9 Reasons Why Your Budget Sucks + How to Fix It

Budgets are bae! There is no way I could crush debt without them. Once I tossed out the negative connotation of a budget and actually put one in place, my debt payoff kicked into high gear. Through practice, I’ve learned that you can’t just slap numbers on a spreadsheet and go on about your day. You have to craft each month’s budget with care. If you can’t stick to your budget, see if any of these pain points hit home and try out the solutions to relieve the stress.

1. It’s not tailor-made for you.

Ladies, think of how you feel wearing that dress that fits every curve the right way. That dress that makes your ass look fabulous. Yeah, that one! You never get tired of it.

Well, that’s how your budget should feel. It should fit just right for you—not Suze Orman, not your mama, not that boss lady you follow on Instagram. These folks may offer you great tips and tools, but you have to use this budget, so make sure it’s your own.

Solution: Find a style that fits you and include budget lines you’d actually track.

There’s a variety of budgeting styles:

  • the anti-budget
  • the zero-sum budget
  • the 50-30-20 budget

The budgets that look like spreadsheets on steroids give me the hives. I’m not gonna use a line item for “hair accessories.” That’s too granular, and I hate being micro-managed.

I like the anti-budget because you simply subtract savings, giving and essential expenses from your take-home pay. What’s leftover, a.k.a. the monthly nut, is yours to spend on whatever you want (hair accessories). And you don’t have to track every penny because you know bills, savings and giving are already taking care of. When that leftover money runs out, it just runs out. But that’s too loosey-goosy for me. I need a few more categories to track my spending.

I use a hybrid that allows me to track the details I want to track and nothing more. A line-item like “hair accessories” just goes into a bucket called “Entertainment and Everything Else.” It works for me. Find what works for you.

2. It’s not aligned with your values and goals.

Heck! You may not even have values and goals. We probably all have budgets we created a few years ago that never quite stuck. Why didn’t it work out? Maybe it’s because you didn’t have a strong enough reason or vision to stick to the plan. Start with your values and the rest will fall into place.

Solution: Find your why and budget according to your goals.

For example,

  • Values: Independence and giving to others.
  • Goal: Slay credit card debt of $5,000 by December 1, 2018.
  • Budget: Allot $100 more than my minimum payment for my debt snowball each month.

Values. Goals. Budget. I can’t be independent and generous if I’m constantly giving my money to a credit card company. Therefore, my immediate goal is to eliminate credit card debt. I make sure that’s reflected in my budget each month so that money doesn’t go to shoes or restaurants—things I don’t really value. I can stick to a budget when I see the bigger picture. I can stick to it when I keep my values in mind and see, feel and smell what it will be like to live those values out loud.

“Without values, goals are rarely accomplished,” said The Automatic Millionaire author David Bach. “Values are key. When you understand them correctly, they will pull you toward your dreams—which is a lot better than having to push yourself.”

9 Reasons Your Budget Sucks and How to Fix It

Learn how to fix 7 other budget problems.

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The Cash Envelope System and How It Saves Your Budget

I finally broke down and starting using the cash envelope system on April Fool’s Day. And guess what. The system works! It turns out I’ve been a fool for not using it sooner.

I’m starting to think no budget is complete without cash envelopes. Here’s the gist: You put a fixed amount of money in envelopes at the beginning of the month, the beginning of the week or per paycheck. Your preference. When the money’s gone, IT’S GONE. This helps you build self-discipline, stick to a budget and accomplish all of your debt-slaying, wealth-building goals.

After making a budget, I stuffed two envelopes with a combined 2,203¥ (Chinese yuan). Then I worked overtime and earned 360¥ in cash and added that to the mix. For the month, I had a total of 2,563¥, roughly $371 (USD). The envelopes were for fun and incidentals money, and food money (groceries and eating out).

There are tons of free printables online. I got mine here. If you want some affordable envelopes with cool designs, then visit Broke on Purpose.

What might happen while using the cash envelope system:

