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Beginning a Budget for Those Who Don't Want to Look at Their Bank Account

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

Have you ever felt shame when you looked at your bank account? Like, that little number is a reflection of how responsible you have been, your thoughtless purchases, how much hope you should have for the future, your moral character, or how not ready to be an adult you actually are. Have you ever avoided looking at your bank account all together because you know these feelings would arise? If you do not look at the account, it feels like those shortcomings aren't really there.

I know I have felt that way. About a year after I got my first credit card, I planned a trip that cost a little more than I anticipated. When I got home, it was time to calculate the damage and I didn't want to. What I didn't know couldn't kill me. Rather, what I didn't know, couldn't define me. Somehow knowing what was in my account felt too direct. It forced me to take ownership of a reality I created and left me feeling, irresponsible. It would surface all the thoughtless purchases I had made and how incompetent I felt about being a young adult.

Somehow though, I mustered up some bravery. It wasn't the bravery to do simple math. Instead, it was the bravery to look at myself for who I was, not the idealized version of me that I wanted to be. It was the bravery to take 100% ownership of my choices and where they had gotten me. If you want to know where those choices did get me, it was $300 left in my account. I was one small emergency away from being broke.

I didn't feel secure, however, I felt empowered. My choices had got me into a mess but new, more thoughtful choices could also get me out.

If this is you, a budget is a good way to start taking ownership of your life. Budgets essentially give your dollars a place, a purpose, and an intention. A budget helps you decide ahead of time the purpose of every dollar, whether the purpose is buying groceries or gas. It allows us to make choices from a part of our mind that has a clearer perspective and a stronger sensibility, rather than caving to impulse.

When it comes to starting a budget, there are practical steps but you must also get your mind right since the process can surface shame, overwhelm, and past failure. So we are going to talk about both, starting with our mind.

Getting your mind right:

Honestly, budgets are pretty simple when you look at them in a technical sense. The reason we have such a hard time with them is because they are much more emotional than we give them credit for. If we can move through the emotional aspect of them, the practical steps really are not that hard. For that reason, we are going to start with getting your mind right when it comes to budgeting. If we do not get into the right headspace then we won't even get started, no matter how spelled out the steps are. So here are some considerations where your mind might have gone awry when it comes to budgeting.

1. You are carrying past failure into the future with you.

I think most of us can relate to having some kind of financial failure. Our financial decisions can have a wide range of consequences, from small to substantial. Maybe it is an impulse purchase, a shopping addiction, a bad investment, or a tendency to spend our whole paycheck rather than putting any over into savings. If we have had shortcomings that have been painful enough to us, then approaching a budget could be very difficult emotionally. Our shame rises to the surface, and makes us feel bad for who we are because of the things we have done. Here is how it works: we may have a tendency towards impulse purchases and we create a repeated pattern. That repeated pattern forms an identity for ourselves and identities are hard to break. We tell ourselves a story of how we are a person who doesn't know how to save and so on and so forth. We do not believe we can behave differently because to us, this is who we are. Here is the thing though, in our minds, we are what we do repeatedly(Disclaimer, this is not 100% true all of the time, but when it comes to our sense of identity and self-image, what we repeatedly do has significant impact). Alternatively, we can repeatedly do better, even if we think we can't, therefore, creating a new sense of identity for ourselves. Our actions are a reflection of our beliefs. Believe new possibilities for yourself and that will begin to translate to new behavior. To begin to cultivate a healthy relationship with money, be minded to the fact that you are someone who can obtain success in this area.

Try writing a new script. Write the story of who you will be in the future. Our past is not a prophecy, and our past does not predict our future. Stop telling yourself who you have been, instead, who you will be. This will make the challenge of starting a new budget much easier.

2. You tell yourself it is too hard.

Another obstacle to getting started is telling yourself, "It is too hard. It takes too much time. I am too tired," and a myriad of other things. If you feel resistance to getting started, it is the story you are telling yourself. Some people follow a budget without any problems and that is because they say things like this to themselves: "It is not that hard. Budgeting is extremely beneficial. I am capable of this." When we feel resistance to any given task, it is caused by the stories we make up about it. Our energy and motivation are deeply impacted by the thoughts we choose to entertain. It would be beneficial to dwell on thoughts that serve the purposes you want to achieve, not the ones that sabotage them.

