Most financial coaches strongly recommend that if you want to succeed financially you must do a written budget. But what is the big deal? Why is doing a written budget so important? Does it really matter if it is written?
What is the magic of writing it down?
I have tried following Weight Watchers from time to time to lose weight. The program works when I follow it. But do
you know what one of the most important keys is? Writing down everything that you eat. When I track my foods, I lose weight. When I get lazy and fail to write things down, I find the weeks go by and I haven’t really lost anything. The problem is when I don’t track I forget things. I also find it much easy to cheat if I don’t write things down.
Written budgets are very much like tracking your foods.
There are several benefits to writing things down.
One of the most common comments I hear from people who are doing a written budget for the first time is what a sense of empowerment it gives them. There is something about seeing things in writing that gives a sense of power.
This often works in one of two ways for beginning budgeters. For some seeing it written down on a piece of paper provides a sense of control because they now have a plan and know where everything is going.
Sometimes when people see it in writing, it becomes evident to them what a mess they have. Even this though is empowering because it provides the motivation to make the change that is needed.
2. Builds unity in your marriage
As you go over the planned written budget for the month it opens the door for communications on how you will spend your money that month. What are the dreams and goals you are working toward? How does this month’s budget support those goals? Is there something you need to adjust? Something you agree to sacrifice?
These are great discussions that can really help bring you together as a couple as you tackle a shared goal.
Once you agree on your written budget, it is fixed. This doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. But if adjustments need to be made through the month you need to come back together as a couple and make whatever changes you agree to. If you need to add to a particular category then you need to agree to cut the money from somewhere else. This needs to be mutually agreed upon.
If you will follow this, the written budget can be a valuable tool to keep you on track. If it isn’t written down though, there is nothing to hold you accountable except a vague sense of “ought to”. That vague sense will not be enough to keep you from making mistakes you will regret later.
Discover the power of the written budget
For many years my “budgeting” process consisted largely of looking at my checkbook and if there was money in the account it must be ok to spend it. Not surprising that we lived paycheck to paycheck and never made much progress.
It was only when we started writing it down and being intentional with our money that we were finally able to get out of debt and begin to make progress on our long-term goals.
Do you do a written budget each month? If so what benefits have you experienced from doing it? If not why not?
Photo credit: Whitakerc1985 (creative commons)