Two Big Problems With Budgeting Advice

Two big problems with budgeting advice - and how to fix them

You know that feeling when you read a really great piece of advice, and you’re totally fired up to put it into action and Change Your Life…

…and then by the end of the week, everything’s exactly the same as it was before?

Yeah, it’s not just for fad diets and fitness trends. It happens with budgeting too, and I know this from deeply personal experience.

The amount of times I would go into Mint, or pop open an Excel spreadsheet, and “plan my budget” based on an inspiring blog post or some bracing real-life money advice from a blogger, is too high to even admit.

Every time, like clockwork, I’d be inspired for about a week, but by the end of the month, my money situation was right back to normal.

I hadn’t saved more money.

I hadn’t cut my spending.

I was still buying lattes.

It turns out, the problem wasn’t (all) me. It was part of a bigger problem with budgeting advice.

Problem #1: It’s not personalized

Most budgeting advice is general, because it has to be. I’m as guilty of this as the next person, which you’ll know if you’ve used the One Minute Budget.

It’s literally a calculator to tell you what your budget should be, based on generally accepted numbers. It couldn’t be more general if it tried. (It tried really hard tbh.)

And don’t get me wrong, those generalizations are a great place to start, but unless you’re Suzy Normal, your spending, your likes, your dislikes and your goals aren’t going to be Perfectly Average.

You’ll have to do some tweaking – and yes, some work – to take those generalizations, figure out which ones fit for you and which ones don’t, and how you’re going to make all of the things you want to do fit into your monthly money situation.

It’s kind of like Tetris, but with dollars. And as we all know, Tetris is a game you lose pretty quickly if you do it on autopilot.

Problem #2: It’s not action-oriented

So if the generalizations aren’t going to work, and you need to take action to make your budget your own…

How do you do that? What’s the first step?

I remember this one assignment, back in university, that just baffled me.

I was totally lost in the class, to the point where when I sat down to try the first question in the assignment, I didn’t even know which part of the textbook to read first.

I was so confused by the whole thing, if we’re being perfectly honest, I dropped the class.

The same option isn’t really viable for your budget, since you can’t really drop “money” in your day-to-day life (and it would have some pretty major consequences if you did.)

But a lot of budgeting advice, especially in books and blogs, is focused on concepts and ideas – not concrete action steps. And when you do find concrete steps, like “how to start online banking” or “how to handle not hitting your money goals,” it’s usually not answers to “but how do I start budgeting though.”

And fun story: when you’re starting to build a budget that’s right for you, you shouldn’t start with the numbers anyways.

So if you’re wondering why budgeting has never really made a huge difference in your behaviour? These two reasons probably have a lot to do with it.

And if you’re (reasonably) wondering why you would even care about budgeting if there are so many issues with it, here’s why.

Budgeting is just making a plan for your money

Budgeting gets a pretty horrible rap, and deservedly, thanks to those two main factors. But at the end of the day, making a budget is just like planning out how you want to spend your time.

Sure, that probably includes things like commuting, and going to meetings you’d rather skip out on, but it also includes training for that half marathon, and planning a birthday lunch with a friend, and snuggling up with a good book once in a while.

As long as you have a plan to fit all those things into your schedule, you can make sure to balance the things you have to do with the things you really want to do.

And the same goes for budgeting.

It’s not some horrible ploy to make you give up the stuff you love to do, like your fancy gym membership or your books.

It’s just a step-by-step process to help you make sure you’re using your money to do as much of the things you want to do – short and long term – as you can, while still being all responsible and whatnot.

And that plan is what’s going to help you achieve all of your big goals.

Budgeting can help you afford that goal, too

You know, the one you think is wayyyy unattainable? Whether it’s a house, or an emergency fund, or a year off of work to travel the world, the first step to making it a reality is getting a handle on your money.

That’s what I built the Quick Budget Fix to help you do. (Yes, you.)

If you have a plan in place to spend your money in line with the things you really want, that goal all of a sudden starts to become possible – and your plan should give you a pretty clear view of when it’ll be possible for you, too.

And there’s no one with as much experience and knowledge about what you want than you – so you have everything you need to do this, even if you think you’re “bad at money.”

You’re not bad at money.

Just like I’m not inherently bad at making macarons – I just needed a bit of help actually implementing the recipe.

So if you think you might want a bit of help building that ideal money plan, to help you achieve your goals?

Check out the Quick Budget Fix checklist.

The course itself is closed (for now!) but you can still download the full checklist of steps you need to take to build a budget that works for you.

 

Desirae is on a mission to demystify and un-boring financial info for millennials, so that we can all save more money, spend on stuff that matters to us, and still have a latte or two along the way. Money is literally why we can have nice things, and Desirae is committed to helping make sure you know just enough to make the right calls for you. (She’s also committed to her expensive dog, her side hustle, and her retirement fund.)

3 Comments on “Two Big Problems With Budgeting Advice”

  1. Stephanie

    By extension, personal finances blogs have the exact same problems, i.e. generic and not necessarily action-oriented. That’s why it is good not to take them too literally.

    I tried several “methods” for budgeting before finding the one that worked for me. it took some time too.

    Kudos for being able to bake macarons BTW. They are indeed finicky to make.

  2. Owen

    One thing that always comes up when my wife and I redo our family budget is how differently we both approach it.

    We each have our own budgeting language and method and it seems that each time we redo our budget we spend some of the time explaining our thinking to the each other.

    Our brains just work differently.

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