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A Different Approach to Budgeting

When most people think about budgeting, they think about cutting down their expenses. They think they should shop less, cook at home more, and cancel their subscriptions—and they're right. Everyone should aim to shave expenses when possible, but that's not all budgeting is about; that's just one approach.

The other approach focuses on your income. Instead of looking at where you can cut costs, you decide how much money you want to spend monthly, and then determine how you'll get your income to match that.

Obviously, this is way easier said than done. If everybody could just click their heels three times and pop up with additional income streams, very few people would be broke.

Making Your Spend-First Budget

The first step is listing out all of your ideal expenses (we use the term ideal loosely because we assume people's "ideal" expenses would be not having to pay expenses). Someone's expense list might look like the following:

  • Rent: $1,500

  • Car payment: $350

  • Groceries: $250

  • Insurance: $200

  • Phone: $100

  • Utilities: $200

  • Entertainment (including eating out): $300

  • Savings: $200

Total: $3,100 monthly

If you bring in $2,500 per month after taxes, your goal is to find a way to cover that additional $600. If you bring in $2,000, you have to find a way to make the extra $1,100. You can drive for DoorDash, freelance write, tutor your neighbor's badass kids, flip a pack or two, whatever. I'm not here to tell you how to make money; that's all on you. What's important is that you have an idea of what it would take.

Mentality Change

The important thing about this approach to budgeting is the mentality change. Instead of focusing on what you can't have, you begin to focus on what you can do to get the things you want. For many people, doing this gives them the encouragement they need to start thinking about additional income streams. It's easier to convince somebody to eat better and workout when they know they have a beach vacation coming soon.

Most people can't just up and get a new, higher-paying job or raise on-demand, but what they can do is think about ways to make their money work for them. Having a concrete goal in place (your needed monthly income) has been proven to light a fire under people's ass and push them toward attaining it.

True financial freedom comes when your passive income exceeds your expenses.

When you think of a "normal" budget, the focus is on what you can't have—similar to a diet. You can't spend on this; you can't eat that; you can't go there. This can be more discouraging than getting left on read after sending a multi-paragraph text pouring your heart out, and many people end up abandoning the budget or diet because it feels like a chore.

This budgeting approach is much more opportunistic.

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