Johnny and I love to find little ways to make our lives easier. We’re all about automating this or that (we did a whole post on it here) and giving ourselves one less thing to think about during our hectic day to day.
But when it comes to budgeting, how far is too far when it comes to automating? Well, I’m glad you asked. To put it simply, we think automating your finances has gone too far if you’re no longer actively involved in your finances. You can have your credit cards automatically paid off each month, your utilities paid, savings transferred out of your checking account, and a slew of apps that automatically save money for you. But, and this is a big BUT, none of that will mean anything if you’re not controlling your spending. And both unfortunately and fortunately, there’s no way to automate that.
My biggest hurdle each month when it comes to budgeting is our food spending. When we lived in NYC, I actually had an easier time tracking it because I did 95% of my grocery spending online through a delivery service. If my grocery bill was getting too high, I’d simply remove items from my virtual cart. Easy peasy. But now I find myself in line at the grocery store, hoping against all hope that my grocery bill won’t be too outrageous. And that’s silly because I know how to keep our family’s food spending in line — make a plan. I know to plan out meals that are simple and inexpensive, choose a couple of nicer, more expensive homemade meals a few nights, and enjoy one takeout meal over the weekend. I know this kind of planning works because I’ve done it for years. It just takes some planning and doing. I just have to DO IT.
And that applies to every aspect of our budget. Nothing can replace sitting down and planning our expenses at the beginning of each month. Nothing can replace taking a few moments a day to track our expenses for that day.
Sometimes people who are struggling with budgeting find themselves in a major financial funk, and they just can’t figure out why. They’re paying off their credit cards each month, they’re automatically transferring some money to savings, and they’re not accruing any new debt. But they’re not reaching their financial goals as quickly as they’d like. Or they’re feeling as though they’ve plateaued financially. Or they’re unable to pay off their debt as quickly as they’d hoped. Perhaps the why is that they’re not budgeting where it matters. And where might that be, hmm? It’s those everyday expenses. It’s the tracking of every cent and planning out any unusual expenses from month to month. That’s what makes the difference.
Of course, there are other reasons that budgets fail, and sometimes it’s not the budgeter’s fault at all. Unexpected expenses arise. Job loss happens. The list of budgeting hurdles is endless. But sometimes all that’s wrong is not budgeting each and every expense and sticking to your budget and spending nothing more. For us, becoming debt free was because of one thing — tracking and sticking to our budget.
Doing that will get you and your finances farther than anything else. As Shia LaBeouf would say, DO IT. JUST DO IT.