It’s something that can be nice to have, hard to get, and nearly impossible to keep.
I’ve actually talked a lot about money on the blog because I get a lot of questions about how we can afford to do the things we do – particularly purchasing rental properties, renovating houses, and most recently, building a house.
- It’s not voodoo magic.
- It’s not because we’re independently wealthy.
- It’s not even (all) because we’re living in the Midwest, where cost-of-living is lower.
Here’s the bottom line – it’s all about our priorities. Since we got married, Ryan and I focused on saving as much as possible and finding ways to provide future income opportunities (like our rental properties and interest income from savings).
And we’re always (ALWAYS) trying to get better at this money thing. Always. There is always room for improvement.
That’s why my major goal in 2014 is to fight the norm – this is a major financial and philosophical shift for me. We’re nearly halfway into the year and I’ve made some progress on this goal. But I have also had some setbacks.
And most of them are just me. I’m my own setbacks.
But through our financial journey as a couple, I’ve learned what NOT to do the hard way. I’ve made tons of mistakes.
So, I thought that instead of sharing what I would recommend for budgeting, I’d recommend a few surefire ways to fail at budgeting. I know they don’t work because I’ve made these mistakes myself.
And while they are very intuitive, I think that’s the point.
Fail #1 – Don’t know what your goals are.
Our financial priorities and goals are sort of unconventional. And I don’t believe our they are the only way or the right way.
But I do believe that every person and couple needs to KNOW their financial priorities. And I believe that not knowing is the top way to fail at budgeting. Because if you don’t have a financial destination, how will you ever find your way?
If you don’t know why you need to save, why would you ever save?
How can you ever punch in the destination in your financial GPS?
Fail #2 – Don’t track your spending.
I know that budgeting sucks. Normal people don’t think it’s fun. Okay. So I don’t think it’s fun. (I think Ryan does, which leads me to believe he’s not normal.)
But if you want to save more money, I believe that tracking your spending is the only way to do it. Period.
When Henry was born, I fell off the budgeting bandwagon. I didn’t want to think about it because I had enough to think about. But it meant that I spent more frivolously. And I had no clue where our money was really going.
So, now, I’m back to tracking our spending diligently. You can do it in whatever way works for you – I prefer to use an app to categorize all my spending throughout the month.
And we look at our spending together on a regular basis. What’s working for us and what isn’t. Where we are spending ungodly amounts of money (EATING OUT) and where we could really cut back.
Fail #3 – Focus more on MAKING money than on SAVING money.
This is actually something I’ve struggled with a lot this year. Since I left my day job, I’ve been spending more time on freelance work from home.
This is a great way for me to keep my “foot in the door,” so to speak. It sharpens my skills, maintains my network, and even makes a little money for our family. I actually really enjoy the work, too.
But what I’ve found? When I work more, I spend more. Because I’m busy. That means I eat out more. I spend more on clothes. I fill up my gas tank more. I’m more likely to splurge for convenience.
So Ryan and I have been having a lot of conversations about what the “sweet spot” is for freelance work. Instead of focusing on making lots of money on my freelance business – which also causes me more stress and more time away from Henry – I’ll be taking a few select jobs (for the reasons above) and then will spend more time focusing on ways to save more and spend less.
Fail #4 – Don’t talk about money. Ever.
I’ve talked before about why I believe talking about money is so important in any relationship. It’s why I believe in being an open book with your spouse when it comes to money.
But do you want a surefire way to fail at budgeting? Don’t talk to your spouse about money ever. Just do whatever you want and pretend that it doesn’t affect the other person at all.
I’ve done this. There have been times that I spent willy nilly and just pretended that I deserved it and it didn’t matter.
But it did. And it didn’t help Ryan and I move toward our goals. Which is unfair to both of us. And that’s not a recipe for healthy finances or a healthy marriage.
The bottom line
I’ve failed at budgeting in the past.
There. I said it.
But with finances, I’m always learning and growing. And this year, I’ll continue to fight the norm.