There are a lot of budgeting myths out there…and here’s the deal: they’re basically excuses. I know, I know, it's hard to hear. But hear me out.
Why don't you have a budget?
“Now’s not the right time for our family.”
“We’re already so far in debt, it feels like it doesn’t even matter.”
“I was raised with parents who were poor and I don’t want my kids to feel like they’re going without.”
“I love going out to eat!”
“Christmas/Vacation/Mother’s Day is coming up, so it’s not a good time to start.”
So, guess what? It’s time to bust those myths! No excuses!
Here’s the deal: it's NEVER the perfect time to budget. It’s sort of like starting a family. If you wait for the perfect time, it never really comes along. Life is always going to be happening. There will always be holidays coming up, there will always be events on the horizon, there will always be vacation plans, and more. At some point you have to put all of that aside and just jump in.
There’s also fear. Many people are scared to face their budget. This is totally normal. It can seem complicated and getting a handle on your finances requires making changes. We all know change can be really scary. You might fear taking a realistic look at where you are financially. You might also have some guilt about how you got to that point. No one is proud of living beyond his or her means, but yet, so many people do it.
Plus there’s the social stigma of putting your family on a budget. First, there’s making sure your spouse is on board, and if they aren’t, that might be another pain point to address. Then there’s the feeling you’re going to disappoint your kids or your friends, wreck your diet and exercise plan, or just have to give up on fun altogether. You’re probably painting a sad picture right now…of you and your family isolated, huddled around a can of soup, reading by candlelight.
It's not going to happen! These are all budgeting myths! It’s time to let go of these misconceptions. Focus on your WHY. Why do you want to get a handle on your budget? Why do you want to be financially stable?
We all have dreams and goals. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom who could work out of my home on my own terms. I wanted to have a job where I was safe and could be there for my kids. My husband wanted to build a brewery. We both wanted to be able to vacation more often and spend more time together.
The first step to realizing all these dreams started with our budget. We are well on our way to having those HUGE, seemingly unobtainable goals realized (and much sooner than we ever thought possible), and it’s all because we let go of the myths of what it meant to be “on a budget.” We learned that budgeting is a key step in getting to where we wanted to be.
So it’s time for you to take a look at these budgeting myths and see which ones you’re still buying into. Break these myths and let them go, so you can get what you want out of life! It’s all possible—creating and maintaining a budget is the first step!
Myth #1: Budgeting is hard. It’s complicated and I can’t deal with it.
Budgeting isn’t as hard as you think. You don’t need a degree in finance or past experience with complicated spreadsheets to have a budget. It’s simply money in vs. money out.
Yes, budgeting is a life skill, and unfortunately, many adults today are lacking training in certain basic areas of “adulting” and one of those is budgeting. If you feel like you need extra help, there are tons of resources out there.
First of all, try our 90 Day Budget for Beginners Boot Camp to help get you started and motivated. Secondly, try checking out resources at your local bank or credit union—many of them offer classes and online tools that can help you understand your credit score, figure out a basic budget or understand more complex tools (like retirement savings).
The other thing to consider is going through a course like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. This is often offered through churches and community groups to help their constituents get a handle on their budgets. I promise, once you go through the course (or pick up one of Dave’s books), you will be motivated and confident!
Myth #2: Budgets = no fun.
What? I’m the only weirdo out there who thinks budgets are kind of, sort of, fun?! Okay, maybe so, but I swear budgeting really doesn’t have to be a total drag. There are plenty of ways you can still have fun and stick to your budget (and even have fun creating your budget).
Find a budget format that’s visually appealing, such as these budget printables. When your budget is nice to look at and organized, you'll feel more motivated to stay on track and much more pumped about the whole “budget thing.”
Don’t feel like being on a budget means giving up fun either. Focus on experiences over “stuff.” Rather than shopping or spending money, find free and budget-friendly ways to entertain your family, get together with friends or even enjoy date night. Fun doesn’t have to be a foreign concept. There are plenty of things you can still do without spending money.
Myth #3: There’s no point, because we’re already in so much debt.
What’s the point of even getting up in the morning? Life is futile. We’re all going to die…sheesh.
Giving up on tackling debt just because it seems overwhelming is the WORST approach to take. Even if you have debt up to your eyeballs and your finances seem out of control, it’s time to put on your big girl panties and deal with it.
Life goes on and it’s meant too be lived and enjoyed! If you’re laboring under the crushing weight of debt, it can be both depressing and much harder than it needs to be. Go back to Myth #1 and check out some of the resources and tools there. Take the baby steps you need to get yourself back on track.
It’s not about sweeping change or swearing off spending any money forever, it’s about making little incremental changes to get yourself, your family and your budget into a better place. Even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I promise it's there. You didn’t accumulate debt overnight and it may take a while to dig out, but you can do it!
Myth #4: Christmas is coming (or birthdays, vacation, etc.), so I’ll start later.
There will always be an event on the calendar. There will always be something to address, a vacation, a birthday or a holiday on the horizon. If you wait until it passes, there will never be a good time to get your budget on track.
There is NO time like the present. There are plenty of ways to stay on a budget even if you go on vacation or if you're facing the holidays—in fact, you can even turn it into a fun challenge. Create a holiday budget that will still let you enjoy your time (and may make it even less stressful).
