The Real Reason Your Budget Isn’t Working


I was recently reading a book on time management and the author said that most people struggle with time management because of two reasons: you are doing too many things and/or you are doing the wrong things.

While this is great time management advice, I also believe it can also be fantastic money management advice. Because the real reason your budget might not be working is because of these two things as well…

1. You Are Doing Too Many Things

Part of your budget problem might be plain and simple: you’re doing too much. This could manifest itself in different ways:

  • Maybe you are spreading yourself too thin so you don’t have time to invest in money-saving activities?
  • Perhaps you have too much on your plate so you don’t have energy to make dinner at home — which means you are spending too much eating out?
  • Or you might be running around like a chicken with your head cut off and you end up forgetting to thaw that dinner you made ahead of time or didn’t have time to plan a menu or don’t have time to pay attention to sales at the store?
  • What about all those activities you are doing? Are they costing you money you don’t have right now?

Questions to Ask Yourself

Step back and really examine your calendar, your lifestyle, and your commitments. Are you fulfilled, calm, and happy with where you are at right now? Do you have breathing room in your day? Do you feel like you have a good balance of your priorities?

If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your life and see what you can cut.

Start with unnecessary expenses: Can you cut anything here? Maybe that gym membership you’re not really using, that magazine subscription you’re not really reading, that subscription box service that you don’t absolutely adore, or that membership for that online subscription site that you don’t really use?

Really go line-by-line in your budget and ask yourself, “Is this a necessity? Is this sparking joy in my life?”

Next, look at your calendar commitments: Are you signed up for regular meetings or studies or clubs or lessons that aren’t adding a lot of value to your life? Is there anything on your schedule that you dread but you keep doing it because you’re scared to say no to it? Are your kids involved in too many extra-curricular things that are just sucking your family’s time and breathing room but aren’t things your kids are absolutely loving?

Really go commitment-by-commitment on your calendar and ask yourself: “Is this a necessity? Is this sparking joy in my life?”

2. You Are Doing the Wrong Things

Maybe you aren’t doing too many things, but instead it’s another simple problem: you are doing the wrong things. You are really working hard and investing your time and energy and focused intensity, but it’s on the wrong things. So you’re not getting anywhere and feel like you’re constantly struggling and behind financially.

Maybe you are putting your effort into the wrong places. For instance, instead of spending an hour doing something that could bring in $25 to $50 (such as: listing items on Craigslist or eBay or coaching or working as a virtual assistant), you are working really hard during that hour to do something that will only save you $2.50 (such as: making your own homemade tortillas).

  • Are you clipping coupons for things you don’t need and won’t use?
  • Maybe you are spending lots of time talking about what you want to do but you’re never sitting down and actually setting some goals and jumping out and starting?
  • Perhaps you are spending time reading frugal blogs and collecting great information on money-saving techniques, but you’re never implementing anything?
  • Are you wasting time researching deals for items you don’t have in your budget in the first place?
  • Or maybe you’re spending hours fantasizing about a bigger home or a bigger paycheck instead of counting your blessings and making the most of where you are?

Questions to Ask Yourself

If your time is limited, you are going to have to pick and choose only those things that will give you the biggest return on your investment. What are those items that give you the biggest return on your investment of time? What do you consider a good return on your investment of time?

How much is your time worth? For me, when I set a dollar amount on my time, it really helped me to be much wiser in how I spent my time.

For instance, a few years ago, I decided that if something was not saving me $20 per hour, it was not worth my time. Why? Well, because there are SO many different options when it comes to what I could invest my time in that would save our family money and there’s only one of me. So I had to pick and choose. Setting a dollar amount really helped me to weed out things that just aren’t worth my time in this season of life.

What are the things that are giving you the biggest bang for your buck right now? Early on in our marriage, this was making do as much as possible and keeping our grocery budget as low as possible. The less we had to buy, the more we saved. The less we spent on groceries, the more we were able to have available for our rent and electric bill and other necessities.

At this season of my life, spending more time working and writing and producing products and less time trying to pinch every single penny is the better return on my investment of time. I’ve had to give up some of my ultra-frugal practices in order to free up time for this and I’ve had to be okay out-sourcing some tasks in my life in order to free up more time.

By determining how much your time is worth and what is giving you the biggest bang for your buck, you’re better able to make sure that you are focusing your limited time and energy on the best things instead of wasting it on things that are going to give you little return.

If someone told you that their budget wasn’t working, what advice or ideas would you give them? I’d love to hear!

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