Why budgets don’t work and what to do instead
The first thing that comes to mind when we hear the words “personal finance” is “budget”. We all know we should have one but… they are so annoying! I don’t want a spreadsheet to rule over my life! Budgets don’t work because nobody uses them. So are we sentenced to worry about having enough money until the end of our days? Not necessarily…
Two 40 year old are chatting about personal finances. One lights a cigaret while the other asks:
« How long have you been smoking?
– About 25 years.
– Wow, 25 years! And how much do you smoke?
– About 2 packs a day.
– And how much is a pack?
– 10 francs.
– Do you realize that you’ve just spent 7,300 francs a year for the last 25 years? (Yes, in my stories, characters are flawless at mental math)
– Yes… and your point is?
– That’s over 192k over 25 years! (What did I tell you?) Dude, you could have bought a Ferrari instead!
– Hmm… (he ponders)… What about you? Do you smoke?
– No, of course not! I’m not one for throwing money away…
– So where is your Ferrari?
– straddled Pikachu face
Sometimes money seems to just slip through our fingers, right? Where does it go? No one really knows… Why do think money is called « liquid »? Because it just slips through.
I mean, if we were billionaires, that wouldn’t be a problem. But we’re not. Well, at least I’m not. There is only so much I can afford. I have bills to pay. Taxes, health insurance, rent, food, Lego. Plus, I have projects. Like this website, like retire one day, like the complete Frozen merchandise for my goddaughter. And what about emergencies? What if my parents need help as they age? What if my wife becomes incapable of working? What if they dare to make another terrible Star Wars movie and I need to live under a rock for 10 years just to escape watching it?
We only earn so much that we need to make choices about how we spend our money.
And how do we achieve that? Anyone?
Budgets are not the answer because they’re almost impossible to maintain. If you’re not convinced, let me give it a try:
Who wants to:
1) Keep the receipts of everything he buys.
2) Upon coming home, categorize each expense. Food goes to « grocery shopping », restaurants go to « Entertainment », cigarets to « guilty pleasures », etc.
3) Start his computer, open Excel and enter each expense in the spreadsheet and calculate how much is left to be spent for the remainder of the month.
4) Nag their partner until they do the same
5) Get in an argument with them about « but why did you buy flowers when I specifically told you that the money in the flower category was depleted? »
6) … should I really go on?
People use budgets for about two weeks before giving up. I personally wouldn’t last two days. No way I’m ever torturing myself like that. They work in theory but they don’t work in practice. A perfect plan, that nobody uses, is a terrible plan.
So how do we solve the « money just slips through my fingers » problem while not taking a second job as our own personal accountant?
Introducing: the Yearly Spending Plan.
The Yearly Spending Plan, when created, requires about 10 minutes of maintenance per day. No wait, that’s not quite right! 10 minutes per week! Nah… I don’t think that’s it… 10 minutes per month? YES. 10 minutes per month. It basically just checking one number.
Now I want to be honest with you: it does take a few hours to create your own. It’s what we do in the Go Beyond Budget(s) Workshops I’ve organized since 2019.
But once you have it, personal finance is like a walk in the park. Say goodbye to cumbersome maintenance (did I mention the 10 minutes per month thing?), spending guilt, and the « are we going to have enough for taxes this year? » worry. All this while saving enough money for a new car when the old one breaks down and being able to afford your dream vacation at some point. And ALL OF THIS while getting Sprüngli macarons every other day, if that’s important to you.
The Yearly Spending Plan is the low maintenance method to manage your finances and to live in the present while not compromising the future. And you don’t actually need to attend the Workshop to discover how it works, because I’m willing to tell you everything you need to know entirely for free. Just keep reading this blog and subscribe.