by Tim St. Vincent
What is it about the idea of a budget that sends people screaming into the night? What causes people to dread budgets and to think of them as an evil creature from the darkest depths? Budgeting. It isn’t a dirty four-letter word. I counted; there are nine!
I think people don’t like budgeting because of two main misconceptions 1. It’s a lot of work, too hard to do and, 2. Too much math! Let’s deal with these one at a time.
“Too much work!”
Well, I can’t argue that it does take some time and a solid effort to set up your first budget – but too much work? Not really. The first time you set up your budget it might take one or two hours, but once it’s set up, it only takes about 15 minutes a month! Don’t know how to start a budget? No worries, we have you covered! Just go to www.mymoneycoach.ca and enter “excel budget” in the search box. This takes you to a list, click on “Intelligent Free Excel Budget.” This takes you to an excellent budget calculator that you can download, complete with instructions! It’s an awesome budget builder full of tips and helpful hints. All you need to do is enter some numbers and it will do the rest, it’s as easy at that! Download this budget builder and you will be budgeting in no time!
Budgeting is the core of your financial wellbeing. Tracking expenses is the heart of a healthy budget. If you don’t track your expenses, you don’t really have a budget. This is where people run into trouble. Think you don’t need to track expenses? What is a cup of coffee or two a day? It doesn’t matter? If that is what you’re thinking, let me give you two examples of why you need to track. If you lose track of $5.00 a day, you will lose over $1,800.00 a year!
If you’re a pack-a-day smoker and don’t track, based on $15 a pack, that’s almost $5,500 a year and $110,000 over 20 years! Factor in increasing prices over 20 years, allow for interest if the funds were in a savings account and in 20 years you have smoked the dollar equivalent of a house! Still think you don’t need to track your expenses?
If you agree that tracking is important, but need help; we have that covered too! Just visit www.mymoneycoach.ca and click on “Tools” at the top, then “Expense Tracker.” We have two different expense trackers that you can download. Take your pick!
“Too much math!”
Okay, so I think we have tackled the “takes too much time” objection, now on to “it’s too much math.” Wrong. A good budget isn’t really about math. A calculator, an Excel file, or even a friend can do the math. A good budget is about relationships. Yes, relationships. Another place where people sometimes fail in budgeting is in not realizing that they have a relationship with money, and it’s this relationship, called money values, that really dictates and controls your budget. It’s this relationship that causes you to decide to spend money in one area of the budget and not another. It’s hard to budget correctly if you don’t understand your relationship with money. Is your relationship one where you want safety and security (Saver) or one where you want comfort and adventure (Spender). Perhaps charitable work is important to you, so you want save so that you can give. We all have relationships with money. We all have money values, and we often have more than one. Sometimes they even compete against each other. If you are in a relationship, it is important to realize that your partner also has a relationship with money, and it may be very different from yours –but that is a topic for another article!
Of Canadians, 48 per cent say that if their pay were delayed just one week, they couldn’t pay their bills. Half of Canadians report that they are living paycheque to paycheque. Half of Canadians have no budget. I strongly believe that if more people had a proper budget, significantly fewer people would struggle financially.
To have a good budget, you need to understand your money values. You need to understand what makes you want to spend money in one area, and not in another. This is an important step in establishing a budget, getting spending under control, and tracking your expenses (and your success).
Don’t be afraid of the work or the math; the effort is short term, the benefit is life long. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, please contact me at the below number.
Tim St Vincent is a retired CFP and is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance with the Credit Counselling Society, a non-profit organization. If you wish to contact the Society for further information, assistance or to attend a webinar, please call 1-888-527-8999 or visit www.nomoredebts.org or www.mymoneycoach.ca.