5 Feeble Excuses for Not Living on a Budget

by Joe Plemon on January 6, 2014

Suppose you were hired to manage the funds for an entity which will be spending over $1.5 million dollars. Now imagine that your employer asks to see your budget report. If you say, “I don’t use a budget…I tried it once and it didn’t work" , do you think you would still have a job? Of course not!

Consider this: if you make $40,000 a year for 40 years, (over $1.5 million dollars), you are that entity. Furthermore, if you are spending all that money without a plan, you should fire yourself — with one caveat — once you decide to manage your money, you should rehire yourself.

Basically, any excuse for not following a budget is a feeble one. Here are five:

1. I tried it once and it didn’t work.

No budget works perfectly the first time you try it. However, if you continue fine tuning it each month for at least three months, it will work.

2. I hate math.

We are talking addition and subtraction here, not rocket science. You might not enjoy math (many people don’t), but think of it this way: no money management will produce stress, uncertainty and a hazy future for you and your family. Isn’t the opposite (peace, security and a plan for the future) worth some addition and subtraction?

3. My spouse won’t agree.

Because your family money management is a refection of your family value system, a refusal by one spouse to discuss a budget is an implicit statement that those marital values are not important. You may need marriage counseling.

4. It takes too much time.

What is your time worth? Most people, when they create a written budget, discover they had been letting at least $100 a month slip through the cracks. Therefore, if you spend thirty minutes a month working on your budget, your time is worth $200 an hour. Do you still think it takes too much time?

5. I am afraid of being controlled.

You are in control of your budget, not vice-versa. It is true that once you set your budget, you are committed to following it. However, you should never forget that your budget is your servant, not your task master. Therefore, you can and should modify your budget any time it is not adequately serving you.

Feeble, feeble, feeble. If you have been avoiding your budget, you need to fire yourself, make a “no more excuses” vow, and then re-hire the new you. Today would be a great day to do so.

Readers: Do you live on a budget? If not, what is your excuse?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen @ Frugal Portland September 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I don’t have a budget, and it’s not because girls suck at math, either. I have savings goals and they’re auto-deducted every month, leaving the rest of my money discretionary. I think as long as you’re hitting your goals, then you don’t have to keep a budget.

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Money Beagle September 13, 2012 at 7:47 am

Great points. I’d say to each:
1. We didn’t get to the moon on the first try but we kept trying. Budgeting works the same way.
2. Use a spreadsheet. All you have to do is type in the numbers and the program will do the math for you.
3. Do you and your spouse agree on everything else? Probably not. It’s part of having a spouse.
4. So does dealing with overdraft fees and figuring out how to pay the bills.
5. You’re already being controlled by not having any clue of your own money.

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Joe Plemon September 13, 2012 at 8:20 am

Money — Thanks for the insights on these points. Common sense with some bite!

(Not in any way a reference to a particular beagle) 🙂

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TB at BlueCollarWorkman September 14, 2012 at 8:03 am

I remember growing up my mom being so agitated by doing teh monthly budget, she’d always have her calculator and say, “Oh math, I just hate it, I’m not good at it.” But what’s funny is that … well… it’s not calculus or whatever. It’s just adding and substracting. That’s not hard stuff. You ahve 2 apples and someone gives you 2 more apples, how many do you have? Simple! So I agree, it’s a bad excuse.

And that “I tried it once and it didn’t work” is ridiuclous too. People try dieting and exercising and it doesnt’ work, but do they never try again? Nope, they always try again! Same with lots of things. So it’s ridiculous for people to give up with trying a budget. And like you said, $100s could be slipping by each month if they dont pay attention!

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Joe Morgan September 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm

You’re thought on a budget being controlling were interesting to me. I’ve always thought of having a budget as liberating. I think it’s being proactive and taking charge of your future so you can have a hand in determine the outcome, rather than being a victim of the future as often happens without a spending plan.

