Why can’t I stick with my budget?

Lower the perceived cost of the plan, increase the perceived value

What is perceived cost and perceived value?  Investopedia says this, “Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the consumer. For the most part, consumers are unaware of the true cost of production for the products they buy; instead, they simply have an internal feeling for how much certain products are worth to them.” (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/perceived-value.asp)

The key word is ‘perceived.’  The dictionary says that perceive means:“to recognize, discern, envision, or understand.”

An example of perception is a clean car.  Ever notice that after you go through a car wash, your car just seems to drive better?  I know after I get my car washed and I vacuum the interior, suddenly my car seems like it drives much better, and it’s value seems to have jumped a few thousand dollars.  Did anything about the car change (except for the fact that it has less dust on it)?  No.  But my perception of the car changed.

Budgets often fail because of our mind set when creating them and attempting to follow them.  The perceived cost (emotional, self-discipline, going without, etc.) of following a budget is much higher than the perceived benefit or value.  For years, until recently actually, my budget would make me anxious and feel restricting.  I felt like my budget prevented me from doing what I wanted.  That’s when debt entered.  If a desired spending option wasn’t in the budget, I would use the credit card.  That way I could get what I wanted, but my bank account still had money in it to pay the bills, utilities, etc.  I kept convincing myself that I was following a budget, because I wasn’t spending the money in the bank account.  Deep down, I felt defeat every time I used the credit card, but I could justify it because each purchase was ‘necessary’ and I was gaining cash back bonus points on my credit card, which I could apply towards the credit card balance.  With this mind set, the ‘cost of the plan’ or the ‘pain’ that a budget caused was too high.

However, once I had finally realized that this was not the way I wanted the rest of my life to go I began to change my thinking.  A few things caused my thinking to shift.  One of these was the crazy amounts of second and third jobs both my husband and I were working.  After his regular job my husband would go to the local grocery store and stock shelves until 2:00 in the morning.  I would get up very early some mornings and donate plasma.  I also picked up a couple transcription jobs and a small babysitting gig.  I realized that if I didn’t stop using my credit cards and other debt, we would be on this cycle forever – working a six different jobs just to pay all the bills and the debt.

Another reason for my shift in perception was my children.  Two of my children were diagnosed with ADHD last year.  In addition, one received a diagnoses of general anxiety and the other of mild ODD (oppositional defiance disorder).  Because of this, I had been looking into interventions to help them learn coping skills and improve their focus as well as provide peace for their emotions.  One thing that helped them very much was therapeutic horseback riding.  It had amazing benefits and results!  But, it is not a low-cost activity.  I realized that I could not afford to keep taking my girls to this activity, based on our debt load and payments.  This really hit me hard.

So, I decided enough was enough!  I vowed to live according to my budget, to live within my means.  I put a freeze on all of my credit cards, so that I could no longer use them.  In addition, I took my commitment to my Heavenly Father.  I told him I would no longer live above the means that he had provided for us.  I asked for his help to be able to continue in my commitment.

All these things changed my thought on the perceived ‘cost’ or ‘pain’ a budget caused.  I now saw it for what it was – rules to live within so that I could become free and have peace.  Rules that would help me to be able to, eventually, achieve the things I want, and provide opportunities for my children.  Now the perceived cost of a budget was no longer high and unbearable.  It was, instead, a symbol of my commitment to myself, my family and to my Heavenly Father that I was grateful for all of my abundance and that I would be a better steward of the things I had been given, including my time and my finances.

How can you change your perception about your budget?  Some people find it helpful to call their budget a ‘spending plan.’  It sounds less restricting and more fun.  I, however, saw through this and knew it was still the same thing.  Nothing was as powerful to me as finding my ‘Why.’  Once I found my why, then suddenly my budget was my tool to help me to get to my goal based on my ‘Why,’ instead of a barrier or restriction.  Watch for my next post when we learn about finding our ‘Why.’

 

Why do you think it’s hard to follow a budget?

Have you been able to successfully follow a budget in the past, or do you do so now?

Do you know how to create a budget that will work for you?

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