21 Days to a Better Budget, Day 1: Are You All In?

21 Days to a Better BudgetHappy New Year! Welcome to Day 1 of my brand new series of posts called 21 Days to a Better Budget.

If you’re new to budgeting, or if you’ve tried budgeting before but can’t quite seem to make it work for you, you’re in the right place.

Money is an emotional topic. We love it, we hate it. We want it, but we never have enough of it. We fight for it – and we fight with our spouses over it. We reward ourselves by spending it – or we sabotage ourselves by spending it.

This messy relationship with money is a theme I heard over and over again when I asked you a couple of weeks ago to share your greatest struggle when it comes to budgeting.

“I don’t know where it goes – I make a budget, but the money vanishes before half the month has even gone by.”

“Unexpected expenses keep torpedoing us. We can’t seem to get ahead.”

“I can’t get my husband on board. Whenever I broach the subject, we end up fighting. What’s the point?”

“The cost of Jewish education is burdening us to the point that we have no breathing room.”

“My wife wastes so much money. I can’t plug up the holes fast enough.”

“We have so much debt. I feel like we’re destined to fail before we even start.”

“It’s overwhelming how much time it takes to budget and track my expenses. I barely have time to spend with my kids and husband as it is.”

A common thread to nearly every one of these struggles is a feeling of futility.

“No matter what…”
“Destined to fail…”
“I can’t…”
“It’s overwhelming….”
“What’s the point?…”

Pretty heavy stuff.

Over the next 21 days, I am committed to helping you lighten that load. I will teach you the steps to making a realistic budget, no matter how much (or how little) income you earn.

And more importantly, I will walk with you through the process of changing your relationship with money so you can stick to that budget.

But I’m going to need something from you, too. If you want to be the boss of your money, I need you to commit to doing the work. I need you to be all in.

My brain works in analogies, so I want to explain what “all in” means to me with an analogy.

Let’s say you decide that you want to run a marathon. You buy a new pair of running shoes, load up your iTunes with motivating songs, and hit the open road. It’s been a few weeks and you’re really sticking to it – for the first time ever! You increase your distance weekly until you’re able to comfortably run 5-6 miles at a stretch.

Then the holidays hit and you get preoccupied with family obligations. It happens, you tell yourself: You’ll pick back up in a couple of days.

But your mileage continues to drop off and pretty soon, you are barely running once a week. Instead of cranking out an 8 mile long-run, you can’t even force yourself to run two.

A few more weeks like this and those running shoes are collecting dust in your closet. The date of that marathon you were planning to run sneaks up on you – and instead of lacing up your shoes, you’re stuffing down a handful of potato chips.

“Where’d I go wrong????”, you wonder with a mix of regret and remorse.

Sound at all familiar? Maybe it’s not a marathon, but some other goal, where the momentum carried you as far as it could – until it all fell apart.

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Behavioral experts tell us that it takes 30 days of practicing a new behavior to form a “habit.” But I’ve seen in my own life just how easy it is to fall off the wagon – no matter how many days or weeks or months you’ve been practicing.

I’ve come to realize that it takes more than just repetition to make real change. It requires a delicate balance of internal and external factors. Internally, you need fortitude, commitment and a very healthy dose of self-awareness; externally you need support and accountability; buy-in from the people around you; and the logistics set up in your favor.

You’re not going to run a mile if there are 12 inches of snow on the ground and you don’t have access to a treadmill. You’re not going to stick to your diet if your husband is tempting you with his homemade penne vodka and chocolate molten cake.

So I ask you: What is standing in your way when it comes to budgeting? What’s preventing you from being all in?

I’m not talking about having too little income or too many expenses – I’ll teach you how to deal with that perennial predicament later in this series.

I’m talking about those emotional and logistical obstacles – whether internal or external – that are whispering in your ear, “This is never going to work.”

Today is Friday, Day 1 of 21 Days to a Better Budget. Day 2’s post will be going live on the blog on Monday. That means you’ve got 72 hours until we hit the ground running.

So if I may, let me suggest this homework assignment to you for the weekend: Take stock. Identify those obstacles standing in your way, and start working to turn them in your favor.

Be all in.

Because once you are, you are not going to believe how amazing it feels to be in control of your finances. The most wonderful security and peace of mind awaits you.

P.S. Sometimes it helps to say these things out loud. If you don’t have someone to listen, I want to be that person. Just send me an email and tell me: What are your obstacles to being all in?

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