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Around 80% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. If this isn’t enough to tell you that you need a budget, I don’t know what is. You have to get on a budget. You may have even started budgets in the past and quit them soon afterwards. If this is you, your budget obviously isn’t working. It’s not your fault, it’s the budget. It doesn’t work for you.
The key to making it work is figuring out why it isn’t working and fix it. This is solving the problem instead of treating the symptoms. Treating the symptoms never works. You are putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound so to speak. You have to solve the problem.
Here are some shocking statistics about Americans and Money:
I would bet money a lot of the people in these statistics have tried to budget. You need to create a budget that WORKS. You need to create a budget and keep evaluating it and tweaking it until it works for you and your family.
I used to think Dave Ramsey was king of budgeting and all things money. He knows a lot about money!! I mean he didn’t become a self-made millionaire because he’s financially illiterate. But the thing is that personal finance is personal. While there are great tips and tricks that work for most people and budgeting models that work for most people, the most important thing is finding what works for you.
Hate debt? Great, find a way to pay it off. Don’t mind having a mortgage every month? Great, send your extra money to savings. Don’t think $1,000 is enough for an emergency fund? Great, save more.
It’s personal. You have to find what works for you and not everyone else. There isn’t a one size fits all money model. You have to commit to learning, growing, and developing your own money philosophies.
17 Reasons Your Budget Isn’t Working and How to Fix It
1. You haven’t given it enough time
Budgeting takes time. It takes around 3 months or so to iron out all of the kinks of budgeting. You have to give yourself time to adjust to creating a budget, sticking to a budget, and adjusting a budget. You are breaking some bad habits and replacing them with better habits. You can’t do that overnight. And if you’re married, you have two opinions and philosophies to consider. Give it time.
2. Not Zero Balanced
A zero-balanced budget is great!! You have to tell your money where to go. You need to give every dollar a name as Dave Ramsey says. If you have leftover money each month, there is a strong possibility of you blowing it on impulse stuff you don’t need. Or worse, you budget more than you make and have to put the remainder on a credit card. Make sure your budget is zero balanced.
A zero balanced budget means your income – amount budgeted = zero. You make $4,500 a month and you plan on allocating $4,500 a month in your budget. Even if you want to send some money to savings, you still write it down.
3. Not Evaluating
You have to evaluate your budget monthly. Even weekly in the beginning. You need to see what categories you underspent or overspent on and why. If you frequently underspend or overspend on the same categories, you probably need to change it.
Maybe when you first started budgeting, your grocery bill for a family of 4 was $800 a month and you want to use some money saving hacks to save $150 a month on groceries so your new grocery budget for the month can be $650.
Maybe you are still going out to eat more than you like. Figure out why and fix it. Maybe it’s because you need to learn how to meal plan or stop cooking elaborate meals on weeknights when you are tired. Don’t beat yourself up, just figure out what the problem is and solve it.
4. Aren’t sticking to it
Why aren’t you sticking to it? Figure it out. Use this list and figure out what is going on and solve the problem. It is easier to figure out why it isn’t working and solve the problem than beating yourself up over it.
5. No buffer or miscellaneous category
You need to have a buffer or miscellaneous category. The amount depends on how detailed the budget is and how much you have left over after bills. Maybe try $50- $100 one month and see how that works.
6. Beating yourself up for overspending
Beating yourself up doesn’t serve you. It won’t help you change. You have to figure out why you overspent and work with yourself instead of against yourself. You can’t beat yourself into submission. You can’t hate yourself into sticking to your budget. Just look at it with open eyes without any drama and figure out why you aren’t sticking to it. After you figure out why, you can work on solving the problem.
7. You’re not creating a new one each month
You can’t use the same budget month after month. You will have fixed expenses that stay the same, so you won’t be doing a lot of adjusting, but you do need to create a new budget each month. You might spend more on groceries during the holidays or spend more on going out to eat in the summer. Making a new budget each month just makes sense.
8. You’re not tracking your expenses
Tracking your expenses is eye opening. When you track your expenses, you can see exactly how much you are spending each month and in which categories. Even if you use cash envelopes, you need to be tracking your spending. Track your expenses daily (weekly at the minimum). An easy free way to track your expenses is with EveryDollar app by Ramsey Solutions. In EveryDollar app, you can create your budget and track your expenses for free. Writing down a budget isn’t enough. You need to track your expenses so you can evaluate your budget and see what’s working and what isn’t.
