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How to develop an effortless budget you'll stick to

Budgets are about deprivation and discipline. No wonder they're hard to stick to. Here's an idea: Don't make a budget. Make a spending plan instead.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 23, 2013 12:53PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWhen resolution time rolls around, if your goals for 2014 include establishing a budget, here's some advice: Don't.

Man with calculator © Siri Stafford / Photodisc Red/Getty ImagesIn fact, don't ever use the word "budget" again. Like "diet," budget is a word that screams deprivation. It implies that by forgoing spending on things you want, you'll position yourself to somehow be better off. But how can you be better off when you're missing out on the things you want?

Diets and budgets smack of discipline as well as deprivation -- "white knuckling" yourself to a new and better you. Sound like fun? No wonder most of us can't stick to either one for very long.

Here's a better idea: When it comes to money, instead of a budget, create a spending plan -- something reflecting how you'll voluntarily choose to allocate the resources at your disposal to more closely mesh your internal desires with your external results.

Starting at the end  

A spending plan does the same thing as a budget. You'll establish your goals for each spending category. You'll track your expenses. You'll compare what you spend with your goal for each category, fine-tuning and trying to improve next week's or next month's results.

The only difference between a spending plan and budget is where you start the process. With a budget, you start with numbers. Spending plans start in your head.

To start your spending plan, imagine you're on your deathbed, reliving the happiest moments of your life. Maybe they include things like laughing with your wife, watching your kids grow up, winning an award, a trip you've taken, adventures you've had, or the people you reached out to and made a difference for.

Then imagine the regrets you might have, things you wanted to do but somehow never got around to.

The purpose of this mental exercise is to reconnect with the unique things and experiences important to you. The purpose of your spending plan is to make your list of happy moments longer and your list of regrets shorter.

If your dream is to take a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti, or swimming with dolphins, your spending plan is how you'll get there. If it's to spend more time laughing with those you love or helping those in need, it will deliver.

By starting at the end, your spending plan is no longer about deprivation or pinching pennies. It's about achieving your dreams. You're not depriving yourself, you're choosing to spend less money on things like groceries, insurance and cellphones so you can spend more time doing what makes you happy.

Having a happier life isn't a chore

Most people spend their lives running like a hamster on a wheel to keep up with their bills and the Joneses. They do what the commercials tell them to do, fill their homes to the rafters with meaningless crap, then end up wondering where their lives went. Along the way, they do things like go on diets they don't maintain and make budgets they don't stick with.

You've got enough sources of guilt in your life without adding another.

Instead, do something that will make tracking your expenses, spending less and saving more compelling. All you have to do is refocus on your dreams. Determine what you want from life, then build a plan -- a spending plan -- to achieve it as soon as possible.

And if this sounds like new-age babble, consider this: About 25 years ago, I realized it made me happy to teach people how to manage money and avoid getting ripped off. So while my stock broker peers bought the biggest houses and newest cars their incomes could afford, I kept my old house and car and put away money.

You're now reading the results. In 1991, I started a TV news segment called Money Talks News. Since then, I've been living my dream, both on air and, more recently, online.

I didn't get here with a budget. I got here by realizing what I wanted my life to be about, then tracking my expenses and saving where I could to make it happen. Not because I "should" or because it was the "sensible thing to do," but because I was compelled by my dream to achieve it at the earliest possible moment.

What's your dream? Make 2014 the year you start achieving it by thinking it through and developing your own personal spending plan to get there. The hard part is remembering what you really want. The easy part is using budgeting sites and apps to set aside the money to make it happen.

More on Money Talks News:

Dec 23, 2013 1:58PM
There is no such thing as an effortless Budget if you are limited by income and Debt to what you can actually achieve. Folks will tell posters to go out and get a Real Degree in something while also telling them they don't deserve the ability to get a loan to do so. Either way, many times folks will post here about their Glory of Achievements without a clue to the Realities of the Real World.

I do like the concept of which this author is trying to get across. The Hard part is rarely figuring out what you want, it actually knowing how to get there. For instance, a ton of folks know how to run a business but can't get a Loan to start it. Some folks have plenty of money to start a business but will never figure out how to keep it running for a profit. Some of the Best Ideas and plans which I tend to agree with.

1)Tackle your Debt issues first. If you are paying massive interest Charges, it's hard to ever really get ahead.

2)Establish a CASH emergency Fund. You never know when hard times will arrive, having a Cash Cushion can be a Life Saver. At least $25,000 if you can.

3)Keeping up with the Jones will keep you in the Poor House, if a person doesn't understand that, that person usually can't be helped.

4)Always improve your skill sets continually to adjust to the changing Modern World.

5)Find solid companies with reliable dividends and growth potential. But don't overpay just because.

6)Your Retirement Funds aren't your spend now funds. Act as if they don't even exist other than monitoring them for adjustments. These funds are not your now money unless a emergency makes that impossible.

There are countless shows that advise folks on how to achieve their goals. Like anything in life, keeping to a budget takes real effort and conviction. Especially considering how hard folks are working and the need to every once in a while treat ourselves. There are simple things anyone can do. Like

1)Don't pay top Dollars just to have the latest and greatest. Wait, the price will eventually fall dramatically.

2)Compare Shopping and take advantage of price match.

3)Regularly Maintain your vehicle like a Hawk. Small problems unfortunately can become large ones.

4)Don't hang around Folks that have Goals different from what you hope to achieve in life. If you want to move forward, spend time with folks that are trying to doing the same.

5)Believe in yourself. Some folks don't like to see others get ahead, ignore them.

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