How to Budget: Editing Your Budget

As the saying goes, let not perfect be the enemy of good. Let not even perfect be the enemy of good enough, at least for the time being.

Chances are highly unlikely that you will start your budgeting practice with the perfect method already in place.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and that initial somewhere may reveal itself as inadequate or lacking in some ways. While this may sound off-putting, it can be a place of great discovery and growth—if you stick with it.

I believe this to be true no matter what method/system you begin with, whether it’s a program you’ve paid for, a system you’ve borrowed from someone online (yes, even the one in this series), or your own method imagined from scratch.

The reason for this is simple: when you start taking charge of your finances and begin a budget, you don’t actually know the intricate details of your financial flow. That’s why you need a budget in the first place, to take command of where your money goes.

You may know the broad strokes of your financial situation—for example, you may know you’re spending more than you should or investing less than you’d like—but you have not yet given your finances the undivided attention they require to know the intimate details that will allow for the perfect system to manifest itself.

Image originally from Carl Richards’s book The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money, with slight modification in red made by myself

The only way these intimate details can reveal themselves to you is through experience and perseverance.

As you follow the steps I’ve delineated in this series, the data you generate about the financial habits in your life will guide you in modifying your systems, methods, and routines to better meet the specific requirements of your situation.

Problems will crop up no matter whose system you are using. It’s inevitable because you are not those other people. Your life situations, demands and necessities are entirely unique to you.

This is the case even when you create your own systems/templates. As uncomfortable as it may be to admit it: even you don’t know the specific and minute variations unique to your life until you start really paying attention through your budgeting and financial practices.

I am no exception to this rule.

Since starting this series, I have made substantial modifications to the way I structure, execute, and maintain my budget. I have even edited the forms made for this series—and I strongly encourage you to make the modifications you need, too, no matter if you are using my templates or someone else’s.

Image by Pamela.echegaray, taken from Wikimedia Commons

As you budget, make notes (whether physical or mental) of the areas that cause you particular grief.

What you must not do when you encounter inefficiencies in the programs, methods, template, you encounter is dump the whole system/method/template for a different one.

Ask yourself why you have so much trouble with that thing. Perhaps you’re trying to schedule it at an inconvenient time; perhaps the table needs an extra column column; perhaps your papers are disorganized and you need to get a binder to assemble them all….the possibilities are infinite.

Only you can answer the questions specific to your budget, and sometimes the “perfect” solution may not be the first to present itself. Try not to restrict yourself in experimenting with possible solutions.

A budget is a long-term commitment; as your life progresses and changes, so will your budget.

Think of different solutions as tools in your toolbox. For the same practice (let’s say tracking expenses) you may need to implement different routines depending on what makes sense for your life at any moment in time:

For example, perhaps right now it makes sense to keep all your receipts and record the expenses once a week. At another time in your life, perhaps you decide to track your expenses based on your banking statements. Then, your life circumstances change and you’re tracking receipts daily like you did when you first started your budget.

Image by 98bucksocial taken from Flickr

The point is—your budgeting methods are not something carved in stone. The single most important point of a budget is to maintain it consistently. How you maintain it can and should change as it needs to. The only barometer for when something has to change is your own judgment of what you feel is and is not working.

When you adopt this flexible mentality, you recognize that the difficulties that arise in your budget are not the budget’s fault. In fact, it’s no one and nothing’s fault. It’s just the way of the learning new skills.

Conclusion

When you see your budget as a malleable process that evolves as your life progresses, that there is no perfect or singular budget method, much of the stress and pressure of having a budget eases away.

In fact, you can actually have fun with modifying your budget.

Budgeting becomes a game of problem-solving. Like putting together a puzzle, you must quiz yourself, look at your life, the resources available to you, and find the best fit you can for the particular problem you face in that moment.

When you do find the solution that works for you through your own hard work and persistence, you get to reap the rewards of personal satisfaction, along with peace of mind and increasing financial security!


Head over to the series masterpost to start the series from the beginning or to find a specific article within the series.


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