  1. You better appreciate money. Studies show you spend more when you use a card than you do with cash. When you have cash, you think long and hard about letting those dollar bills go. It’s true! When your envelopes start getting thin, you’ll find ways to do stuff for free or just go without. Even if you know you have money in the bank, it’s out of sight. Your focus is on the cash and how you can keep as much of it as possible.
  2. You practice delayed gratification. At the beginning of the month, I didn’t want to blow all of my money. So I’ve learned to wait for stuff. I’ve been coveting a bookshelf at IKEA all month. Every time I think about it, I force myself to wait until the end of the month to make sure necessities are taking care of.
  3. You feel bad about spending on silly stuff. Candy? Nah. You need to buy spinach next week. You actually spend on things you value.
  4. You stop checking your checking account and use your budget to OK spending. How many of us have a habit of looking at our bank accounts to see if we can afford something? I know I do. But there was no need to check it. The envelopes told me what I could afford. Of course, I checked my balances after I paid rent and energy bill online, but there was no more justifying expenses just because I had money in the bank. I actually didn’t check my account for weeks. I visited the ATM on April 10. I went back on April 21. When I reached in my wallet, I couldn’t find my debit card. I left it in the ATM nearly two weeks ago and HAD NO IDEA because I’d been using cash. That blew my mind! Thank heavens the bank stored away my card when I picked it up on April 24. Crisis: averted.
  5. You stick to a meal plan and/or clear your pantry. Well, if you have a meal plan, you’ll be more likely to stick to it. You’ll think, “I spent $50 on groceries. I’ll use them up before I eat out or buy something else.”
  6. You tell your friends “No.”— a lot. At least, in the beginning, you’ll turn down invites because you’ll want to save money for later.
  7. Your friends, coworkers or relatives might mock you. Don’t worry. They may not understand you at first, but most will get over it and support you. If they don’t, then they’ll get the point when you’ve climbed out of debt or invested tons of money in your IRA.
  8. You feel guilty for even thinking about using a card or online payment services. In China, everyone uses the Holy Grail of messaging apps called WeChat. The Wallet feature lets you transfer money to friends, pay restaurant and taxi bills, top up your phone data, pay for movie tickets and more. You don’t need cash if you have WeChat. I was in a crappy mood one day and wanted a chocolate muffin from Costa. I reached for my phone to use WeChat Wallet, but my arm started to hurt and my brain said, “NOOOO! USE YOUR CASH ENVELOPE!” A force-field surrounded me! I listened to my body and got 15¥ out of my blue, food envelope. That’s when I knew using the cash envelope system had turned into a habit.
  9. You cause others to wait in line behind you. Yeah, it happens. A few seconds won’t hurt anybody.
  10. You are able to help someone when they ask “Hey, do you have change for a fifty?” It’s a great feeling when you can say “Yes, I do!”
  11. You stick to your budget and have money in the bank at the end of the month. I know you like that, right?! That means you can put more money toward a debt or savings account. If that doesn’t make you want to cash in on this system, I don’t know what will! (Pun intended.)

Cash Envelope System Saves Budgets
Want to try it? Learn how to get started.

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7 Things to Do Before a No-Spend Challenge

Let’s celebrate! I actually completed a no-spend week without major fails. Yayyyyy!!!

If you’re unfamiliar with no-spend challenges, here’s the gist: Don’t spend any money on things other than necessities, such as bills, groceries and gas. Chips from the vending machine and brunches with the girls don’t count. You can do it for a week, 3 weeks, a month or even a year. And there are tons of benefits to doing a no-spend challenge besides saving money like losing weight and having time for things besides shopping.

About three years ago, I completed the 21-Day Financial Fast under syndicated columnist’s Michelle Singletary’s tutelage. It was life-changing. But I hadn’t done another no-spend challenge until this year under Bola Onada Sokunbi‘s guidance.

In her accountability program, members complete a no-spend week every four weeks. It’s a monthly reset. I failed the first three challenges because I didn’t prepare at all. I just winged it. But I think I’ve unlocked the keys to starting a no-spend challenge on a high note and sustaining that momentum.

1. KNOW AND WRITE DOWN YOUR GOAL(S).

You will hit a wall during the no-spend challenge. You will. You will get stressed at work or school and want to indulge in retail therapy. It helps to know why you’re doing the challenge in the first place. Write it down and go back to that note when you’re feeling down.

Perhaps you want to save an extra $100 or simply stop running to Target every other day (We’ve all been there). Keep a post-it note in your wallet, make a screensaver on your phone or create a daily alert on your phone so you see your goal first thing in the morning.

No-Spend Challenge Preparation Tips

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5 Big Money Mistakes I Made in March + How to Avoid Them

March started out with good intentions. So you know what my next sentence is gonna be, right? My execution was terrible. I lost focus pretty quickly. Here are the biggest money mistakes I made last month—and how I plan to avoid them from here on out.

1. I didn’t track my spending.

I had a budget on EveryDollar and everything. But the app won’t work unless you open it. For the first time in seven months, I don’t know what I spent my money on and didn’t save a dime. It’s an empty feeling to have an empty checking account, a paltry savings account and no idea why.

How to avoid this mistake: Create habits or alerts that force you to track spending every day in your budget. I will get back into the habit of recording every purchase at the time of the purchase in my phone. I’ve also set a reminder on EveryDollar so I’ll get that “It’s time to track your purchases” alert every night just in case Plan A fails.

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