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There are two common reasons why you cannot stick to a budget, and they have nothing to do with your budgeting skills, your discipline, or how motivated you are.
Haven’t you ever wondered why there are so many budgeting apps, budgeting plans, seminars, and techniques, and yet most people are still in massive debt?
We all know how to stick to a budget, so perhaps the answers lie somewhere else. Perhaps they are answers you won’t like but need to hear to get control of your finances.
There are two major reasons why some people are simply unable to stick to a budget.
The first is because they are easily sold to. Being easily-sold-to is so insidious that sufferers are “sure” they are “not” easily sold to. It’s a form of marketing trickery a little like what happens in the Emperor’s New Clothes.
The second reason why you cannot stick to a budget is that you have taught yourself how to medicate by spending money.
By medicate, we mean using money to try to numb or ignore other problems. The more you have to medicate yourself, the harder you find it to stick to a budget.
These two reasons are discussed below. They are very easy to brush off, which is why they are so rife in our community. They cause problems that transcend everything from how we spend money on our daily commute to how we invest in security.
As a critical thinker, and as a realist, you have to assume that you are easy to sell to. Even if you aren't, there's no way of knowing for sure.
Sadly, there is no workable cure for being easy to sell to. It's part of why big CEOs and businesspersons have secretaries and assistants—they use them as gatekeepers to keep others away who may convince them or sell to them. Without an assistant of your own, you need to be your own gatekeeper.
Being your own gatekeeper means:
• Refusing to go on shopping trips with friends (suggest other activities)
• Removing yourself from Facebook groups that feature stuff you want to buy
• Shying away from Instagram friends who own things you want
• Staying clear of places where you can buy food until it's time for your weekly food-shopping trip
• Avoiding any form of showing off when gift-giving by offering thoughtful gifts rather than an expensive one
Yes, it means lifestyle changes and choices, but it's essential for sticking to a budget.
Many of us throw money at problems to make them go away, even if this makes it worse. Some people call it “eating their feelings,” and others call it “retail therapy.” Nevertheless, if you are having budgeting trouble, you are probably using your money to ignore how you feel, aka you are medicating your problem with money.
The nutty thing is that we humans have found so many ways to do this that it hardly registers. The guy who feels like he isn't living up to his potential may have a new business idea or money-making hobby every month, for which he “needs” investment to get it working.
A single mother may subconsciously be dominated by her children at home because they are able to wear her down to get their own way, so she keeps investing money into her car. She buys everything from top-quality valet services to shiny new rims because they represent the part of her that is free to leave.
Identify and notice when you are medicating with money. Seek help if you are feeling the effects of clinical depression because reports show that money worries will worsen your depression, which causes you to medicate yourself more, thereby creating a vicious circle.
Motivational speakers and self-help books have a serious problem that makes them “appear” effective when they are not. Their problem is that they only work in the moment.
It's easy to be motivated at a seminar, and easy when you're reading the book, but keeping it going and sticking to a budget is difficult. Deciding to walk up a mountain is easy but getting to the top is difficult. Before you make an adjustment to your budget or make any decisions that will include spending money, ask yourself this:
“What decision would I make if I was tired and I had a headache right now?”
The question puts you in the frame of mind you will have six weeks down the line when you're ready to give up on budgeting. Right now, you may feel like committing to that gym membership at its fantastic offer price, but how would you feel about it in two months when you wake up tired and with a headache? Put yourself in those shoes, and you may avoid a lot of needless spending.
The rule is that if you want to buy something, you wait ten days, and then decide if you still want it. The idea is that the emotional feelings have dimmed by that point, so the shopper may take a more logical approach. Oddly enough, this method works, but only at first.
The human subconscious is tricky and devious. Instead of desiring things that are large and/or expensive, you start desiring things that are smaller, easier to buy more frequently and are less expensive. Your subconscious learns that you cannot have items that require a ten-day waiting period, so it convinces you to buy smaller items more frequently.
After all, who needs to wait ten days to decide to buy tuna sandwiches, even if you have already eaten out all week in contradiction to your “eat at home” budget plan?
Save money by making it part of your routine. Take the act of doing your clothes washing. There are actually dozens of ways you can save money when washing and drying your clothes, from washing the right clothes together, to putting the right amount of powder in the washer drawer.
When budgeting, don't try to skim savings from not spending because spending is difficult to control. Instead, try to save money in your everyday life and use those savings to help you stick to your budget.
Such savings need to be integrated into your regular routine. Washing and drying your clothes more efficiently needs to be part of the process rather than an additional task. Turning off your appliances before going to bed shouldn't be a chore like going to the gym, it should be part of your going-to-bed routine.
Most people who cannot stick to a budget believe it is because they do not know how to stick to a budget. They think it is the budget’s fault, so they go looking for another one.
In reality, the fight is internal. You need to understand and master your own actions and thoughts to stick to a budget.
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