5 Ways To Beat The Budgeting Blues

Let’s face it, budgeting isn’t always the funnest thing in the world to do. Those of us that get somewhat excited about it are a rare breed, and to the normal person it’s actually pretty boring. This is one of the main reasons why a lot of people don’t have very good budgeting skills, it simply doesn’t pique their interest. Regardless of whether you like to do it or not, budgeting is a necessity in our lives. So how can you help yourself? By doing things that help to make budgeting easier or (dare I say) more fun, you make it more likely that you’ll actually do it on a consistent basis. When it comes to budgeting, consistency is the key. Here are 5 fives to beat the budgeting blues.

1 – Get Everyone Involved

One way to make it fun is to budget with the whole family. Not only does it help to teach everybody money management skills, it can turn into some sort of family bonding time. The more time you spend together, the more excited you’ll become about working your budget since you all can do it as a team. It also helps everyone’s confidence because they feel like they’re involved.

2 – Create goals, and rewards

Give yourself an incentive (other than just more money) to do better with your budget. Set up savings or payment goals, and decide to treat yourself to a little something if you hit them. Once you start to achieve a couple of them, it should basically just be a part of your normal routine. Starting off with those special incentives can help you get over the hump and help you build lasting money management behaviors.

3 – Explore your options

Hopefully you have some semi-automated way to deal with your budget. Personally, I just use a simple spreadsheet to give me a quick look into my monthly finances but it allows me to easily create variations with the numbers. By seeing what a little change in your savings or spending habits can do to your monthly finances, it starts to become like a game to me. Giving yourself the opportunity to see where you could be as well as where you are can really spark a lot of ideas of what you really want to do with your finances. For the most part your budget can be boring, but when you’re exploring new paths with it the excitement picks up.

4 – Put the “fun” back in your budget

I talk constantly about the importance of adding fun into your budget, and I want to reiterate it again. To often we get caught up in our wanting to save as much as possible that we forget to focus on the quality of our lives as well. Budgeting skills are very important, but make sure you add a set amount of money aside each month for recreational purposes. How much is up to you, and chances are it will fluctuate throughout the year, but it is absolutely crucial to give yourself some set aside “fun” money. In order to make any budgeting plan last, you really need your little times here and there when it feels like you’re not focusing on just the money.

5 – Think of your budget differently

Part of the problem with budgeting is that if it doesn’t interest you, it’s hard to keep up with. One thing you can do to combat that is by correlating your budget with something that you enjoy. For instance, instead of looking at it like you have to save $250 a paycheck to build up enough to buy a house, look at as each paycheck you get another 1% of your housing fund. It may not seem like much of a difference, but that slight change in thinking does two things. First of all, it shifts the focus to the house (something you’re interested in) instead of the money (something you’re not). Second, it puts a finite number to the problem. Instead of just saying $250 a check, which can last forever, we say 1% of your goal. That means that you can track your progress every month and you know that once you reach 100%, you’ve achieved it.

Even if budgeting isn’t your particular forte, being able to master it is important in daily life. We all have our interests and goals for our lives, and the simple fact is that money makes a difference in those things. Being that it’s such a necessity in our society we all have to find ways that we can manage it better to achieve the things we really want to. The basic principle is to do whatever you have to in order to make budgeting easier or more interesting to you. This list should hopefully just get you started if you’re stuck, but over time you can do things that work best for your situation. Whatever you can come up with to help you get your budget under control is basically a gift that keeps on giving.

College Is About The Total Experience

With the cost of tuition rising every semester, there are a lot of arguments about whether a college degree is always the right choice for people coming out of high school, or even those that are considering going back after being in the workforce for a while. We have discussed some of the pros and cons here, and it definitely is something that people have to take their current situations and life goals into account before making up their mind. However, the value of going to college isn’t just what you learn in class, or even getting that piece of paper as tangible proof that you did something. A lot of the value in going to college comes with the experiences that you go through during your years of trying to get your degree. In a lot of ways, those experiences will benefit you far more throughout your lifetime than the actual knowledge you learn in your classes.

For a lot of people going to college is almost like a rite of passage into their first independent chapter of their lives. Maybe you’re moving away from home for the first time, or just really concentrating on your career or future for the first time. Either way it’s a big step that can help mold you for the rest of your life. In high school everything is mandatory, so you do as your told and get through it as best you can regardless of how interested in it you actually are. College is the first time you actually have something invested into the experience. Whether it’s student loans, scholarships, or help from family and friends, there is some money that has been spent for your higher education. The pressure and the expectations are much higher once that happens and it shifts the driving factor from something that’s mandatory to something that is inherent within yourself (not wanting to let people down). This is much of what everyday work is like. Sure, there are those that only do what is absolutely required of them, but most people don’t want to let anyone down and it drives their performance at work as well. Once you start to build relationships with people that have invested their time or money into you, you want to make sure their confidence in you is rewarded by performing at a high level.

