Month 3 1/2: Check in, stay on track, don’t forget about your budget. Why? Because the budget is like your compass – it doesn’t dictate every step you take, it just tells just you which way to go from wherever you are. If you never look at your compass, your going to need some really amazing luck to keep moving in the right direction.
Now you just keep it going. When the end of the month comes along, you go right back to step 5 and think about your money past, present and future (that’s your debt, current stuff, and savings) and how who you did during the last month impacted each of them.
You are building your budget muscles with reps: month by month, it gets better and it gets easier. You refine your plan, make some progress, figure out where you struggle, and try again. Adjust your budget when you need to, keep your spending intentional and know that some months are better than others. There is no “perfect” there is only progress. You know what always happens after this month? Next month.
Keep this in mind – if you get a 92 on a test, that’s an “A”. So if you did 92% of what you planned for in a given month – you are totally winning at life, you’ve got that “A”. But that doesn’t mean a “C” is the end of the world. Even a complete fail is something to learn from. It happens to everyone.
I’ve got big goals and big dreams and I know I can’t have everything right now in this month. But I do think I can have everything eventually if I plan right. And a budget is just a plan.