Why budget shouldn’t be a bad word

Several weeks ago, McDonald’s caused quite the online uproar when the Practical Money Skills Budget Journal (that the company created along with partner Visa) went public. Many people criticised the budgeting expectations put forth in the journal as unrealistic.

However, one big benefit of both the McDonald’s budgeting journal and the controversy that it caused was that it got individuals and news outlets talking about household budgets.
Considering the fact that the word “budget” can send a chill up the spine of even frugal individuals, it’s high time we started talking about what budgets are (and aren’t) on a larger level. Some truly negative myths still cling to the idea of budgeting, no matter how untrue they may be.
Here are the three biggest myths that make budget seem like a bad word, and why they’re untrue:
Negative Myth 1: Budgets are restrictive
This is probably the biggest misconception about budgeting out there. Many people believe that going on a budget means that they’ll have to give up any and all fun spending. If the choice is between having a budget and eating ramen at home, or continuing to dine out with friends budget-free, then it seems like budgeting is definitely the worse choice.
The Truth: Budgets set you free
But restriction vs. freedom isn’t the actual choice presented by budgeting or not budgeting, as much as it may feel that way. Putting a budget in place just means that you’re thinking about your money choices before you make them. Many who enjoy a carefree, budget-free lifestyle find themselves out of cash before the end of the month — and forced to eat ramen anyway. There’s no reason why you can’t budget in the fun spending, and having a budget in place means you know exactly how you’ll pay for your fun without having to worry.
Negative Myth 2: You have to be good at math to budget
Many people, remembering their struggles in high school math classes, just say “No, thank you” to the idea of having to do the calculations necessary for budgeting. It’s not that they don’t want to manage their money better — it’s that they’re sure they don’t have the skills.
The Truth: For a successful budget, you only need to add and subtract
Forget your fear of Medvetz’s hated algebra class. Budgeting doesn’t require any math that the average 8-year-old couldn’t handle. If you can add and subtract, then you can create a budget. Even if you’re truly math-averse, budgeting software and apps can make creating and sticking to a budget that much simpler.
Negative Myth 3: Budgeting is a huge headache
After working hard all week, who wants to come home to even more paperwork? Those who believe this myth think that keeping a budget requires endless effort and time… and those cat videos on YouTube aren’t going to watch themselves.
The Truth: Not Having a Budget is a Bigger Headache
I’m not going to deny that the first couple of months of budgeting do take some time and effort. But it’s only some time and effort, and it gets easier and easier the longer you do it. In addition, while you do have to work on your budget, it’s infinitely less stressful than finding yourself with not enough money at the end of the month. Taking a little time now to prevent stress later is like a gift to your future self.