David Bakke is a financial columnist for the personal finance website, Money Crashers. David lives in Atlanta, GA with his young son and actively works to improve his financial situation and build wealth.
Most experts say that you need a personal budget to improve your financial situation. While this can be extremely effective for many, there are other options out there to live a financially responsible lifestyle. Many years ago, I found myself broke with more than $20,000 in debt. When I finally decided to resolve my financial problems, I eliminated all of my debt in less than three years – without budgeting. To this day, I have never relied on a budget.
Getting on track financially and eliminating debt takes hard work, but you don’t necessarily need to make a budget to eliminate debt or to save money.
Five Reasons to Avoid Budgeting
1. You Need to Adjust Your Attitude
Work to adjust your attitude toward spending and saving money. Debt often accumulates because you spend more money than you make. To eliminate debt and to accumulate savings, you need to decrease your spending or increase your income. Decreasing your spending involves a shift in focus every time you prepare to spend money. Adjust your outlook to better understand how money enters and leaves your life, rather than focusing on creating a budget.
For many of us, the best way to get out and stay out of debt is to focus on increasing our income. While this isn’t a quick-and-easy fix and requires a hard working attitude, you can accomplish this goal by switching jobs, changing careers, or finding ways to make money during your free time. There truly is nothing like starting your own side business to help you pay off your debt and save for the long term.
As an example of implementing this strategy, in the past few years, I have launched two side businesses that I run from home. Last year, I earned nearly $10,000 from these businesses. Identify your skills and turn them into profitable business ideas. Before you start earning extra money, allocate the additional income. If you know that you will make an additional $1,000 next month, plan to use this money to pay off a debt or to boost your savings.
Adjusting your attitude towards saving and spending money can help you eliminate your debt and increase your savings. If you can combine your efforts – decreasing your spending while earning more money – you can achieve your long-term financial goals more quickly.
2. You Can Eliminate All Unnecessary Purchases
Eliminating unnecessary purchases allowed me to emerge from my mountain of debt. Instead of following a monthly budget, take a good look at every single purchase that you make and determine what purchases you can eliminate from your shopping trips. Do you stop by a convenience store every morning for a cup of coffee? If so, invest in a coffeemaker and make your coffee at home. Do you eat out every day of the work week? Consider brown-bagging your lunches to save money. These small purchases add up, and may total hundreds of dollars every year.
In addition to eliminating unnecessary small purchases, carefully review your options when buying pricier items. Before you consider making any major purchase – including a new car, computer, or a flat screen TV – ask yourself some questions: Do I really need this item? Can I get by without owning this item? Have I researched this purchase to make sure I am getting the best deal?
Take extra time to thoroughly research consumer organizations’ reviews of the items you want to buy. Talk to friends and family members about their similar buying experiences, and conduct price comparisons. Oftentimes, if you shop around, you shouldn’t have to pay full price. When the time comes to make the purchase, you will know you’ve done your due diligence.
3. Budgeting Can Do More Harm Than Good
While seeking to ward off unnecessary expenses, you may create an unreasonably difficult budget to adhere to, unwittingly setting yourself up for failure.
For example, say you decide to eliminate a $100 monthly clothing expenditure. This part of your budget will theoretically save you $1,200 in 12 months – however, necessity may force you to make clothing purchases during the year. This can lead to guilt about your purchases, and budget-breaking activities can quickly devastate a financial plan. If you cannot follow your budget, you may give up entirely out of frustration and revert to your old spending habits.
Instead of eliminating clothing from your budget, try instead to buy only the clothes that you absolutely need, at the best prices. This mindset leads to financial victories and helps you build momentum to stay on track until you can emerge from your debt issues.
4. Budgeting Can Lead to Missed Opportunities
Budgeting can lead to missed opportunities. If you decide to slash your monthly $400 grocery budget to $350, you haven’t learned any lessons about frugality or comparison shopping. Instead, investigate every possible way to save on groceries, including using coupons, joining customer loyalty programs, shopping at farmers’ markets, and buying generic items instead of brand names. You could even learn how to extreme coupon. This approach may save you more than $50 per month.
Budget rigidity leads to another type of missed opportunity. If you have to replace your television this year, but don’t have the purchase budgeted until the end of the year, you might miss an opportunity to purchase a discounted television during the Thanksgiving weekend sales. Making a major purchase during an annual sale can save you a lot of money. If you have to stick to your budget, you may miss some excellent opportunities to get the best prices on your purchases.
5. Eliminating Your Budget Simplifies Your Finances
Eliminating a budget simplifies your finances, saving you valuable time every day. When you follow a budget, you frequently have to calculate expenses to see if you have stayed on track with your budget. You may have to regularly spend time using budgeting software. If you stop following a budget, your finances are immediately simplified – you no longer have to spend time tracking and analyzing numbers, and can instead focus on adjusting your overall approach to spending as you reach your financial goals.
If you continually struggle to solve your financial worries, budgeting may be your only option. Creating and following a budget does have its benefits, but if you can adjust your entire financial outlook and limit your spending, you may solve your financial issues in a more effective, efficient, and simpler manner.
Do you follow a personal budget, or do you avoid budgeting? What approach works best for you?