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Overcoming life’s budget barriers

FRANKLIN LIVING— Barriers in life are tough, and they can crop up anywhere – your job, your spiritual life and your finances. Not many of us are lucky enough to never have to worry about saving our dollars and cents, and barriers to budget seem to be endless. In comparison, access to spending has never been easier.

In today’s digital age of money, it seems budgeting is even more complicated because we’re spending money we never actually hold or see. Our payrolls are direct deposited, and you can make a purchase right from your sofa without even going to get your credit or debit card from your wallet. I once purchased a new Fitbit while I was in the middle of a 10-mile training session. With digital payments, I didn’t need my wallet or my card – just tapped “buy now” and continued my workout.

As we’re crossing over the midpoint of the year, I think this is a great time to look at our barriers that keep busting our budget and put some effort into getting re-focused.

Barrier 1 – Not having a good handle on what you’re spending. This includes regular monthly bills and all the other swipes and “buy nows.” When I teach financial literacy to students, the lesson on keeping up with what you’re spending comes immediately after saving. You don’t have to keep an old-school check register, but we need to do more than depend on the available balance showing in our mobile app. This balance might not be accounting for everything you’ve spent if a merchant hasn’t pushed their transactions through for clearing.

What is the solution to this? Start getting a handle on what you’re actually spending. Download an app, use a pen and paper, whatever makes it doable for you. Track your spending so you know what you have to work with.

Barrier 2 – Setting unrealistic goals. Let’s be honest: We all do it. We set some monumental – and fantastic – goal only to be severely let down.

What is the solution to unrealistic goal setting? Set goals that make sense for you – you can even do daily and weekly goals instead of monthly – and start with baby steps. For example, “Today I will not eat out,” and put $10 into savings instead. Or “This week, I’m going to save $25,” then actually take that money and put it in an envelope or into your savings account. Make it tangible.

Barrier 3 – Lacking in self-control. This one is probably the hardest. If I could insert emojis into this article, this would be a “cringing face.” Removing the temptation to spend is difficult because you have to spend to live and take care of your family. Many people have trouble with budgeting because we like to get out and do things. This barrier will definitely take the most practice.

The solution to a self-control problem is to get self-aware first and foremost. Identify what common triggers are and, like with any hurdle, take them on one at a time. For example, maybe Amazon is making it just too easy to shop. Try deleting the app or taking a one-month no online purchasing challenge. Even putting the things into your cart but forcing yourself to wait two weeks or a month before purchasing can add some objective perspective. When I do this, I usually end up deleting the items when I go back to my cart. Sometimes self-control just comes down to tricking ourselves into doing or not doing something – and it is usually worth the challenge!

Emily Mays is vice president/chief administrative officer at Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, working in finance for 15 years. She is an enthusiastic social media marketer, financial literacy advocate and go-local supporter. She lives in East Franklin and has one daughter, Lola.