Get rid of that budget: it carries too much baggage!

I hate the word budgeting

Would you like to feel condemned, criticised and exposed? Well, maybe if you’re this weird psychopath that enjoys rejection it might be appealing. But that’s exactly what the traditional idea of budgeting does. 

Oh, but wait, there’s more!

You are also put into the naughty box for spending your own money.

The word budget sucks. It sucks so badly – so badly that I would rather listen to Rebecca Black non-stop for three years than having a budget that makes me feel inadequate. Here are some thoughts when I hear the word budget:

  • A tool to control my hard-earned cash, as it seems I cannot do it well enough myself
  • Something you cannot and will not share, because you don’t want people to see what you spend your money on (and most of the time we don’t know either)
  • A way to add more condemnation after getting those credit card bills for the overspending in December
I know this might sound terrible, but that’s the sad reality these days – we don’t know where our salary is going and we don’t want other people to find out either. 
 

I want a budget divorce

Let’s use the idea that you’re in a relationship with your budget and you want out – divorce that sad thing out of your life forever. to do this, it’s great to first remove the negativity in your budget:

  • Get rid of the criticism
  • Remove the goals of amounts you can spend on something
  • Remove the show and tell rejection – the condemnation about when people know where your money is going
What are we left with? Data. Pure data. You’re left with a bank statement with money going in and money going out.  But people hate numbers. Take this Cyanide and Happiness cartoon for instance:

Marry me, I love you, I want your money babies!

The idea here is not to feel overpowered by the data – but, say you could make it easier for yourself to at least know what’s going on in your money? Would it help to know that you spend 50% of your salary at McDonald’s

What I am referring to is this take the data and make something from it that’s understandable – information. This could help you make better decisions and will make you get a feel for what’ really going on. 

Your relationshit with money is very similar to a marriage – think of it as a courtship. You get to know the situation, the person and then only later when stuff becomes serious should you consider escalating the status of the situation.

I would like to suggest that you spend a few months just getting to know your money – don’t put constraints in place, don’t get funny and freak out and think: “This will never work!”. We all felt like that in the beginning. 

How about just observing for now - get information and stats of the situation.

Then start making it easier for yourself and for your money to be together.

In due time, start planning a future together.

Let’s get back to the budget and the evil idea that it’s there to control you. With the above in mind, let’s say that you can start courting your money – you observe, you keep in mind that Mrs Money is very sensitive, and would fall over and die any moment. 

Let’s get into some tips for each of these stages in our money management life cycle

Tips: How to get a bit more control of your money in all stages of your money life cycle

Spying: When you become aware of Miss Money

In the initial stages, we need to observe what she is doing.

  • Use apps such as 22Seven or your Nedbank money app to spy on what Miss Money is doing. Know where and what is being spent
  • Look for signs such as monthly routines and dates where she goes to and from your account
  • Look at things she does that’s not making you happy and places she’s going that’s making you lose her
  • Make time every week to check her out
    • Make it a good habit – just before you go to bed, just before work on a Monday morning, or whenever you know it’ll work
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Courting: Make small changes to get you and Miss money to be together forever

Once you have observed Miss Money for quite some time, it’s time to start making the first move. You can make small changes to make a huge impact on your relationship with Money. Here are a few:

  • Make it easier for you to connect with Miss money – Try to automate your bills – set up recurring payments, debit orders and so forth for all payments that happen in intervals. 
  • Make small adjustments in your time and spending that are not making a huge impact right now, such as taking a travel mug with coffee to work rather than buying a coffee at the local coffee shop
  • Review your expenses ever so often, and make a phone call to check if you’re still getting a competitive rate on things like insurance, medical aid and other monthly costs

Planning a long term relationship

The small changes from the previous step add up – as you grow closer to your money, you can connect with it and make better and larger decisions that will impact things in the long run:

  • Review your debt regularly and get a plan in place to tackle it. Remember you want Miss Money to be yours forever. As you have invested a lot of time and effort into this relationship already, you want this to work, so if you need to pay lobola or debt off,  don’t delay. 
  • Make sure the time you spend with Mrs Money is worth it – you want to feel like the situation is worth you spending your money on it.

Conclusion

Once you have Miss money in your grasp, you can start to invest in things that will make more money babies such as investment property, ETFs, shares and other investment vehicles.

I know this might seem cheesy, but I do feel using our relationship with money as a metaphor to personal finances will help all of us, including myself to look at money differently. I know I am referring to money as being feminine only as to not call money an ‘it’, which would’ve detracted from the concept and personification I am trying to convey in this post.

The concepts though I believe is timeless and a life lesson – whether it’s property investment, budgeting, getting and marrying the girl/guy of your dreams or even building that career that you love so much. 

It’s not an overnight thing, but it’s worth committing to the process.

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