We talk a lot about the importance of interpersonal skills and success, and going to college can be the first glimpse of that concept. Not only do you get a lot of exposure to group settings in class, but college in general is a social environment. You meet new people, are forced to be outside of your comfort zone, and end up being exposed to things that you never were before. In many ways it’s extremely exciting and eye-opening. This is why many people say they “found themselves” during their college years. It’s not so much about the topics they studied, but more about the things they learned about themselves after being exposed to all kinds of new things. Over time the book knowledge may fade or become out of date, but a lot of the social skills are timeless. The fact is that we have to learn them sooner or later, and it’s greatly beneficial to your personal life and career the sooner you have to go through them.

Going to college can be an opportunity to truly test yourself and challenge your abilities on many levels. This is one of the greatest benefits of the total experience, because you are almost guaranteed to have to go through things you’ve never had to before. They won’t always be good things, and that’s part of what makes college tough. With tuition rising like it is, is it still worth it? I would say that if you have the opportunity to go and are currently in a situation where it makes sense, then it’s at least worth a try. Not only can you come out of it with a degree that will make you more marketable, but you’ll probably gain some real-world perspective on what it takes to survive in a competitive workforce.

Managing Your Work – Work Balance

Many companies now use their focus on work-life balance as a marketing tool to attract talented employees and keep existing ones. They try hard to offer incentives in the form of extra days off, fun family activities, and flexible schedules to show their employees that they care about the “other” life you have a home as well as your ability to be productive at work. All these things are great, but what about those of us that are trying to start our own business as well as work a full-time job? Well, the short answer is that something will have to give but the real trick is to understand what (and when) that something is.

One of the reasons that people suggest keeping your day job while you try to build your business is because it provides you the financial security you need to be able to withstand the non-profitable startup years of building a company. Plus, if your idea just flat out bombs then you haven’t put you (or your family) into a rough financial position since you still have your primary income source. However, what you give up by doing this is almost all of your free time. Basically you’ll spend the majority of your week working at your job (40-60 hours a week probably), and whatever is left over you’ll probably use to build your business. It can be a rough time for you and your family, and one of the main reasons why people say to make sure that you’re family is a part of the decision to pursue starting a business. For you, you’ll basically be working even when you’re not “at work” and for your family it means less personal time to spend with them. So what should you do?

The first thing you have to do is continue to perform at your day job. Your job is your primary income and the source of stability and security for your family. Now, if you decide not to be the ultra-ambitious worker that you used to be since your interests have changed, that’s okay. But at the very least you should be putting a solid effort in at your day job to keep your career on track in case your business ideas never really take off. When it comes to family financial security, I think that always has to come first and our personal desires second. Next, make sure that you’re making smart decisions with balancing your personal time between your family and your business. When building your business ideas, make sure you focus on a few at a time so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. If you’re on a strict schedule, decide to do some work in advance so that you can have a couple days off from your business every once in a while. That way you’re still working towards your goal, but you provide yourself a little flexibility in your scheduling.

Hopefully, your business interests are doing something that you enjoy, as this will at least make that work feel less like “work.” But you still have to take in account the time to spend with your family. One way to achieve this is to get them involved into your business efforts if at all possible. In work (as in life) we have to recognize opportunities to consolidate things, and if you can make your business interests into something fun that your family can share, then you get the best of both worlds. If you’re not able to easily do that, don’t worry. It just means that you have to be better at organizing your time more efficiently, and be willing to take a break from things that are less important than family. At the end of the day, family should be more important than all the rest. We make them bend to our needs and be more flexible since they will, but we have to remember to reward that flexibility by spending quality time in return.

The Future Is Finances On The Go

In our internet and wireless age, it’s all about information at your fingertips and on the go. When it comes to managing your finances, most of us make use of the information overload available to us and try to research and analyze until our brain hurts. It’s a natural progression when it comes to finances. We want to feel confident in how we manage our money and with a wealth of charts and numbers just a click away we take full advantage. So what’s the next step in getting our financial information anywhere at anytime? Mobile.

With the wireless industry being so competitive, the technology is being pushed to it’s peak at a rapid pace. A few years ago it was cool to have a phone that took pictures. Now that’s the low end of the spectrum, with the most advanced models functioning more like hand-held computers then telephones. With more and more of our personal information being stored online at our various companies that we do business with, and on the mobile devices that we carry, the wireless environment is going to hold the key to our ability to transact and do business in the future. It’s only a matter of time before our phones end up being our version of a “mobile wallet”, basically acting as our gateway to our personal and financial information.

Many major financial institutions currently have a mobile solution in place, and the amount of functionality they provide is growing by the day. Most offer the ability to view account balances, transfer funds instantly, and even pay all your bills. Having the ability to make transactions on your banking accounts at a moments notice is a powerful feature in our constantly moving society. Plus, you don’t have to be in a Wi-Fi hotspot in order to do it. Basically anywhere your phone has service provides you the ability to harness the power of the mobile internet to do whatever you need to.

Imagine being able to manage your whole financial picture and portfolio from your handheld mobile device? Seem a little far-fetched? Well it’s closer to reality than you think. Wireless companies are scrambling to get the most functional phones out to market, and offering special deals to promote texting and wireless internet as the main features of the rate plans. Mobile internet is here to stay and is only going to get more important as time go by. It’s only natural that managing your finances, and ultimately your life, via mobile will end up being more accepted every day and eventually becoming a permanent fixture in the way we manage our lives.