3 Problems a Budget Can’t Fix…But You Can

January 24, 2017

3 Problems a Budget Can’t Fix…But You Can

A budget is a powerful tool. It can help you get out of debt, save, and propel you towards meeting a myriad of other financial goals.

At times, a budget can even feel like “magic.” Ask anyone who just began budgeting for the first time and they’ll describe the strange phenomenon of “suddenly” having enough money. But, a budget isn’t magic at all. Just like any other tool found around your home, it needs something or someone to cause it to work. In the end, a budget can only be as effective as its operator (that’s you) allows it to be.

In fact, some problems can’t be fixed by a budget at all. A successful budget requires more than just balanced numbers. It requires habits and behaviors that cause the numbers to work. No matter what numbers you plug in, no matter how you adjust it, a budget won’t eliminate the negative habits and behaviors that only you can.

Here are three problems a budget can’t fix.

The Belief That Stuff = Happiness

If your goal in budgeting is primarily to buy “stuff,” in the end, your budget will fail you. Chasing happiness with purchases is a game you can’t win. Once you attain that thing you thought would bring you happiness, a new threshold will be established, and you will have a new line to cross. Once you cross that line, guess what happens? A new line will be formed…and so on and so on.

Having a budget won’t debunk the illusion that stuff will bring you happiness — even if you can fit in the costs of the material things you’re after. Vacations, clothing, furniture, and cars, while fun, will not bring true joy to your life. Only identifying your values and priorities, and committing to make gratitude and contentment a part of your plan can do that.

A Lack of Self-Control

A budget provides guidelines to keep you within the boundaries of your financial situation. But if you allow your lack of self-control to steamroll over those guidelines every month, your budget doesn’t stand a chance.

If you’re always justifying reasons why you need to “skip” the budget this month; if you give in to your every desire and the desires of those around you; if you don’t know how to say “no,” you will reduce your budget to just a theory — a nice idea.

A budget itself won’t cure your lack of self-control and discipline. Like a muscle, discipline must be exercised in order to be strengthened. For your budget to work, you need to muster up enough discipline and commitment to follow it. Once you do that, your self-control will grow from there.

Denial

Perhaps some things are going on in your financial situation that are outside of the scope of what a budget can handle. Maybe you overextended yourself with your mortgage or the line of work you’re in will not bring you to the income range needed to meet your obligations — even with the most ruthless cost-cutting.

If you close your eyes to the realities of your situation but still expect your budget to work, you are asking too much of it. You will need to have an open and honest look at what bold moves you may need to make to get your finances on track. Only then, can a budget do what it is designed to do.

A Budget Can Only Work if You Work It

Again, a budget is a powerful tool but can only work if used correctly. Be aware if you are expecting too much from your budget.

If any of these problems resonated with you, recognizing them and taking steps to change your habits and behaviors will allow your budget to work in the way it was meant to. A budget can do many things, but it will only take you so far — it can only do so much. The rest is up to you.

Related Reading: 8 Reasons Why Your Budget Doesn’t Work, 5 Common Budgeting Myths, How to Do a Zero-Based Budget

Which of these issues are you facing? What other problems can’t be fixed by a budget?

Do you have trouble budgeting? It may be because you're expecting your budget to solve problems only you can.