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Budgeting Resources: Behavioral Based Budgeting

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How Effective are Budgeting Resources

budgeting

Thousands of people each month search online for how to budget. It is without a doubt something that y’all need support with, and are trying to find the answers to. There is an abundance of budgeting resources from books, articles, and apps available provided by various organizations, private and public coaches, and self-proclaimed budgeting “gurus”. Although I am confident that some of these resources provide sound advice and will provide some budget help, I’m not convinced that they can guarantee long-term success.

It can be tempting to purchase tons of books and download heaps of apps and feel that you’re moving the needle forward towards financial freedom. Taking this type of action can give you a false sense of security that everything is going to work out, once you read those couple hundred pages. We must always remember and keep in mind that businesses generally profit from providing solutions to people’s problems. Think about the self-help or personal development industries. They will never falter as we’ll always need help, and as humans must continue to grow and develop.

This blog is to by no means bash those companies providing what they view as helpful solutions to your money problems. I do, however, want to analyze and evaluate their effectiveness for healthy and long-term success. My criteria for a resource to help with budgeting are:

  • Easy to Understand
  • East to Start
  • Easy to Sustain
  • Support Level
  • Strategy
  • Mindset
  • Focus

I’m hoping by the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a better understanding and grasp of how budgeting is more than just reading the latest book and that to truly gain financial freedom, we must also focus on who we are, and how we need to take into account our own habits and behaviors.

Summary of Budgeting Resources Criteria 

Budgeting Books

Easy to Understand – Yes

No matter what your previous knowledge is about finances and economics, you can find a book that is at your level. I mean, they have a Budgeting for Dummies, which speaks volumes about how little we are taught about such an important topic in school. Budgeting books are big business with so many new ones coming out every year promising to be the solution to all your financial problems. This isn’t to deter you from picking one up, but just be realistic about what you can achieve.

East to Start – Yes

Books will generally have strategies and actions to implement meaning that you can get started straight away. You’ll find many of them will use a “how-to” format to make it usable. Books are also self-paced which will allow you to stop and start as you need.

Easy to Sustain – No 

The downside of self-paced is that it isn’t sustainable long-term. It can be easily put down and never returned to, which is what happens. The good intention when purchasing the book is there, however, sticking to the methods and practices will be challenging. The author’s purpose is for you to buy the book. Bottom line. They are not invested and have no interest in your success. Did you buy the book? Great, job done. In fact, they would probably rather you not succeed since then you need to buy more of their books!

Books are about imparting knowledge more than helping you implement that knowledge for long-term success. I mean, you remember the Latte Factor idea, right? Give up your daily coffee and become a millionaire! I’ve seen so many coaches on Instagram using the ideals and principles of this book to make various points. However, does this sound sustainable? Hell to the NO. Books are full of great ideas and things that sound good. That’s what we buy into but it doesn’t mean it’s a viable solution.

Support Level – Low

Books will only be able to provide a low level of support. Similar to the points made above, for them to work you’ll need to not only be a self-starter but also a self follow-through… er? You get my point. You won’t be able to communicate with the author of the book when you have questions or require support. Their job ends on the last page. They are offering you their thoughts and ideas. However, a lot of the time, the systems described require customized tweaks and as you don’t have access to the author, you’ll need to start reading even more books just to piece it together. Are you exhausted even reading this?

Strategy – Yes

We often will associate the words budgeting and strategy. It’s about taking action. A definite plus for books is that you are provided with some sort of actionable plan that is going to be based on a method or process that the author believes will solve the problem.

Nonetheless, that’s usually where the assistance ends. The thing we need to remember is that each author will have one perspective of a strategy that must be solely implemented by the reader. One of the biggest breakthroughs my clients experience in our work together is that budgeting is not just about strategy. If it was, and it only took reading books, we’d all be rolling in dollars right now!

There are plenty of strategies out there and if that’s all it took, I would be out of a job.

Mindset – Not really

“Money mindset” is without a doubt a popular idea, now more than ever. As trends go, there are unquestionably oodles of books out there on the topic. I enjoy reading them myself! Actually, you can find some of my top recommendations on the Tools and Resources page. Make sure to check that out.

I don’t, however, see books that combine solid strategy with science-based mindset. Books generally are all about the “woo” (manifest money from your yoga mat) or all about strategy such as the Latte Factor.

Humans are emotional beings and like many things in life, budgeting is a blend of that emotion plus logic. Combining how we approach it and what we do with it. I have found that books generally fall short in this arena.

