Happy SMART Day Everyone!
Quite by accident, Thom and I started watching a show on TV call “Restaurant Impossible” on the Food Network. In the show, a failing and desperate restaurant owner somewhere in the country contacts Chef Robert Irvine. Chef Irvine flies in with a designer, a contractor, ten thousand dollars and two days to totally transform these dismal eateries and provide the last hope for these owners to remain in business. It’s fun to watch the transformation of the interiors—but even more fascinating to watch the transformation of the proprietors. In just about every case the owners have gone years without any income and are deeply in debt, while their restaurant and its business deteriorates around them. It’s hard to imagine why they didn’t do something about it or at least they cut their losses long before they hit bottom. But are they unusual? Probably not. Maybe “Budget Impossible” happens to all of us if we wear blinders when it comes to our finances or our lives.
Part of me can definitely relate. For the first dozen years of our marriage, Thom and I never had a budget for anything. We didn’t want to know what we were spending because then we would have had to acknowledge that we were consistently going deeper into debt. It’s a scary feeling and no one wants to face it. Still, the nagging stress of knowing that something isn’t quite right, never goes away. We, just like many other Americans, spent money, juggled our credit cards, and prayed for a miracle. Luckily, it changed for us—but it wasn’t easy or overnight. Of course, the real change was a change in money consciousness—and that is necessary for us all.
First though, what are the most popular reasons most of us use for not budgeting?
#1 It takes too much time and is too complicated. One thing that is obvious when watching the TV show “Restaurant Impossible” is that the people involved seem to have no idea how bad their situation really is. They might be able to tell Chef Irvine that they are $2 Million in debt, but they don’t have a clear idea where the money has gone. Their faces go blank when Chef Irvine asks them about the last time they got paid. It appears that when things get bad, people go blind and dumb about what’s really going on in their lives. Unfortunately for most of these businesses, they continue to throw as much money at the situation as they can get their hands on, often going irreparably in debt to institutions, friends and family. Finally, with nothing left, they are forced to close. Their unwillingness to sit down, analyze what was happening on a daily basis, and then do something about it, leaves them with far fewer options. Obviously the biggest problem here is that you can never improve what you don’t have a clue about.
#2 Some people want to live in a dream world instead of a real world. While I am in total support of a person attempting to live their dream and creating a world that seeks a better life, that is not the same as living in a world of denial. Denial is living with no responsibility for one’s actions. Denial is being oblivious to the consequences of what we do or don’t do on a regular basis. As author and teacher Ernest Holmes said, “Every man must pay the price for that which he receives, and that price is paid in mental and spiritual coin.” He also said, “…we are dealing with a Force we cannot fool.” In other words, we live in a world with natural and spiritual laws that are always in effect. While some spiritual avatars may exist that have transcended the space-time continuum and can turn iron into gold—I haven’t met any of them personally. So, face the fact that we all must observe the forces of the world until we transcend and/or master them.
#3 People feel like they are “controlled” when they budget. This was probably a big one for both Thom and I when we were young. If you know exactly how much money you have coming in and vow to not spend any more than that—you might feel limited and scared you’ll never have fun again. It’s likely it makes you think you can’t do what you want to do when you want to do it. This is frequently seen in families where children were given nearly every thing they wanted without responsibility or consequence. At any age, once you form a habit of buying whatever you want impulsively when you desire it (credit cards anyone?)—there’s a good chance that you will see any form of budgeting as exterior repression or control.
#4 You don’t have enough money to budget. Some people use the excuse of not having any money to begin with, so why budget it? This excuse frequently hides the person who is resisting the responsibility, and knows that if they do start becoming more aware about their finances, they’ll have to make changes. Many people so resist change that they will put it off until it can no longer be avoided. And let’s face it; some of us are just too lazy to budget.
#5 Most people misunderstand the true purpose for budgeting. When Thom and I were much younger, I was under the impression that budgeting was a disciplined form of “bean-counting.” In other words, the whole point was to analyze and obsess over details. No one really wants to do that. Unfortunately, I think that most people think of budgeting in the same way and maybe that is a big part of the resistance.
While it’s true that budgeting in part is about analyzing your finances—both your income and your outflow—there is definitely more to it. I think the critical element of budgeting is the awareness of your experience with both your passion and productivity, along with the flow of resourses in your world. Okay, so maybe that sounds a bit airy-fairy, but the reality of budgeting is more about awareness and your place in the world, than it is about counting the pennies (or dollars) that flow through your life.
Let me give you an example. Once Thom and I started becoming more aware and awake to where we fit in the world, we started recognizing what was really important to our happiness. After all, when you know what is valuable to you personally, you stop blowing money on things that advertisers, or the “Joneses,” say you should want. We stopped believing we were ever going to “magically” win the lottery as a solution to our problems. We also started pursuing our passions as work, rather than chasing income. The focus in our lives became more about the good we were experiencing with what we already had, than how much we were accumulating. Once any one of us starts changing the references we have to both money and its flow in our life, all the above budgeting challenges gradually disappear. At that point budgeting is just another way to express SMART Living 365.
While the TV show “Restaurant Impossible” offers short updates at the end of the show indicating whether any of the solutions offered by Chef Irvine helped bring about lasting success, it would be interesting to do an annual follow-up. Unfortunately, even if someone swoopes in to rescue many of us for our failed enterprises, until we are willing to allow an internal “renovation,” we’ll be stuck with a personal drama like “Budget Impossible!”
“The amount of money you have has got nothing to do with what you earn. People earning a million dollars a year can have no money and people earning $35,000 a year can be quite well off. It’s not what you earn, it’s what you spend.” –Paul Clitheroe
“Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing.”–Ernest Becker
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call ‘life’ which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”–Henry David Thoreau
Laura J. Tong says
Hi Kathy, it’s great that we can all share tips like this. Thanks so much for setting up the chance for us to do so. Re the show airing in the UK: honestly have no idea, neither of us have had a TV since we left home, too busy reading great blogs like this one 🙂 Sounds like an interesting show though.
Laura J. Tong says
Love this post Kathy, you’re so right about the excuses we can find logic and validity in when being ostriches over finances. We have a pad that’s always on Mark’s desk in the office and each day we jot down anything we spent. As we have a weekly budget we can quickly see each day if we need a leaner weekend or an all out party is on the cards! It’s worked for us for years, super simple and super reliable.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hey Laura! What a great idea to make a habit of paying attention to where we are on a regular basis before running out and blowing our reserves. I think the sooner any of us can learn that the better. Thanks for sharing that idea with us all. oh, and do they have the show “Restaurant Impossible” where you live? ~Kathy