Getting your Budget Back on Track

Most of us start out with good intentions when budgeting. We make a plan called a budget and we put it on paper. We might even follow it for a few months but like most good habits, the excitement begins to fade. Don’t fall prey to the temptation to loosen up on the budget when things seem to be going well. That’s the time we really need to stay focused and committed to the budget.

I recently started watching a television show in which a personal trainer meets an overweight person whom they will train to become fit. The personal trainer will go from fit to fat and then back to fit in order to help the overweight person with their weight loss. The personal trainer usually gains a minimum of 40 pounds. At first, the trainer adjusts pretty well to the weight gain. But at a certain point, the trainer becomes lethargic and most become depressed. It is as much a mental battle as it is a physical battle. They finally get to go back to their prior healthy eating and exercising habits and back to their fit self again.

I want to relate this to a budgeting experience. We work hard to get a workable budget and to stick to it. Something usually happens along the way to get our budgets sidetracked. Maybe we need a new roof, our refrigerator needs repair, some unexpected medical event happens that causes debt, etc. You name it and it can probably happen. Then little by little, we begin to move away from using the budget. We really don’t notice it at first because it’s just a few dollars here and there. All of a sudden, we have completely stopped using the budget and our debt weight has increased tremendously! How did this happen? We didn’t go out and make any large purchase. What we didn’t realize at the time was how much the small purchases were adding up. We stopped looking for a discount here and there.   What we would once say no to, we were now saying yes to without hesitation. Has this ever happened to you? It’s just like weight gain. Most people don’t gain 40 pounds in one month. They slowly gain a pound here and there and before they know it they have packed on 40 pounds! Debt acts the same way. What might have begun as just a small step away from the budget leads us miles and miles away.

Financial independence does not come without some sacrifice just like a fit body does not happen for those who eat 5,000 calories a day and don’t exercise or workout.  There is a cost to becoming physically fit and financially fit. There is also a cost to becoming overweight and financially indebted.  You have to choose which you want.

Here is the action plan for today. Take the time to sit down with your budget if you still have one. If you don’t have one, commit to making one this week. Make the budget manageable so that you will be capable of sticking with it. Then commit to following the budget for the next few months. Just like weight loss goals, set a few small attainable goals that can be accomplished in the next six months. Here’s the “c” word again; commit to reaching the goals! You might find it difficult at times when little temptations arise, but keep the goal in focus. Don’t stray from the goal and commit to attaining it by a specific date.

Six months from today, take another look at your financial position.  Measure how well you met your financial goals. Then commit to meeting another set of goals.  You’re on your way to becoming a financially fit person!

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