Focus – Logic, and Deprivation

So many books out there focus on traditional economics which leans into the idea that budgeting is about logic. Yet, how we use our money and how we make our decisions with money is not logical. It involves emotions that those logic-based economics models don’t begin to take into account. They also focus largely on deprivation. Words such as “cut back”, “restrict” and “rid of” being words that regularly appear.

Although I cannot assume or insinuate that all budgeting books focus on this depriving mindset, I can safely say from my research that the basis of MANY is “ you have a problem… this is how you fix said problem”. I find this problematic for reasons you’ll discover as we dive deeper.

Budgeting Apps

Easy to understand – Depends

Apps tend to be close to limitless in their capabilities. Depending on the way they’re designed, this means they can be easy to understand and work with OR insanely complicated. It depends on the app designer and engineer.

The concept of most apps is to keep track of all your income and expenditure which gives you a clear picture of what you have left. Pretty basic but not unhelpful. Nonetheless, it definitely is not the full picture. Knowing you have money in your account is good but it doesn’t tell you what you should do with it.

Easy to Start – Yes

It’s going to be pretty effortless to start using an app. Go to the Apple Store or Google Play Store and download one of the vast variety of free apps available (or paid if you’re feeling fancy). Once downloaded, you can simply connect the app to your bank.

Many apps have step-by-step processes to walk you through set-up. Although it’s easy to start, that’s kinda about where the helpfulness ends…..I mean it’s easy to start something when you are feeling all motivated, right? It’s the next step that makes the most difference and that’s where the apps start letting you down.

Easy to Sustain – No

Great! You’ve set up the app and you’re feeling pretty good about it. Now what? Unfortunately, from there you are kinda on your own. Apps seem “doable” because you can easily access them and keep them in your back pocket. Despite this, it also requires a lot of elbow grease to enter all your transitions.

Can I ask you a favor?

Can you be honest with me for a sec?

How likely are you to actually do that?

You may have the highest of hopes and the best intention to do it. However, when picking solutions that aren’t easy to sustain and require a lot of self-motivation, it can end in us just feeling defeated, deflated, and a little terrible about ourselves.

Even if you have it set up for automatic import, the app itself needs to be set up in such a way that your bills and goals are aligned for it to work naturally.

Support Level – Low

With most apps, tools, and other pieces of tech or software, you’ll be able to find solid training out there to help you. When choosing an app, you should pick based on the level of responsive support provided to you. Bear in mind that the only support you’ll receive from them is going to be technical. I’m not sure how successful you’ll be asking the tech support team for budgeting tips and tricks. They will however ensure that the app is functioning the way it was designed to.

Strategy – Yes

By their very nature, budgeting apps are all about strategy. In saying that some are certainly more strategic than others. Here are two examples:

Strategy #1- What? Increase savings. How? Set the app to round your purchases to the nearest dollar and automatically transfer change to your savings account

Strategy #2- What? Reduce debt. How? Send signals and warnings (obnoxiously) to your phone to make sure you don’t forget (god forbid). You can tell I really like this one, can’t you?

For the most part, though, apps are all about tracking not a strategy.

Mindset – No

Apps for budgeting focus on… well…. Budgeting from a practical perspective. Nevertheless, it can’t help you understand and figure out why you’re bad with money or how you can overcome it. These tools are not designed to help you feel better about yourself or your money. They are designed to make the math work. Therein lies the biggest drawback with apps. It’s all about the numbers.

Focus – Tracking

Tracking is an important part of a successful budget but it is NOT BUDGETING. Budgeting is a strategic plan for how you will use and spend your money. Not simply knowing where it all went. Even focusing primarily on tracking, an app can let you down simply by tracking the wrong thing! Or tracking things that don’t make a difference in your goals.

You can track anything but without a plan for what and why you should track, well, it becomes a redundant exercise. This is a common trap that we can fall into. This is a false sense of security, that taking some form of action will lead us to the right resolution. When in fact the right solution requires knowledge and mindset.

Banks

Easy to understand 

HAHAHA!! Apologies, let me compose myself before continuing…. The answer to this one is a big NO.

Rarely is anything concerning banking easy to understand. This isn’t something that the banks are overly concerned about. While a basic account seems simple enough, have you ever read the actual disclaimer and disclosures they include when you open an account? Probably not, right? They’re confusing, long, and are full of legal jargon that we don’t care to read.

