Budget Buster: Right Math on the Wrong Path

Byron Moore budget

Byron Moore

Moore for your Money


Question: I keep a very detailed budget on a spreadsheet. All my income and expenses are in there. I even categorize my debit card expenses from my bank statement each month. My budget shows a $500 positive balance each month. But I never have any money in my account by the end of the month. I cannot figure out what is happening.

Answer: Your math may be right, but your path is wrong.

If you were someone who wanted to lose a few pounds, a nutritionist might design a meal plan just for you. It might have the perfect proportions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to make those pounds just fall off and those inches melt away.

And you might just read that plan over and over again, while eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream (1200 calories). Man that stuff is good…especially while reading about how to make a kale and rice cake salad with lemon juice dressing. Mmmm…

In diets and budgets, it does no good to have a perfect plan, if you go down the wrong path.

So what do you do if you find you have a beautiful budget, but horrible spending habits?

Save first. Stop waiting until the end of the month when you’ve spent money on everything else. Magic happens when you put your priorities where they belong – first in line.

Spend cash. If someone is having a problem with overspending, the best emergency measure I know to stop the bleeding is to take every credit and debit card out of your wallet. Spend only cash for groceries, all shopping, gas and dining out. Watch what happens when you pull out $150 to pay for a pair of shoes.

Discover what you really spend. You may be accounting for every dollar in your budget. But your dollars that are supposed to go to savings are sneaking away and hiding in another category – usually named something really helpful, like “miscellaneous.”

For the next three months, keep an envelope with you at all times. Whenever you buy anything, ask for a receipt and place it inside that envelope. Your goal is to have 100% of your spending accounted for by a receipt.

Revise your budget with the facts. In three months, you ought to know what’s really going on. Change all the numbers in your budget to reflect this new discovered reality.

Make hard choices; aka, prioritize. If your goal is to save $500 per month, you’re going to have to make some hard choices about what is most important to you. You’ve already proven to yourself that you can’t live like you’ve been living and save money – there’s nothing left over. So what are you willing to change to make it work?

If that seems too complicated, you could…

Keep saving first and spending cash. Many have found that if they’ll just introduce these two disciplines, the rest takes care of itself.

If your budget plan and your financial reality are not matching up, don’t go looking to the budget for the answers.

You’re the solution to your busted budget math. Get on the right path.

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Byron R. Moore, CFP® is Managing Director / Planning Group of Argent Advisors, Inc. Mike Jones is Managing Director / Investment Group of Argent Advisors, Inc. Write to either at 500 East Reynolds Drive, Ruston, LA 71270 or call (318) 251-5800. This newsletter is available via email on a free subscription basis. You can subscribe by clicking here. Direct any questions, comments or suggestions to Byron Moore at bmoore@argentadvisors.com or to Mike Jones at mjones@argentadvisors.com.
Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by Argent Advisors, Inc.), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.
Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. The opinions of any single advisor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Argent Advisors, Inc. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Argent Advisors, Inc.. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.
Argent Advisors, Inc. is a registered investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Argent Advisors, Inc. is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice. Argent Advisors, Inc does not offer tax, legal or insurance advice. If you are a Argent Advisors, Inc. client, please remember to contact Argent Advisors, Inc., in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing/evaluating/revising our previous recommendations and/or services. A copy of the Argent Advisors, Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request.


Argent Financial Group

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020, Argent Financial Group (Argent) is a leading, independent, fiduciary wealth management firm. Responsible for more than $30 billion in client assets, Argent provides individuals, families, businesses and institutions with a broad range of wealth management services, including trust and estate administration, investment management, ESOPs, retirement plan consulting, funeral and cemetery trusts, charitable organization administration, oil and gas (mineral) management and other unique financial services. Headquartered in Ruston, Louisiana, Argent was formed in 1990 and traces its roots back to 1930.

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