It’s not about taking away from special times, but rather shifting your mentality from throwing money at an event to finding meaningful ways to make events feel important. After all, when it comes down to it, the spirit of any special time like Christmas or a birthday is to celebrate and enjoy your time with those you love. If you’re having a tough time, maybe it’s time to revisit Dr. Seuss’ famous quote from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas: “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
It’s not about stuff!
Myth #5: I can’t get my spouse on board.
I’m a saver, and my husband…well, he was more of a spender. It took some tough conversations, some discussions, some rules and yes, even some bribery, but eventually we got on the same page. Now, I dare say, he’s as much of a saver as I am!
The shift came when we reviewed our big goals together. He could see where we were and where we wanted to be. It was obvious that if we were going to get to these big things we wanted, we would have to make some changes together. Once he could see the whole picture he got on board, enthusiastically. You can make a saver out of a spender!
If you’re struggling to get your family on board, you can still try to get your budget on track as much as possible on your own. It’s hard to set sail in a leaky boat, but if you’ve got to do it then go for it. Once your family sees the success coming from your small changes, they will probably be more open to making a few changes themselves.
Myth #6: I love going out to eat and I can’t cook.
First let go of the notion that being on a budget means never going out to eat again! You can still go out to eat! You can still enjoy dinner. You don’t have to commit to being a gourmet chef or stress out about dinner.
When you review your budget, look at the impact food has on your spending. I’ll bet if your family is anything like mine, food can be a big expense. It is for almost every family. Going out to eat a few times a week (especially if it’s spontaneous) can really add up—we’re talking hundreds of dollars a month. Meal planning can have a huge impact on your finances, even if you occasionally plan to go out to eat!
Sometimes seeing it there in black and white can be all the motivation you need to start eating at home more often. Others might need some strategies. Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Even if you’re a total novice, there are tons of basic meals you can make in 15 minutes or less—that’s literally less time than it would take to get through the drive-thru and home with your food.
Check out the 15-minute meal archives for some great recipe ideas. Stock your pantry with basics and realize that when a restaurant meal is a special treat over a daily habit it becomes even MORE enjoyable!
Myth #7: I don’t want my kids to go without.
This one’s a toughie. None of us want our kids to go without something they NEED. Maybe you were raised with not enough in your house. Maybe your parents said no to clothes or activities and it left you feeling like you want your kids to live with abundance. Kids need a lot of things, but the trick is separating the needs from the WANTS.
Does your son need new basketball sneakers? Maybe, but does he need the most expensive ones? Could you find a used pair that would still fit the bill? Could he do a few small jobs to earn them?
Kids learn valuable lessons when they earn things. They learn that they don’t necessarily have to have every latest and greatest toy or clothing “status symbol” out there. Focus on giving experiences over things and teaching kids to value and care for what they have. Helping kids see the worth of things and understand savings and budgeting can help provide them with valuable skills that will carry them to success.
Myth #8: We can never go on vacation again.
One thing that turns people off from budgeting is an all-or-nothing mentality. Just like thinking you’re giving up on holidays, going out to eat, or giving gifts—you don’t have to give up vacations just because you’re sticking to a budget.
It’s far better to plan ahead and create a budget for your vacation. Know exactly how much you have to spend and what your itinerary is going to cost. Look for coupons, bargains and ways to save during your trip. Yes, it takes a little more time up front, but it's far better than coming home with a big debt or just throwing caution to the wind and paying for it later.
Life is short. There is no reason to forgo vacations or swear off fun! You need time with your family to build memories and experiences. It’s important. Just be wise. Plan your budget ahead and save on your next vacation. Eat a meal in your hotel room. Save on accommodations to splurge on activities. Don’t go for all-inclusive if it’s not something you’ll end up using and look for deals on packages and off-season prices that you will use.
Myth #9: I’m on a diet; I can’t lose weight and save money at once.
This also applies to things like, moving, having a baby, changing jobs, etc. It turns out we humans (and especially moms) are amazingly adaptive. We can actually do multiple things at once!
I don’t mean to sound sarcastic, but so many of us get in the mindset of waiting for the right time to do things, when really, there’s no time like the present. Just like holidays and other events—there will always be something going on. If you wait for life to hand you the “perfect time to get on a budget,” you'll be waiting for a loooooong time.
If you’re trying to watch your weight, there are plenty of ways to lose weight on a budget. You don’t need expensive gym memberships or crazy meal plans. Instead, just trying getting yourself out there, moving more, and planning wise meal choices. You might even find that being on a budget helps you lose weight with less eating out and more enjoying dinner at home!
Myth #10: We’ll deal with it when we’re older.
I’ve heard this from a lot of younger couples and people who are just starting out. “I’m going to have fun now and worry about paying it off/saving for retirement/buying a house later.”
Good financial habits should be a lifelong journey. There are a lot of couples out there nearing retirement age who are very afraid because they didn’t start sooner. Budgets aren’t something to put off until later or ignore when you’re young. In fact, life happens fast. It can feel even faster when you’re hurling toward retirement with no plan in sight.
Instead, start saving today. Get your debt under control and get a handle on your finances. You’ll feel more relaxed and prepared to deal with whatever comes your way. We never know what life will throw at us, so it’s much better to be ready now.