If you’ve ever sat down at the kitchen table to pore over your bills and had the nagging feeling that budgeting sucks, you are certainly not alone. Like going to work, exercising regularly, and eating six servings of fruits and vegetables every day, using a monthly budget isn’t always very fun — and especially not at first.
The reality is, budgeting requires some discipline and occasionally some hard decisions to get where you want to be. This could be why, according to the most recent Gallup poll on the topic, only one in three households prepares a written budget each month.
But, why is budgeting such a pain? Here are five of the most important reasons budgeting sucks when you’re first getting started.
Budgeting is Yet Another Chore
Most adults have about a million things to do during the workweek and more when you have kids. You’ve got your 9-5 job to deal with, but you also have to keep food in the house, warm meals in constant rotation, pets fed and watered, and your home in livable condition. Add in kids activities and sports and homework and it can feel like you’re barely treading water during the workweek.
How in the world are you supposed to start using a budget on top of all your other responsibilities? For a lot of people, the answer is simply never budgeting at all. In fact, a recent study on debt from Debt.com noted that, among both men and women who don’t use a budget, the second most common reason for not budgeting was that they simply don’t have the time.
You Can’t “Set It and Forget It”
Here’s another problem with budgeting. Your budget isn’t a sprinkler system or a crockpot — you can’t just set it up once and walk away.
While a monthly budget can be a written document, a spreadsheet on your computer, or a series of details you monitor in a mobile app, a budget is much more verb than noun. Not only do you have to set parameters for your spending each month when you use a monthly budget, but you have to “check in” with your spending throughout the month to make sure you’re on track.
And when the month is over? You’ll revisit your budget every month to see where tweaks may need to be made — especially at first.
Budgeting Means Going Without
Here’s another reason many people find that budgeting sucks. Whether you need to save more money for retirement, pay off high-interest credit card debt, or get a better handle on your regular spending, using a budget almost always means learning to tell yourself “no.”
Depending on your spending, using a budget means cutting down on fun activities like dining out, going to the movies, or shopping at the mall. It could also mean going on a “spending freeze” for a while as you look for ways to save more.
Budgeting always means setting limits for how much you spend in discretionary categories like food, entertainment, and transportation. By the end of each month, you may be going without until you can afford to pay for them again.
In that sense, budgeting sucks because it sets rules where you may not have had any before.
Budgeting Can Be Depressing
While budgeting may not make everyone feel bad about their life choices, the act of using a budget can feel especially depressing if you don’t earn a ton of money to begin with. The same Debt.com study we referenced above actually proves this point. When they asked survey participants who didn’t budget for the main reason they don’t bother, not earning much money was the top excuse both men and women came up with.
And really, this makes a lot of sense! If you’re drowning in high-interest debt, student loans, or other bills and your income is barely sufficient to keep up with them, the prospect of having to cut dinners out or other activities you love can be too much to take.
You Feel Like You’re Set Up to Fail
Maybe you budgeted in the past but failed due to surprise expenses or a lack of follow-up. Either way, it’s easy to feel like most budgets aren’t set up to help you win. Probably because they don’t leave room for error or even bad days.
Most people who try budgeting will run into at least a few roadblocks as they get into a rhythm. Those roadblocks might come in the form of a surprise car repair or a tendency to fall back into old spending habits, but they have a way of ruining your plans nonetheless.
Trying to budget is like dieting when your coworkers bring donuts to work. When you let life knock you off track, it’s considerably harder to get back on the wagon and try again.
How to Create a Budget that Doesn’t Suck
Despite all the reasons we’ve shared above that budgeting sucks, failing to have a plan for your money comes with real consequences and opportunity cost. That’s probably why 94% of respondents in Debt.com’s study said that everyone needs a budget regardless of their income or their goals.
Budgeting sucks when you go about it the wrong way. Thankfully, there are myriad benefits to be gained when you create a plan for your income each month. For example:
- 77% of respondents to the Debt.com study said that using a budget helped them get out of debt
- Budgeting your money is the best way to know where your income goes every month
- Paying yourself first is key to building long-term wealth
Forgetting that budgeting sucks is finding ways to manage your spending that don’t require too much hassle and stress. If you’re ready to budget but want to do it the right way from the start, consider these tips:
Let Technology Do the Grunt Work
Gone are the days of sitting at the kitchen table with a pen and paper to draft a written budget. Thanks to technology and the internet, using a budget is now considerably easier than it has been in the past.
With the Qube app, for example, you can create a monthly budget that operates entirely on your mobile device. You even get the chance to create separate digital accounts for different types of spending. This creates purpose for every dollar and automatically tracks your purchases in different categories on your behalf.
When you set up a “qube,” or a digital cash envelope using your Qube debit card, all the budgeting is done for you in real-time. You’ll no longer have to remember what you bought or how much you spent, which means you can spend your time focusing on your goals instead.
Leave Room for Error
One of the main reasons budgeting sucks is, written budgets don’t leave room for something to go wrong. And since nearly three in ten adults (28 percent) don’t have any emergency savings, all it takes is one surprise bill or stint off of work to send your budget into a tailspin.
For your budget to work, strive to have three months of expenses in emergency savings. Also, a reasonable amount of money budgeted for miscellaneous purchases each month. Fortunately, this is easy to do with most budgeting apps, including Qube.
Budget for Stuff You Want
Lastly, make sure you’re budgeting for things you actually want. This could mean using Qube to set up a vacation fund that you contribute to regularly. Or it might mean allocating a certain amount of cash to dining out or shopping each month.
Whatever your priorities, budgeting allows you to spend on experiences or items that make all your hard work worth it. The point is spending less on what you don’t want so you can do the things you care about.
Whether you sign up for Qube or you create a written budget, the whole point of this is practice. Budgeting requires set limits on your spending, but the goal is to get more out of life.