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3 Myths of Budgeting: The Misunderstood Miracle

By, Jane Chidester, the author of
BudgetYes! 21st Century Solutions for Taking Control of Your Money Now!
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This is the next installment in a series of articles about making budgeting a way of life. It's not the torture mechanism we've been trained to think it is, but rather a powerful method of gaining control, planning, communicating, and fulfilling your dreams. At the very least, a budget should allow you to find extra spending money in your paycheck every month!

In the last installment, I listed the key features of a good budgeting system; one that will grow with you, frustrate you the least, and keep you in control of your money. This time, I'll dispel some of the old thinking and show how dramatically budgeting can change your life. Many people never even consider starting a budget because they are afraid they will have to "give up" something. To some, a budget is like a diet that may force them to forgo a favorite treat. In my experience, a diet is the wrong metaphor to use when thinking about budgeting.

Myth #1: You have to suffer to use a budget.

The truth is, you are following a budget whether or not you have consciously implemented one. Unfortunately, the "budget" you end up with by doing nothing is almost certainly an endless cycle of reactions, as opposed to a dynamic, proactive strategy. A reactive mode contains the double whammy of the anxiety of wondering when the money will run out, and then feeling deprived when it does. A budget will actually reduce your aggravations.

A more accurate analogy than a diet is a cluttered hall closet. You know the one-a closet you are afraid to open lest you be hit on the head by a cascade of falling junk. The one everyone puts things into, but never takes anything out of. The one that prompted a scientist at the local university to schedule an archeological dig.

Picture that closet in your mind for a moment. Now imagine taking everything out and laying it all on the floor where you can see it and study it. Then, give the closet a thorough cleaning, and perhaps install some new shelves or racks inside. Finally, put everything back in an organized, neat arrangement. Do you know what? You will have more storage room than when you started-and you did not get rid of anything. Now, it might well be that when you have all the junk on the floor, you decide you can probably do without the muddy pair of galoshes with the holes in the bottom, or the broken baseball bat, or the jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing. If you get rid of some items, you have even more room in the closet.

A budget works the same way. The very act of organizing your finances can provide extra money! During the organization process, you might discover some expenses you want to eliminate, or some smarter ways of handling payments. These choices give you more money still.

Myth #2: You have to be in debt to budget.

Another popular misconception is that budgets are only for people who are in real financial trouble-individuals who are severely in debt or currently living way beyond their means. While it is true such circumstances require a budget overhaul (or, more likely, implementation), the truth is that everyone can benefit from budgeting.

Successful companies, operating solidly in the black and generating millions of dollars in annual revenue, all maintain budgets. Some companies have entire departments, with dozens of employees, whose sole purpose is to run the budgeting process. These companies don't do all of this because they are in financial trouble or are spending beyond their means. They do it because budgets work.

Yes, a budget can be the road to financial recovery from a crisis. But it can also lead to even more organization, control and wealth building if your current financial situation is on the upswing.

Myth #3: You have to spend extra hours doing paperwork.

Another common fear is that budgeting will take huge amounts of time. With some older budgeting systems, this is certainly true. Even with the newer systems, there is certainly an investment of time up front to get things rolling.

However, once you have your budget set up and in place, bill paying sessions turn into stress free, time-efficient moments. You've eliminated the month-in and month-out agonizing or arguing about priorities and where the money will come from for the next bill that crosses your desk. All of that negative energy and time will have been turned into a positive routine experience!

Next time: When to Begin Budgeting

This article was reprinted by permission of the author, Jane Chidester the author of BudgetYes! 21st Century Solutions for Taking Control of Your Money Now!. Visit her website at Budget Central: Personal Budgeting Information and Resources; Repository of information and resources on personal budgeting, financial planning, and household money management--a complete budgeting education.
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