Budget....I don't have a budget...I don't need to show you any stinking budget!

Yes, I piggy backed on a famous movie quote from the 1948 film - "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre."  Unfortunately, when I talk with clients regarding their personal finances, and specifically as it relates to budgeting, sometimes this is what the conversation starts to feel like.

Budgeting is not a pleasant subject because it is often looked at as a fun sponge, a tool of control, or a punishment. Well, it is not intended to be any of these. For example, the following are some definitions of budget:

1. An estimate, often itemized, of expected income and expense for a given period in the future.

2. A plan of operations based on such an estimate.

3. An itemized allotment of funds, time, etc., for a given period.

4. The total sum of money set aside or needed for a purpose.

Why is budgeting such a foreign concept? Well maybe this video will shed some light on it...Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford (a SNL commercial parody).

Since budgeting is such a sobering subject, I hope you found the above video provided some levity. In all seriousness, we humans have needs, wants and wishes. Sadly, oftentimes, we believe that all three categories fall under needs, and thus, become a mandatory budgetary item. In many cases, budgeting causes us to reflect upon ourselves, where is the money going, and where do we find value or self-worth. Let's be honest, for many of us, spending gives us a jolt of pleasure or fills a need or void in life. I don't need to go into all the psychological analysis that support this assertion....it's a fact. We especially like to reward ourselves after a rough week or to make up for an unpleasant experience, or in worse cases, as retribution or revenge against our significant others as payback.

Bottom line, a budget is nothing more than a tool we can use to help us achieve our goals. Whether to increase our savings/emergency fund, set funds aside for retirement, buy a house, car, money for vacation, gifts, etc. Budgeting is a balancing act between money coming in (income) versus money going out (expenses). That being said, when discussing one's budget, it is usually the expense side that no one has a handle on. Most specifically, the credit card is often the culprit. And, even after being identified as the problem, most individuals/couples do not want to look at their credit card statements mainly because it is too revealing, and at times embarrassing on where their money is going.

Look, I get it. Reviewing a person's/couple's credit card statement(s) is both personal and financial. As such, many don't want to be questioned about how they are spending their money, and/or feel as though their financial independence and judgment is on trial.  It is much easier to ignore the subject rather than address the problem head on.

For some, being on a budget is comparable to going to a New Year Eve's party, but not being allowed to over indulge. What fun is that, especially if you like being the life of the party! Well, if one lacks self-control, then it may be necessary to abstain. Otherwise, the buzz you get from shopping/spending is offset by a major hangover when the credit card bills come. If unaddressed, this problem can get to the point that there is no cash savings/emergency funds, the credit cards are maxed out, and you're only able to make the minimum payments. If I were to have done this on my most recent American Express bill, it would take 21 years to pay off the current balance due. In addition, my total payments would be well over double what I currently owed. Trust me, we always pay off any outstanding balances, otherwise my wife would check me into financial rehab and rightly so.

By taking the path of least resistance, many individuals/couples don't take the time to create, let alone follow a budget because it is too much work, it's uncomfortable, or I/we feel like we are being denied something. Well, how different is this from breaking ground to build a house without knowing how many bedrooms, bathrooms, size of the garage, one or two story or even individual room dimensions. It would be considered insanity to do such a thing, and no builder in their right mind would take on such a project.  This is exactly what is occurring daily with some individual’s and couple’s personal finances.

Life is not easy! Things happen unexpectedly, and if not prepared, it can end up being very emotionally, physically and financially traumatic. As it relates to major financial setbacks, we may be adversely impacted in other areas of life. The financial stress carries over and we make emotional vs. rational decisions that further compound the pain. Taking out additional credit cards, borrowing from 401(k)s, taking out a second mortgage and seeking loans from friends and relatives are just a few examples of irrational financial behaviors that occur. Believe me, payday loan companies are NOT philanthropic institutions for the betterment of society. They are last ditch options for the financially desperate. Or just as damaging is how financial stress can tear apart a marriage/relationship. In some cases when there is no budget or plan, many will feel out of control and when faced with a market downturn, they will immediately want to cash out so as to assert some form of control over their finances. This is in spite of the fact that they know full well that it is ill-timed and quite harmful over the long run.

Basically, there is no magic bullet when it comes to budgeting, but there are resources available. Dave Ramsey, the radio host, has written several books, one of them being "The Total Money Makeover." Also, many churches host "Financial Peace University" events. In addition, there are apps and online resources that can make this task, or should I say financial journey, not only tolerable, but actually fun! The following are some resources you can check out.

Integrity Insights:  Budgeting

DailyFinance:  Savings Challenge

Dave Ramsey:  How to Budget Using Simple, Zero-Based Budgeting

Yahoo! Parenting:  What Happened When One Family Completely Stopped Shopping for a Year

Believe me, this commentary really hits home! Since October of 1987, I have personally witnessed the financial hell many individuals and couples have gone through. Overwhelmingly, this was due to the lack of having a plan/budget to guide them. It was hard to see them suffer, but unfortunately, only they can solve the situation. Just as a doctor may prescribe a healthy diet and exercise as a solution to one's physical ailments, if there is a lack of discipline or desire to make the necessary changes, then the situation will not get better and the patient will continue to suffer from poor health and may even succumb to their condition. It is no different as it relates to one's personal finances.

I sincerely hope this commentary moves those of you who are either working on a budget to stay with it, or if you have concerns to explore taking the necessary steps to get on one.

Finally, Integrity Advisory has a facebook page, and we post informative articles to it daily on this and many other personal financial subjects. As such, I strongly encourage you to like the page and share the postings. I believe you'll find it helpful and it's free, so give it a try!

Quotes

"Economy is half the battle of life; it is not so hard to earn money as to spend it wisely."

          Charles H. Spurgeon

"Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are."        

          James W. Frick

Quotes selected by the IAG Staff

"Getting money is like digging with a needle; spending it is like water soaking into sand."

          Japanese Proverb

“When it comes to money and so many other things in life, understanding your weaknesses and strengths can help you with your future plans.” 

Tagene Brown-McBean

 

Tony Moeller, CPA

The information listed in this commentary is a compilation of various publicly available sources and is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation or solicitation of any particular investment or strategy. A risk of loss is involved with investments in the stock and bond markets.

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