By Matt Bell
If you were to build a house, you wouldn’t just show up on the job site with a hammer, a box of nails, and some two-by-fours, and start flailing away. You’d have a plan—a blueprint.
Having a plan before you hammer the first nail is essential if you’re going to build the house properly.
Why is it, then, that so many people resist the idea of using a plan for building their financial life—a budget?
I once commissioned a research study in which budgeters and non-budgeters were asked about their perceptions of a budget. The gap between in their answers couldn’t have been wider.
Non-budgeters used words like “restrictive,” “rigid,” and “constraining” to describe budgets. One non-budgeter explained his resistance with humorous honestly by saying, “If I used a budget, I’d have to think before I bought something.”
We wouldn’t want that, would we?
By contrast, budgeters felt “in charge” of their money, said a budget “allows me to control my spending,” “keeps me in a position of knowledge and control,” “allows you to plan for the future,” “helps me save money,” and “helps keep emotion out of spending decisions.”
Some non-budgeters acknowledged that they would probably benefit by using a budget. One said, “I think it would open our eyes to how much money we waste each month on non-essentials. I think I would recognize that we could easily pay for all expenses without ever having to use credit cards.”
But even their own reasoning wasn’t enough to get them to actually use a budget.
When asked why they don’t use a budget, one non-budgeter explained that “trying to stick to it wouldn’t be easy,” and tracking how much is spent in each category “seems like a pain.” That same person acknowledged not saving enough for their children’s future tuition costs.
The Bible tells us we’re stewards—managers—of God’s resources, and that we’re to keep tabs on the stuff that’s under our care.
“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” – Proverbs 27:23
Not many of us are tending flocks or herds these days, but most of us do have some money flowing into and out of our lives. With nearly half of all adults in the U.S. acknowledging it would be tough to come up with $400 to cover an emergency, perhaps more of us could stand to give a little more attention to our cash flow.
The good news is that things are changing in the budgeting space. With the advent of free online budget tools like Mint.com, it’s never been easier to create and use a budget. It wasn’t that long ago that budgeting was a conversation killer. Now it’s something very close to fun—even cool.
People using today’s high-tech budget tools don’t even seem to realize they’re using a budget. In workshops, when I ask people how many use a budget, I still don’t get very many hands in the air. But later, when I ask how many use Mint, I get a lot more.
What exactly do they think they’re doing, if not budgeting? “Checkin’ on my money” is a common answer.
Works for me.
Do you use a budget? Why or why not? If you do, what’s your tool of choice?
About the Author
Matt Bell is the author of four personal finance books that were published by NavPress, serves as Managing Editor at Sound Mind Investing (www.SoundMindInvesting.com), a Christian company that publishes an investment newsletter, blogs at www.MattAboutMoney.com, and speaks at churches, universities, and conferences throughout the country. Using a budget helped him recover from his own prodigal son experience.
Image credits: pixabay.com, blog.mint.com