If you are a regular reader, then, of course, you’re familiar with Will Lipovsky, known for some really unconventional takes on matters money. Here I want to take issue with one of his posts on budget where he tells us not to be a slave to a budget.
True, budgeting is boring. Every time I have tried to write down my expenses, I have given up after a couple of days. I lack the discipline and the willpower. I don’t want to feel guilty one month because I spent $20 more on groceries, or pat myself the next month because I came under budget on clothing. Life is dynamic, every month is different.
I don’t know what makes a grocery bill reasonable — I just know I want to eat!
Will's approach suggests you format your mind to budget as a second nature. That way, you can challenge expenses and reduce your spending to an absolute minimum. That still takes work. And we are all lazy. We don't want to make efforts, and we naturally look for the path of least resistance away from the pain.
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Budgeting the Lazy Way
So I would like to share my lazy budgeting strategy. Instead of writing down everything you spend, every cent you earn, and so on, simply write down your financial goals. You want to go on a holiday next Christmas and that will require saving $100 a month.
You want to buy a house in five years, and save $50 for a down payment. Your kid’s college fund, your IRA, your car replacement fund… Try to think about everything. Then set up automatic payments to fund your savings account on pay day. Set up auto payment for your rent, bills, insurance, and any other recurring expenses you may have. By the time you open your online banking account, the money will be gone, tricking your brain into thinking the balance is the only money left for the month, which it is.
It is like going to the supermarket and filling the fridge, and telling yourself okay, this is what you can eat this week. If you overfill the fridge, and get all sorts of delicacies, you will be tempted to overeat. If you want to fill it with exactly what you need for the week, you will have to carefully plan your meals so the food lasts for seven days.
This is what will happen with your leftover balance. You can now spend it the way you want. But you will soon realize that if you go out twice this week, there won’t be a lot of money left near the end of the month.
So the following month, when that “free money” balance appears on your account again, you will know instinctively that you can only go out once this week if you want to go out the last week of the month.
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When Being Lazy Pays Off — Literally
And because you have already met all your savings goals, and paid your bills, you don’t have to wonder “can we afford it?” If it is in your account, you can. You may not be able to afford everything you want to. But that is where you learn to prioritize and spend on what matters most to you.
It’s freeing because the restriction isn’t set by you. Autopay to care of it at the beginning of the month!
You have a smaller box to play in! No need to stretch your budget planning through the month, all you need to do is focus on some groceries and, yes, entertainment “allowed” within the left-over money.
Otherwise, you would have to think, every day, about how much you need to leave there at the end of the month to fund savings. It would be a mental drag to always calculate, ponder, and restrict yourself. And likely there would be less money left than you’d hoped for, making you feel guilty and sad. Be happy. Be lazy. Free up your mind for important things, not budgeting.
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