As banks aren’t focusing on user or customer experience, the functions of your bank account may even confuse you at times such as paying bills or navigating your online banking

This is something to consider when deciding what bank (or credit union) to use.

Easy to Start – No

This has changed some in the era of online banking but there are still a multitude of traditional steps and hoops to jump through to obtain an account. It can be an exhaustive process that purposefully (in my humble onion) makes it extra tough to consider switching banking providers if you discover that your choice sucked.

Once you’ve taken the time to set everything up why switch? Banks are concerned only about customer growth and retention, so yeah, they make it a pain in the rear to leave. Banks are not in the business of helping people. An important reminder for you there.

Easy to Sustain – Yes

Theoretically, as long as you keep enough money in your account to cover your expenses it should not be hard to sustain. However, that doesn’t mean that your account is helping you manage your funds well. Banks are places to store money, like that big piggy bank you had as a kid, just with hefty interest rates and fees. They are probably the last place you should look to for unbiased financial advice on how to manage it (See point above)

Support Level – Low

I say this with a caveat; the support level for your budgeting goals is low. They may have great support for your account maintenance. After all, they want you to keep your money in their institution. To reiterate, banks are self-serving.

But Sarah, what about those “helpful” advisors they offer for free to help plan my investments? Those folks are on paid commission from the bank itself to sell investments that will make the bank more money…

I don’t think I’m going to be getting any paid social media sponsorships from Wells Fargo or Bank of America anytime soon, what do you think?

Strategy – No

Banks are kind of anti-strategy when it comes to budgeting. They are designed to help you part with your money and not keep it. Sure they have savings accounts that can earn you interest but those also often come with monthly fees. Say bye-bye interest you just earned!

Mindset – No

I’m trying to reign it in here but I’m finding it hard so I hope you can indulge me?  Banks could care less about how you feel about money. The more emotionally and psychologically intelligent you are, the less you’ll be swayed into investments or other financial ventures they market to you. Banks see numbers when they look at you. Two numbers in fact. Your account number and the number of zeros in your account.

Focus – keeping you in debt

Let’s face it, bank institutions are a place to keep your money so that you can spend it. If you understand this key point, it will help you immensely. Find a fee-free establishment, don’t accept any advice or instruction from them, and budget for yourself and your own needs using their accounts as a tool as a part of your master plan (mwahhaha). Done.

Spreadsheets

Easy to Understand – No

Spreadsheets get confused REAL fast. It can start really straight forward if you’re just looking to add up bills and subtract your wages. However, anything more than that is going to become a lot harder to understand.

Spreadsheets get complicated quickly simply because they require vast numbers of formulas and can be configured in so many ways. Let’s face it, you either love Excel or you hate it. There is rarely a middle ground.

If you love it you waste countless hours designing and adding excessive elements and beautiful (albeit pointless) colors to differentiate categories. That might be your idea of a wild Friday night but it’s not going to make the difference in your life that you’re looking for.  

If you hate it, well, you won’t use it.

Easy to Start – Yes

One thing spreadsheets have going for them is that they’re easy to start. Especially if you have a pre-made one.

If it’s not done for you and you are not the aforementioned Excel lover, forget about it. The Excel learning curve is high. Plus, as you may have gathered by now, just because something is easy to start doesn’t mean it will be easy to sustain.

This conveniently leads me to…

Easy to Sustain – No

The least sustainable option out there. You must manually and tediously enter the data line by line. Sound time-consuming? It sure is.

It is also fraught with the chance of error as humans are far more likely to make mathematical errors than computers. These factors alone reduce your success rate considerably

Support Level – Low

Getting access to a pre-done spreadsheet can be great…until you accidentally delete the formula in the cell that made all the numbers work!  Then you can be up a creek without a paddle, as my dad used to say. Spreadsheets are not exactly warm-fuzzies that hold your hand and answer questions when you get frustrated.

Strategy – No

Spreadsheets fall prey to the siren song of the tracking devil (something we’ve witnessed here before). Tracking your money doesn’t mean that you have a strategy for what you’re doing with it. The other fact is that any strategy worth its salt needs to be flexible enough to change as your life changes and spreadsheets are not going to help you here at all.

Mindset – No

Other than making you crazy trying to track every penny, there is no positive mindset work coming out of a spreadsheet. Nuff said.

