For some reason the word “budget” has an interesting effect on most people causing them to cringe in pain more than the thought of going to the dentist. It really shouldn’t be as painful as people make it seem. If done correctly, it should give you MORE freedom to get what you want. If you think of a budget as a plan “that takes away all the fun” or eliminates your ability to get things you want, then you are doing it wrong.
A budget is no more than “measured spending.” I think it is a lot like baking cookies. Just like cookies, to make the perfect batch you have to follow a recipe and measure each ingredient. Of course you can improvise a little bit, but each slight variation changes the outcome of the cookies and can take a great recipe and make it mediocre, or a decent recipe and make it great.
Budgeting is not like cookies without sugar
Most people seem to think of budgeting as baking cookies without sugar or chocolate chips. To me chocolate chip cookies are the only kind, so if they don’t have chocolate chips, they aren’t really cookies.
A budget is no different, if you don’t have money budgeted for areas like going to the movies, vacation, buying clothes, or even “blow money” then IT IS like baking cookies without chocolate chips or sugar!! Of course no one likes it!! Who would eat cookies without sugar or chocolate chips?
On the other hand, if your cookies are all sugar and all chocolate – well, that doesn’t sound good either.
The reason many budgets fail is because people forget to add or are instructed to eliminate the ingredients they enjoy the most. If you invent a cookie that doesn’t have sugar or chocolate chips please let me know 🙂
Budgets are NOT supposed to be TORTURE!
Don’t get me wrong, there may be some slight discomfort, if you have never told yourself NO, you will have to say NO to yourself occasionally. If you are currently spending more than you earn – just like the little kid who eats chocolate until they vomit, you will have to learn to say NO when you just want to eat the whole bag of chocolate chips in one sitting.
This is the other main reason that budgets fail. A baker has to be disciplined enough to know that just because sugar and chocolate are good, it doesn’t mean that they can just add as much as they want. Having the correct amount of each ingredient is the key to great cookies.
Don’t forget you SHOULD add sugar and chocolate to the cookies, it is what makes them good!! Maybe just not the whole bag. 🙂
Find a recipe you like
Creating a budget is a trial and error process. Just like creating a recipe from scratch will take you a few attempts to get it right, a budget is no different. Using someone else’s recipe may give you a head start, but still may need to be tweaked a little to fit your personal preferences (check out How to make a budget and budgeting with ING Direct for a head start).
Stick with what works
Once you find the recipe that you like, the only way to get those cookies exactly the way you want them is to follow the recipe. Sure, you can bend on the ingredients if you need to – after all they are YOUR cookies. But learn from the pros – cookie companies may spend years or months developing a recipe, but once they find a great recipe that works, they print out a recipe that measures out each ingredient that will yield those great cookies if followed exactly.
Cookies are made for enjoyment
Cookies are baked by someone for someone to enjoy. Budgets are the same, being disciplined to follow the recipe may be a little bit of a challenge, but the rewards are the cookies!
In terms of a budget, the reward is having control over your financial life, rather than letting it control you, telling your money where it should go, rather than being told, watching debts shrink, watching savings increase, and not really having to think much about money. Now those are some good cookies!!