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5 budget roadblocks and how to smash through them

No more excuses. It's time to get on a budget.

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Makin a budget

Don't let these excuses stop you from getting your finances in order.

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Starting a budget is the first step to preparing for your financial future and getting out of debt. As important as it is, a Debt.com survey shows that 20% of American adults don't set one. The current pandemic has ravaged bank accounts, and with no guarantee of a second stimulus check or enhanced unemployment extension, every dollar counts. 

Developing a budget is hard work. Spending within your means -- and resisting the allure of credit-card financing -- requires discipline, sustained patience and constraint. But conceiving of a financial plan and sticking with it is vital to staying out of debt, laying the groundwork for retirement and easing your financial anxiety. 

Here are some common roadblocks to setting up a budget, and how to work your way through them. 

1. 'I don't make enough money.'

According to Debt.com's 2020 survey, "I don't have much income" was cited most often as the reason respondents didn't use a budget. Without a doubt, when money is tight it can be difficult to face up to the situation. And nearly 60% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, according to Charles Schwab

Still, it's critical to understand exactly where your money goes each month. Only then can you hatch a strategy for paying down debt and reducing spending.

2. 'Budgeting makes me anxious.'

Facing your financial situation head-on can be scary. And if you're afraid, it's easy to put off a close examination of your situation, especially if you suspect the picture isn't pretty. But, as with most things, running away from it won't help. 

"Focusing on the most basic elements of your finances is the place to start," says Amy Richardson, a certified financial planner with Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. "Shine a light on where your money is going on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to strip away the uncertainty that is underlying all of that anxiety."

3. 'I need to buy that now!'

Budgeting is the monetary equivalent of eating your vegetables. And you don't get to eat dessert -- that is, spend money on a non-essential item -- until you've earned it. 

Saving up for big-ticket items instead of purchasing them with a credit card is where the rubber hits the road with budgeting. If you want a new iPhone ($599 at Apple), video game console or fancy bag, you're better off putting aside a chunk of change each month than buying it on credit. Stashing away even one or two percent of your monthly income will help you save toward your goals.

4. 'I don't know how to make a budget.'

Ten years ago, creating a budget required a spreadsheet and a calculator. That's not the case today. 

There are dozens of budgeting apps on the market, many of which are free or inexpensive. You can easily find spreadsheet templates online or use a more robust platform that can automatically import spending data, offer payment reminders, provide dashboards and give you a birds-eye view of your progress. 

Here are a few resources to help you get started:

5. 'I'm not making any progress.'

Starting a budget is the first step in a lifelong financial journey. It won't solve all your problems overnight, but each step you take toward getting your finances under control is worthy of pride.

"You might find it challenging to stick with and manage your budget for the first few months," Richardson says. "This is totally normal. Know that it will get easier with time, practice and repetition. You will quickly find that budgeting gives you a sense of control, empowerment and excitement to own your financial journey and reach your goals."