Budget Success: Just Add You

Via Flickr, by user Spirit-Fire. Used under Creative Commons License.

What is it that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? To paraphrase, they often fall apart.

Building a budget is an absolutely critical first step to becoming the master of your money, but it’s only a step. Financial teachers talk incessantly about the importance of budgeting, and rightfully so. But a budget itself is no silver bullet; the fact that you write down a plan for your money doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to work. Success with a budget takes a much more critical ingredient — you.

Think about it — no matter how thorough or detailed you are in putting it together, a budget is just a plan. It’s just words and numbers on a piece of paper, or in a computer spreadsheet. Sure, your budget has lots of good intentions and great ideas; you’ve even remembered to budget for expenses that will come up in the future. But that budget is inanimate. It has no power. On its own, it accomplishes nothing. A budget won’t work without the power of you behind it.

No plan in the history of the world has ever worked without the will of committed human beings seeing it through. Allied forces had a great plan to storm the beaches of Normandy during World War II, but it took thousands and thousands of dedicated men willing to run headlong into enemy fire to make D-Day the success that we remember today. And though the stakes of your financial life don’t seem as high as a pivotal battle in a global war, the principle remains: In order to make your plan a success, you must throw the full force of your will behind it.

Unfortunately, we humans are experts and making plans and then abandoning them, or watching them fall apart in real time because we don’t commit like we should. We see this in examples from all areas of our lives. Remember that girl that you planned to ask out, but then when the time came, you chickened out? Or maybe you decided to start an exercise regimen at the beginning of the year, only to see it fizzle after a week or two. And don’t even get me started on the corporate world — how many times have you had a staff meeting that results in a vague plan to start addressing a problem or improving a product? And how many times do those good ideas and intentions implode because no one takes responsibility for seeing that they get done?

Fortunately, there’s a remedy for all of this. Proverbs 21:5 refers to it as diligence:

The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty.

Diligence is an idea that we don’t often talk about these days, but as the proverb says, it’s a crucial element in doing anything successfully. Diligence means hard work, applied faithfully over time. Go to the gym once, and you can work hard. Go to the gym faithfully for six months, and that’s diligence.

To succeed in budgeting, you need a good plan, but you also need to throw yourself diligently into doing the work required to execute your plan. That’s going to mean spending a lot of time crunching numbers to perfect your budget (especially when you’re first learning how to budget). It also means having the discipline to live by the plan that you set in your budget, resisting the urge to spend money that you haven’t planned for, and being faithful to save, give and invest in the areas where you have strategically planned to do so.

If you want to succeed with your finances, put together a great budget plan… and then throw the full force of your self behind it.

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