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Joe Plemon September 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Joe — A budget IS liberating to you, because you use one and know how advantageous it is. However, those who don’t use a budget often have the misguided notion that it is a straightjacket, out to confine and control your life. When my wife’s Mom heard that we live on a budget, she was alarmed, “I hope you aren’t like Aunt Emma Jane. She lives on a budget and hardly ever even eats.” See what I mean?

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Joe Morgan September 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I know exactly what you mean. I think budgets are seen as something undesirable because there’s this image that wealthy people don’t need to live on budget. Ironically, that part of what makes them wealthy. I know plenty of people with 6 figure salaries living paycheck to paycheck when they could be living comfortably and building a secure future instead, but they have no idea where their money goes.

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JP Adams September 15, 2012 at 11:02 am

I love how this post is written. Neat narrative device.

I for one have had my ups and downs with being stringent about budgeting. One thing that I struggle with is the long-term haul. I came from a family that did not budget nor did we have a good set of tools for financial planning.

So I built my own. I made some some mistakes but in the end I hunkered down and got it done.

Now a few years later it can be hard to keep it going.

I think my example touches less on the mental excuse and more on how to build a sustainable habit. It comes down to how you change your foundational values about money.

This is one of the reasons many people turn to automation for large portions of the financial planning. It short cuts having to completely change your habits.

What do you think?

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Joe Plemon September 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm

JP — People stay focused on their budget when they are striving to achieve a specific goal. For example, when people are pumped about getting out of debt, they will monitor every penny. However, once one has achieved some goals such as getting rid of debt and building an emergency fund, watching every detail of the budget is not so important. I think this is a normal let down, and a great reason to continue to set goals and also to automate funds for specific purposes. In short, we should continue to budget our entire lives, but doing doesn’t have to be intensely detailed as we continue to do better with our money.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial September 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Hey Joe, it’s been a while!

I like the comparison to running the finances of a company. Here are my responses:

1) Most things don’t work the first time. But when we see the value in it, we keep at it until we can make it work for us. I’m sure these same people wouldn’t quit watching tv because “it didn’t entertain me the first time”!

2) As you said, it’s just simple math that we do on a daily basis anyway. Plus, there are free tools that will do the math for us.

3) If your spouse doesn’t want to do something that will help your marriage, having a budget is the least of your problems.

4) If you see the value, you will take the time. Most of the time is spent upfront, after that is just maintenance.

5) You design your budget, so you are the one in control. Without a budget, you are under the control of advertisers, your lusts, and the fear that comes from uncertainty.

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Joe Plemon September 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Kahleef — Yes, it has been a while. Good to hear from you, and thanks for the comments on my five points.

Hope all is well with you and your family. I will never forget that wedding post you wrote. What an inspiration! When was it? A couple of years ago?

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial September 24, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Yeah, the original one was in 2010. I wrote one this year that people seemed to really enjoy. Here it is if you want to read it: http://knsfinancial.com/six-things-that-i-love-about-my-wife-celebrating-our-6-year-anniversary/

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Rich@MoneyWisePastor October 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm

We’ve used different methods for budgeting over the years since we got married in 1992. We’ve followed Larry Burkett, Ron Blue, and Dave Ramsey. For the last 6 months or so, we’ve used Mvelopes (basically a computerized version of the envelope system) and we love it.

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Margaret October 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

You mentioned a lot of excuses that I used to say. I can’t remember how many times I failed on budgeting. Often, I thought about quitting and just free my mind from the task and worry on how I spend money. However, it is a necessity and once learned, it can be really easy. Thank you for the share.

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Vangile Makwakwa November 1, 2012 at 11:58 am

Interestingly number 5 used to be my excuse. That was until I realized that debt collectors were running my life and controlling me because I couldn’t manage my money. Focusing on the financial freedom I desire has helped me budget. Adding a fun account into my budget has really aided me in spending guilt free.

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Mark Herdman February 3, 2013 at 1:34 am

Great post! I have written a post of budgets and I must say that that I will have to post this link for my new readers. I see how you have listed peoples excuses but i would love to see how you would combat these excuses and suggest methods to overcome them. EG- spreadsheets or even recommended free products. Thank you for the great post!

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