Growing money is all about dollars and sense, yet ironically we quickly lose our common cents just after payday. Most people are not even doing the basics, ignoring the simple rudiments that our grandparents and great-grandparents seemed to know instinctively. Often we find that at the end of the money, there’s a lot of month left. We wonder where in the heck the money went.
Laboring so hard to earn the money, to spend the money, and to take care of all the toys we buy with the money, we resist and even resent having to do any extra work with the money once we get paid. So we spend without a plan and get ticked off when the money skips off. It makes no sense that we continue to run like crazy just to keep losing the race. What we’re losing is our horse sense. We busy ourselves with all kinds of other work, and don’t have or make the time for “working on our money.”
We’ve got boundless time for work, work, and more work – forty, fifty and sixty hours per week. We find even more time to toil on the weekends to take care of our toys – washing the cars, scrubbing the camper, buffing the boat. Then with what little time we have left we weed and mow, clean and sew, spend our dough, and then plop in front of the big screen after our blowout barbeque to do arm exercises with the remote in one hand and a bag of Doritos or cold beer in the other. We have it down to an art. Except one part. We don’t work on our money once we earn it.
There are all kinds of ways to work on your money. But none of them will matter if you don’t master the first step. We’ve all heard that dreaded “B” word, “budget,” and we yawn as we think about ever actually trying one. But having a simple, written plan on how you will spend your money each month doesn’t really take much effort. Further, people who have done this regularly swear by how it prevents overspending and forces you to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it flew. So why doesn’t everyone do a monthly budget? It’s wild, because doing a monthly budget would take less time than the commercials you suffer through in just one hour of television. What do you really have to lose, honestly? Missing ten minutes of embarrassing commercials on the potential side effects of medicines you can’t do without…yeah, you get the picture.
A few years ago Deborah and I helped teach a personal finances class where we covered all the money basics, including monthly budgets. We told people that, yes, the first few months of doing a budget were painful for us because we had to figure out where all the money was going and then get it written down on paper. But after a few months of perfecting it, we had a simple budget form and using it only took ten minutes or so a month. What’s funny is that on more than one occasion since this class we have bumped into someone at the store or downtown that was in our class and they would say something like “you mean you guys are still doing a budget?” As if a budget is just a temporary means to help someone out of a disparate situation or something!
A budget is king. Our road from rags to riches had nothing to do with fancy investing. It literally happened from consistently following our budget, month after month, year after year. Investing is good, but what’s the point if you don’t budget because you’re probably hemorrhaging more money every month than you could possibly make investing. It’s not really how you invest your money that counts the most. It’s how you spend it (or not)!
Common sense would see the value in the monthly budget and do it. Yet we spend more time deleting unwanted emails in one day than we’ll spend working on our money in an entire month. Are we losing our minds? We spend the very least time taking care of the thing that we spend the most of our time making! But hey, we have over a thousand friends on Facebook.
Every dollar lost out of your wallet is another one that has to be earned again. So enough already. Learn to budget and shave off years of having to set your alarm clock. Budgeting is not necessarily fun and glamorous, but I bet your job is not a barrel of laughs either.