The Budget Puzzle

Is your puzzle missing a few pieces?

Your budget is just like putting together a puzzle. Every piece is important because without all the pieces it will never be complete. If your budget is not a completed plan for how to spend your money, it is not a plan at all. There are many things that have to be considered for a budget to work. The death of a budget is when we feel the budget has failed and we give up. It’s true the budget did fail, but we need to understand that it only failed because we failed to do what was important for it to work.

I’d be willing to bet that most of us have tried a budget before and given up in the first month. It’s probably more like the first week!! I know because I am guilty!! We went all out when we went on our budgetfest shopping spree at Staples or Office Depot prior to our TMMO. We would buy the “special” budgeting book, filing cabinet, and maybe even a book about budgeting to help us. Don’t forget about the brand new calculator that you have to have. Not because your other “new” calculator stopped working from ALL the budgeting, but because you have no idea where it is. ๐Ÿ˜€

Since we started our Total Money Makeover we have realized that the important parts to a successful budget were never at Staples or Office Depot. I know, what a shocker right? The truth is that WE ARE the budget, WE CONTROL the budget, and WE ARE responsible for it’s failure or success. This is not to say that if we are doing it right that we will never hit any obstacles because LIFE always happens! Remember this: Successful people fail far more often than unsuccessful people do!! In addition, we fail because of what we do not know, and succeed because of what we do know! Learn from your failures. The bottom line is that you will fail, but be sure to get back up and find all the pieces again. Your budget CAN be put back together!!

Pieces to a successful budget.

PREPARATION – Whenever I put together a puzzle I start with the outer edges first. To me putting together a puzzle by starting from the middle felt chaotic, unorganized, and even overwhelming. With structure comes confidence. In budgeting confidence begins with an EMERGENCY FUND. If you are prepared for what life throws at you by having an EMERGENCY FUND, you will be less likely to give up. Prepare yours NOW!

DISCIPLINEDiscipline is never an easy thing. We are constantly bombarded by impulses to buy this or buy that. “We deserve a prize for all our hard work”. we might say. (I have used this one on many occasions. It is the easiest way to justify bad behavior.) We actually deserve financial freedom and the relief that comes with it. Discipline will keep you from making those impulse decisions to buy when it isn’t the wisest decision to make. Smack yourself on the hand and say NO, and if that doesn’t work stay home! ๐Ÿ™‚

CONSISTENCY – It has been said that if you are consistent over time, you will be successful everytime. If you are consistent in seeing to it that your plan is followed every single day of every single month, you will reach your budgeting goals. If you are consistently breaking your budget, then one thing is for sure, you will consistently fail at it. Control your behavior and tell your money where to go and make sure it does it!

PERSEVERANCE – As I mentioned earlier, failure is likely which is why perseverance is an important piece. There are many reasons why we fail, but no matter what those reasons are, perseverance is the key to any success. You must never give up if you want to win. Instead what you must do is figure out what is causing you to fail. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

Have you lost some pieces?

I know I sure have. We found ourselves dealing with a busted budget at the end of May. We are still recovering from it. We even had to dip into our $2,000 EF, and now need to replenish $500. It could have been worse. We thought things were fine at the end of May so we decided we could go out to eat a few too many times while on vacation. It wasn’t the meals that did us in so much as it was the “life happening” part. We lost a piece of the puzzle when we decided to bust the budget to eat out. We aborted the plan. We weren’t disciplined, we weren’t consistent, but we will persevere. First we have to find all the pieces and regroup so we can try again.

Other helpful components to a healthy and successful budget.

  • Try using an envelope system to control your spending in certain categories. These categories might include groceries, fuel, BLOW money, and entertainment. Stop using your debit card when you shop. It is more likely that you will overspend if you use plastic. Spending cash hurts more so you tend to watch your purchases a little closer. Try it and see for yourself. It can be as simple as using envelopes from home or the bank, but if you are looking for the extra accountability there are programs you can use as well.
  • Something else that is not only helpful but can be very important is starting a sinking fund. A sinking fund is a fund that you use to prepare for lump sum payments, such as car repair, and even Christmas shopping. If you aren’t prepared for your auto insurance renewal then your budget is going to be strained for that month. Plan for repairs, insurance, Christmas, vacations, membership renewals etc. ANYTHING that is not a part of your monthly expenses. This method will also enable you to possibly eliminate monthly payments. For example, we have always paid our car insurance monthly, but by starting a sinking fund we were able to pay for six months of insurance which lowered our costs, and freed up more money to pay off debt.

Thanks for reading and good luck budgeting!! Having a plan is the best way to succeed. Do you have a budget in place? Find the pieces and finish your financial puzzle today! You’ll be glad you did!

About Brad Chaffee

6 Responses to “The Budget Puzzle”

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  1. Darla says:

    We have a “life happens” account in addition to our EF, I named it “Darla’s safety net” (not even kidding).

  2. Brad Chaffee says:

    Sounds like a good idea Darla. There is nothing at all wrong with that. When we feel secure and prepared with our finances, it gives us one LESS thing to worry about leaving us able to handle other important aspects of our life. I know for me there is ALWAYS something I could improve on.

    Do you also have “sinking funds” on top of that?

  3. Tanya says:

    Thanks for this post Brad! I started FPU in January and did well for the first 2 months…then car trouble before I had an EF in place, the class ended along with the ‘gung ho’ enthusiasm and I gave up and fell back into old habits. Your post is a reminder that failure will happen but success will happen when you get up and try again. So, I’ve forgiven myself for the last 2 months and have started over for June. Back to cash and using envelopes and sticking to the plan. This first (almost) 1/2 of the month went just as I planned on paper! Keep on with the blog, I look forward to reading what you have to say. You always have encouraging posts.


  4. Brad Chaffee says:

    Hey Tanya, it is so nice to hear from you again. I am so glad that my blog has helped you. You are going through what everyone goes through, it is pretty normal. I think we have to be reminded and encouraged on a daily basis. It is so easy to fall away from what we know. I am so glad you are back and I know you can do it!!

    In case you didn’t know I have started the Enemy of Debt Forums for everyone for the purpose of helping with exactly what you were struggling with. Please come to the forums and register. It is new but if you need encouragement or just want to vent about things you can do it there.

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers Tanya! Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. james larry says:

    Thanks Brad for this blog and your dedication to helping others. If doing a budget was easy then everybody would be on a budget.The first time someone talked to me about a budget they mentioned putting money in envelopes. I got it. I started envelopes the very next day. I also started a budget. Usually about the 25th I loose track of my money and my budget BUT I always start over on the first, every time. In the last three months I have switched from eating out about 90% of my meals to eating at home for 95% of my meals. This was NOT EASY. I have stopped eating Chinese food at all. The desire or need to treat myself seems to be diminishing. All these changes occurred as a direct result of my working a budget. My budget advances 2 steps forward then one step back. When I am sitting right on top of a “one step back” day, and can’t seem to remember why I need a budget, I have help from others like you Brad with this blog and from other like minded people. thank you all.

  6. Brad Chaffee says:

    Hey Larry, it is so nice to see you on here!! Very nice surprise!!

    You are absolutely right about budgeting. There is nothing easy about it. Doing the budget is easy but sticking to it is the difficult part. We all need each other for encouragement and support.

    As I said in the blog, you can be rolling right along on a budget and everything is going fine and then one day out of nowhere-BAM! Murphy stops by for a visit! The one thing we all share in common is LIFE happens to ALL of us.

    Good luck Larry and thanks for stopping by!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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