The emotions of budgeting

It can be disheartening and discouraging for a few reasons the first time you sit down to budget. First of all, in our case, we looked at the money and just said… where the hell has all of this money gone? How is it that we’ve made all this money for this period of time and we essentially not only have nothing to show for it, but we’re in the hole. When you come to that realization it can bring up some very negative emotions. You can blame each other if you’re in a relationship. You can get angry at your partner, or at yourself. You can be embarrassed. Embarrassed that you’ve spent all that money and you don’t know how you did it. Embarrassed that you didn’t keep tabs on it. Embarrassed how unaware you are of just how you’re running your life. My personal greatest feeling was just Shame. I was totally ashamed of the situation we had put ourselves in. My wife and I made more money than our parents ever did. We had no kids, a small house payment, a great income (by our standards), and I was ashamed that I had in some way felt like that wasn’t enough. That we couldn’t just be happy with what we have and live within our means. The truth of it is though that those feelings are misplaced, or at least they were in my case. It wasn’t that we were ungrateful for what we had, or that we were greedy, or that we felt like we deserved more. We just weren’t paying attention. Just like everything else in your life, if you don’t pay attention to your money, it won’t go exactly the way you want it to.

Maybe you haven’t ever sat down and made a budget. If you have though, think back to the time before your first budget. I don’t mean the first time you looked at your paycheck and tried to figure out how many nights a week you could eat out or how much car you could afford. I mean really sitting down and assigning every dollar to a “mission” before it hits your bank account. Prior to that first budget, if you can remember, think of just how little of an idea you had about where your money went each month. It was astonishing to me, and it probably was to you too. Now imagine if you paid that little Real attention to anything else as important as your finances. Your children, your marriage, your diet, your job. Imagine for a moment that you ignored any one of those critical facets of your life as much as you had your finances up to that point and imagine how your life would be different. While finances certainly aren’t truly as Important as any one of those other examples, having a foundation of truly worry-free personal finance makes every other facet of your life stronger and less stressful.

The important thing is that if you’re reading this, obviously you’ve taken an interest in personal finance and you’ve taken the first step. You’re paying attention. If you’re just getting started and you’ve never made a budget before I have some good news for you. All of those negative emotions I’ve mentioned above, you likely are already experiencing. That’s what keeps a lot of people from really sitting down and looking at the numbers. They’re scared or ashamed or embarrassed…and most of all they’re just scared. Fear is a powerful thing. Anyone who survived childhood knows that fear is common but it’s largely useless as an adult. There’s a healthy fear that tells you not to play with snakes or to jump off of your roof, and then there’s the fear that we experience every day. The fear that keeps you from bringing up something that’s bother you to your spouse, or from asking someone out, or asking for a promotion, or speaking in public. These are all things that seem terrifying at the time, but you will almost Always find turned out to be nothing to be afraid of at all. When you overcome that initial fear it allows you to do something that can truly better your life.

Remember at the core of this whole issue that a budget is simply a plan of attack. The old saying is that “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It couldn’t be more accurate. If you meander through any endeavor with no clear plan, you will absolutely fail. Part of the problem is that if you have no aim or target, no goal…how would you even know if you had succeeded?

Have any stories about your first budget meeting?  Any money fears that you can’t seem to overcome?  Anything you wish you could go back and tell yourself before that first budget?  Leave a comment!

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