Do as I say, not as I do. Do you ever fall into that trap? New research from Debt.com suggests that you might have that attitude when it comes to budgets.
Debt.com recently surveyed the budgeting habits and attitudes of Americans and found a wide discrepancy in following through on budgeting beliefs. A huge majority (93%) of respondents agreed that everyone needs a budget, with 97% of women and 90% of men agreeing – yet only two-thirds of respondents actually do maintain a budget.
The remaining 7% agreed that some people need to budget – for example, if you have limited income, are a big spender, or have a lot of debt – but they didn't feel that budgets should be universal.
Why do budgeters budget? Most want to do a better job managing their money (34%), or budget because they've always done so (25%). Another 13% budget out of necessity to get out of debt. Other budgeting reasons centered on saving for wealth building and/or retirement, or budgeting as a result of major life changes (job loss, income reduction, divorce, or death of a spouse).
Why don't non-budgeters budget? The majority of non-budgeters (39%) claim that they don't have enough income to require a budget – an unfortunate finding. Lower-income people have the least room for financial error and the greatest need for a budget.
Almost one-quarter (22%) of respondents in the Debt.com survey think budgeting is too time-consuming, while 16% tried it in the past without success. The lucky 1% makes too much money to budget (although their luck may eventually run out without budgeting.)
Not everyone who budgets will be successful because a budget is only a guideline. It takes objectivity to set a reasonable budget and discipline to stick to it. However, most people who do budget report a positive experience. Over three-quarters (77%) of budgeters credit their budget for helping them escape debt.
Many budgeting Americans extend their philosophy to small purchases. While 42% include a budget for small purchases like vending machine items and trips to the coffee shop, another 29% agree that they should budget for small items but don't.
Think that small purchases don't matter? Try tracking every purchase for just one month, no matter how small the purchase is. You'll probably be amazed at how the little purchases add up, especially if you swipe a card to make payments. It's easy to lose track of the spending damage without watching physical notes leave your wallet.
Budgeting can help relieve the stress of special events and holidays. Over one-third (35%) of respondents use their budget to save year-round to have a surplus for the holidays, while another 21% start saving one or two months in advance. The 23% who say they live paycheck-to-paycheck rarely have money for these special times, even though budgeting could help them the most.
Budgeting works best when everyone in the household has the same philosophy, and the Debt.com survey reinforces that point. Budgeting is a group effort for 44% of budgeters, while another 38% of budgeters are single. Only 16% of budgeters live in divided households, where one partner budgets but the other doesn't. (Hopefully, the budgeter controls the cash.)
Do your budgeting actions match your words? If you're one in the group who suggests everyone should budget but don't do it yourself, it's time to take your own advice – and if you're one of the 7% who thinks a budget isn't necessary for everyone, let's just agree to disagree.
If you want to reduce your interest payments and lower your debt, join MoneyTips and use our free Debt Optimizer tool.