Focus – Tracking/ Deprivation

As mentioned, spreadsheets focus primarily on tracking. Even more nefariously, they sneakily focus on deprivation.

When the numbers don’t work in the spreadsheet the advice is usually just to reduce your expenses until those pesky numbers all lineup. But guess what? Sometimes that is just plain unrealistic! Yes, you can reduce the numbers down but you can’t necessarily rent an apartment for $250 a month. You can’t pay $100 a month for groceries for your whole family. This isn’t a realistic or plausible solution. Your spreadsheet balancing doesn’t equate to a healthy budget.

Bulletproof Budget Program

Easy to Understand – Yes

The best way to understand anything is to break it down into small, easy, actionable chunks and then make the instructions ridiculously clear.

That’s how the Bulletproof Budget Program is designed. Small chunks of information, delivered over time. It was created to consider that most of us have a pretty packed schedule as it is. We need programs that take this into account, thus, making them achievable and practical. The pace of the program is paired with specific step-by-step actionable steps which I believe is the best way to tackle and see through any goal.

Easy to Start – Yes

Easy peasy! The first and most important step starts with you. It starts with realizing that you deserve more and to be happy. I know how difficult it can feel to take that first step, that’s why I now offer a 30-minute complimentary budgeting strategy session. We can dive into where you currently are and where you want to be. Again, it’s all about taking small and manageable steps!

Easy to Sustain – Yes

The Bulletproof Budget Program, once completed, runs essentially on autopilot. It’s designed to do that on purpose. Most of my clients spend 10 minutes or less “handling” their money every week. The system works best the less you mess with it. We all know that life changes happen so there is also a simple review process you walkthrough whenever you need that can have everything adjusted in a matter of 30 minutes or less,

Support Level – High

You are never alone in your bulletproof journey. Whether you learn the method 1-on-1 or through the Bulletproof for Life Group program, there is support for you both during the learning process and beyond in our Bulletproofer Community.

Something I’ve learned in entrepreneurship but that is relevant in other facets in life, is the value of support and community. Having a place to turn when you have questions in a safe and welcoming environment will keep you motivated and on track. Remember it is an ongoing and lifelong process. You will at times need encouragement and support from people who won’t let you give up on your goals.

That’s why the support level for the Bulletproof Budget Program is high and ongoing.

Strategy – Yes

The Bulletproof Budget Program is full of strategies, many of which you may never have heard before because the approach uses behavioral psychology and a reverse engineering approach is completely unique.

Every single lesson you learn in each program involves knowledge and actionable strategic steps to implement right away. The strategy that is baked into the Bulletproof Budget Program is designed to help you create the life you want and create consistency and security for your future. It is not designed to make Wall Street investors rich or bankers happy. It provides you with a strategic framework to create your own financial plan.

Mindset – Yes

How you approach your money is more important than how much you have. The Bulletproof Budget Program mixes the mindset work of behavioral psychology with the strategy mentioned above to give you a life-long mental framework for how to relate to and think about money. It is a framework that I see people employ again and again as their circumstances change, not only with their money but with their whole life.

Focus – Pleasure

I focused my budgeting strategy on creating more pleasure in my life. Living my life NOW instead of constantly scraping by frittering away pennies for retirement “someday” while I see other people enjoying the things in life I wish I could experience.

It is entirely possible to reduce debt, save more, and still have Starbucks, travel, and get regular massages (or whatever floats your pleasure boat). I built this budgeting system on the premise that you deserve both – because you do!

We now live in a world where information is available to us in truckloads on just about every topic you can think of. Having this much access to info can hinder our ability to make decisions and to know what the best choices are for us. Budgeting is always going to be a hot topic because we are always going to want more money, right? That’s why the market is so huge with an overabundance of new budgeting resources, books, apps, and information coming out all the time.

It’s no wonder we can feel a little helpless and without direction when it comes to our finances. I believe there is a way to quite literally have your cake and eat it too. You can have a non-restrictive and abundant life without sacrifice and also feel healthy and happy about money ( more importantly your relationship with money).

Book a complimentary financial strategy session to take back control of your finances. Start feeling good about not only the future but right now too!

I’m Sarah

I HELP WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS CREATE FINANCIAL SECURITY AND ABUNDANCE THROUGH BUDGETING

On a mission to change the world of finance from stuffy suits and guilt-trips to a place of understanding supported by solid strategy; I have personally journeyed from homeless teen mom to ass-kicking CEO and now my work centers around empowering women like you to do the same.

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