9. It’s not realistic.
Your budget isn’t realistic. You can’t go from spending $600 a month on restaurants to $100 a month right away. You can’t not buy your growing children clothes. You have to use realistic categories and numbers.
10. You give up too soon
You need to give your budget time to work. You can’t change all of your bad financial habits overnight. You have to evaluate and make changes for it to work.
11. You don’t have an emergency fund
You need to have an emergency fund. You need to AT LEAST have $1,000 in an emergency fund. Dave Ramsey recommends $1,000. I personally think it needs to be higher. I think $1,000 per person is a little more realistic. You need to do whatever you and your spouse thinks is necessary. If you have a child with special needs, a risky job, or a ton of debt, you might need it to be a little higher. Just figure out what works for you and that needs to be in your savings account at all times.
12. You have an income problem
You don’t have enough income to pay your bills. Ex: You make $35,000 a year and have $70,000 in consumer debt. If you feel like your budget is stretched, you need to find other ways to make money. Become an Uber driver, Watir driver, bookkeeper, etc. Here is an article to help you find a side hustle (even in a recession). Side hustles are great for special needs moms because most of them don’t have set hours so you can do it the pockets of time you have.
13. You don’t budget fun money
You need to budget fun money or you will go crazy. You need to have some personal spending money that is to use for whatever you want. You will blow your budget in other areas if you don’t budget fun money.
14. It’s too complicated
Your budget doesn’t need to have 20 categories and 10 cash envelopes. You don’t need to cut back on all of your overspending categories at one time. Stop being complicated. The simpler you make your budget, the higher probability that you’ll stick with it.
15. You’re close minded
You have to keep an open mind when it comes to budgeting. If you have an income problem, you need to find a side hustle. If you spend too much on restaurants, look up the copycat receipts on Pinterest and fix them at home.
If you spend too much on your cell phone bill, you need to be open to changing companies. If you spend an arm and a leg on cable, maybe you need to find something cheaper, like Netflix. Maybe you love cable and don’t want to part with it. Great, you could still possibly change to a cheaper subscription.
Be open to making your budget work. You might need to get creative with cutting costs or bringing in income. Just keep an open mind.
16. You aren’t evaluating the categories where you overspend and making changes
You need to evaluate why you are overspending in certain categories.
If you keep going with the ladies at work to Ulta once a month and blowing $100 every time you go and the money isn’t budgeted, you have a problem and need to figure out how to solve it.
Here are some options to work around your overspending in this area:
- don’t go with them
- leave your debit card at work and only take a $50 bill
- create a list with the items you plan on buying ahead of time and only buy what’s on the list
- budget the $100 and decrease another budget category if this expense really means a lot to you
Another way to look at it: Ask yourself why spending $100 at Ulta means so much to you. Is it so you can fit in with your co-workers? Is it because you want to “forget about your money problems and treat yourself”? Are you even buying stuff you like?
Why not go and plan on buying a tube of lipstick and that’s it? If you are really going because you truly love Ulta and would want to do it without your friends present and you use the stuff you purchase, then work it into your budget. At least if it’s in your budget, you don’t have to feel guilty about spending it.
Your budget needs to be a zero balanced budget, so if spending the $100 causes you to overspend, you need to decrease another category to make up for the difference.
17. You’re not writing it down- it’s in your head
You need to have a written budget that you and your spouse agree on. You don’t need to keep it in your head. Put your budget on paper (or digital or both) and track your expenses. Your money will thank you! FYI: we have free budgeting worksheets for you in our resource library. You can access them by clicking on the link or the sign up box below the post.
Bonus tip: How to know when an expense is too high, or you need to remove it from your budget?
That depends on you. If you are obsessed with cable, why change it? Maybe you want to keep it, maybe you want to lower your subscription to less channels. But if you don’t, then don’t. Keep the expense. Maybe you currently buy expensive makeup but have no problem with cheaper makeup.
Make the switch. Maybe you like expensive shampoo and conditioner, keep it. This is up to you. You make the decision. It’s personal finance, so it’s your choice. You get to decide. Why are you spending the money in this area? Are you happy with the decision? If so, keep the expense. If not, change it.
Budgeting can set you up for financial success. It can help teach you discipline and help you reach your goals and design your dream life. You owe it to yourself to budget. If you are new to budgeting (or just need a refresher), this post will help you. Do yourself a favor and start your budget.
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