Budgeting Doesn't Have to be Scary
There’s a scene in every scary movie where you, sitting out there in the audience, think you know what’s about to happen. And the main character—up there on the screen about to encounter danger—seems completely oblivious.
A scene like this: The main character sits down with her husband to create their first monthly budget. You give the arm of your chair a squeeze and mouth, “Noooo!” with all the intensity you can muster. Of course, she can’t hear you. And besides, what good would this story be without a little suspense?
Stick around for the entire flick and maybe you’ll discover that budgeting isn’t so bad after all. With a little knowledge and perseverance, the main characters learn to overcome their money fears—and you can, too.
What Are You Afraid Of?
Like a runner’s high that kicks in only after you’ve been at it for a while, budgeting is one of those disciplines that feels best once you’re already doing it. Before getting started, though, budgeting sounds intimidating. In fact, a British survey found that 65% of those surveyed would prefer a root canal to making a plan for their money.¹ What is it about creating a monthly budget that feels so ominous?
Let’s talk through some of the fears you might be wrestling with and investigate the best way to overcome them: arming yourself with the truth.
Fear: Budgeting will make me feel trapped. You assume the budget is where happiness goes to die. Sure, you’ll have more money in savings, but you’ll also need to sport potato sack dresses, sleep on the floor, and only eat PB&Js. But you love to shop, enjoy the luxury of a comfy bed, and consider yourself a foodie.
- Truth: Budgeting brings freedom. By creating a budget, you can spend with confidence. Go on a trip, snag that new shirt, indulge in a fabulous and over-the-top meal. Do the things you want without worry because your bills are covered, your savings is growing, and the future looks bright.
Fear: Budgeting takes too much time. If you’re like most of us, your days are crammed with enough activity. Finding time to create a monthly budget scares you for practical reasons. You probably wonder what you’ll have to give up in order to manage all the spreadsheets and calculators sure to take over your dining room table.
- Truth: You can budget in just minutes a month! Yes, you’ll probably spend an hour or so creating your first budget. In the months that follow, though, you should be able to whip up a new monthly money plan in less than 10 minutes! And if you’re an EveryDollar Plus user, you can keep track of your spending with a quick swipe—no receipts or elephant’s memory necessary.
Fear: Budgeting won’t work. There’s nothing quite like the sting of failure. That’s why even the anticipation of failing often paralyzes us. Perhaps you’re worried you’ll use up time you don’t have, lock away the money you do have, but see no results.
- Truth: Budgeting is the key to reaching your money goals. Not only does budgeting work—and boy, does it work!—but it also has the power to change your life. People who create an EveryDollar budget save 18% more money and pay off 19% more debt.
Some Fears are Healthy Fears
Maybe for you the worries run a bit deeper than scheduling, restriction or lack of success. You’re afraid budgeting might reveal things about your money situation that you don’t want to know. Friends, this is what we call a healthy fear. And you aren’t alone. Among a myriad of money problems, 66% of Americans couldn’t afford a $1,000 emergency and 40% of adults in relationships with combined bank accounts admit to financially cheating on their significant other.²
The idea of owning up to these or other money realities might give you a fright. Still, we think budgeting is worth facing your fears. Because you know what’s really scary? Swiping your card with no knowledge of how much you have left in the bank.
A 2017 survey concluded that 22% of Americans chose “never being able to retire” as their biggest money fear. At 20%, “always living paycheck to paycheck” is a close second.³ The best way to conquer those fears? A budget! By metaphorically looking in the closets and under the bed, you’ll actually give yourself the opportunity to discover where the real money-monsters lurk, and you can shoo the imaginary ones away.
Keep the Budget Boogie Man at Bay
Hopefully we’ve convinced you to dust the cobwebs off your bank account and give monthly budgeting a try. You could move forward with a flashlight and a keen eye—on the lookout for danger around every corner. Or you can set up a few safeguards to keep the budget boogie man at bay.
1. Find an accountability partner. If you’re married, you’ve got built-in accountability. If you’re single, look for a friend or family member you trust and feel comfortable talking to about private money matters. With an accountability partner you’ll enjoy regular encouragement to reach your money goals. You’ll also have someone to help you figure out budgeting problems as you work together to make the most of your income.
2. Schedule a monthly budget date. Grab a calendar and sit down with your accountability partner to plan out when you’ll discuss your finances. Have fun: Go out for dinner, take a nice walk, or meet up for dessert. You can go over your budget and then strategize how you’ll send that student loan and your credit card payments to the grave.
3. Keep things simple with EveryDollar. Our budgeting app allows you to create line items for anything and everything you might spend your money on. You can easily enter your income, make room for all of your expenses, and plan for your big financial goals. Budgets roll over from one month to another with simple steps for making any needed adjustments. You can access the app on your computer, tablet or phone—all for free!
Still worried budgeting might not work for you? Get curious. Learn what you can about your financial situation, see what other people think about budgeting, and soon enough you’ll find yourself sitting at the table starting your own first budget.
And we, out there in the audience, will be cheering you on.