Take time and consider where you may have complicated budgeting because of stories you have made up. They will feel as if they are true, but they are not. Maybe once they are set aside, budgeting will not feel as much like a chore, but rather give you the inner peace that comes with taking ownership of your life.

3. You dwell on what you do not have rather than what you do.

The first two mindset shifts will assist you in overcoming the overwhelm and procrastination that are often the primary deterrents to getting started budgeting. However, there is another shift we need to make if we intend to successfully budget. We must shift discontentment to contentment. In this case, procrastination and overwhelm may not be a problem. We may know confidently that we have what it takes to start and succeed at a budget, but we do not want to because we do not want to restrict our spending. Usually, it is because we are concerned that we will not have enough fun or we look to materialism to bring us joy.

It may be tough to convince you otherwise but all I know is, no amount of experience or belongings will ever be enough to bring any type of lasting fulfillment. See, for these things to provide fulfillment, you must have the skill of actually knowing how to enjoy. The ability to enjoy is dependent upon your ability to be grateful. To be grateful, you have to dwell on the gifts you do have rather than what you do not.

You do not have to assume you will more joyful if you spend more money because joy comes from the ability to be grateful. If you are unable to be grateful when you have less, you will be unable to be grateful when you have more. This leaves you feeling just as dissatisfied as before.

Budgets do not steal your joy, your ingratitude does. Remind yourself that you do not need more in life to have true fun and enjoyment. Budgets really only help you, they do not hurt you.

Our emotions may be the largest obstacle to starting a budget, though we rarely realize they are. However, once these obstacles have been overcome, you are a few practical steps away from having yourself a budget.

Practical Steps to Getting Started:

Determine Your Expenses

There are a few types of expenses you have to consider: fixed expenses, variable expenses, and periodic expenses.

Fixed expenses are consistent amounts due at the same time every month. An example of this would be car payments, insurance, Internet, or Netflix.

Variable expenses usually occur monthly, but are not necessarily consistent in cost like gas, groceries, or utilities.

Periodic expenses are outlier costs. They could be emergencies or birthdays and Christmas that come once a year.

Knowing your expenses is the foundation to start your budget. You need to be aware of all your expenses and include them on your monthly budget. Periodic costs can even be accounted for in your monthly budget by determining an amount you will set aside for emergencies.

Additionally, keep in mind your savings should be additional included in your budget as an expense. If we are unintentional about the amount we want to save, there is nothing left over after eating out, shopping, and entertainment. None of these are bad things, but to maintain healthy finances, entertainment and "fun spending" should have a limit and be included in your budget as its own fixed expense.

Ensure Your Expenses are Not Greater than Your Income

When writing my own budget, I tend to estimate high on my variable expenses like gas. This provides me with comfort knowing that my monthly expenses will not accidentally surpass my income. This is a trick you can use as well so that your budget does not feel like a tightrope. When adding up your expenses, if they exceed your income, try to manipulate and lower variable costs, or determine if any fixed expenses can be eliminated, like Netflix.

If this is not an option, you can explore different ways to bring in more income, because going into debt regularly is not only stressful, but unsustainable way to live.

Some ideas are:

1. Get another job

2. Apply for a job that pays more

3. Pick up a craft or hobby that brings in income

Rework Your Budget Every So Often

You will not get it perfect in the beginning. You will overestimate what you need in one category and underestimate what you need in another. Your budget will not perfectly reflect your values and you will have to shuffle money around. You will pay off bills in full.

The point is, your budget will need to change. It needs maintenance. It will not stay the same forever. Part of getting started is knowing that it will be imperfect and will need to be reworked.

These questions can guide you when reworking your budget:

1. Does my budget reflect my values accurately?

2. Have I paid something off, and can I reallocate money?

3. Have I recently purchased anything that has a monthly expense that should be added to the budget?

4. Does my budget take into account larger future expenses like Christmas?

5. Am I saving enough to meet my goals? (examples: buying a home, vacation once a year)

This is not a comprehensive list of steps on beginning a budget, but it does take something into account that we rarely address when it comes to the subject of budgeting, that is, how we feel about budgeting. I hope that after you read this blog, you will feel empowered to start a budget and change how you relate to it. I hope this serves you well friends. You can do this.

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