Budget: a two syllable word which makes many of us groan. For some reason people tend to dislike the word “budget” it has a negative connotation and often brings to mind the thought of stress over money and lifestyle deprivation. In reality, budget is a great word, and budgeting is a great concept. While the idea of budgeting may not bring you excitement, it is crucial to your financial health. Throughout my experience as a debt resolution attorney for over 20 years, I have become very familiar with typical budgeting mistakes and how to fix them. Nearly everything worthwhile comes with a learning curve and budgeting is no exception. There may be various reasons why your budget isn’t working, and most have simple fixes!
Here are five reasons why your budget may not be working in your favor and how you can fix it.
"It’s so important to have a 'what if' fund to avoid relying on credit cards, personal loans, and other forms of self-imposed debt."
1. Not making friends with your budget
Don’t laugh but I have known people who would rather have dental work done than work on a budget. For them, a budget is an enemy. If budgeting makes you cringe as well, my first step would be to tell you to wave the white flag!
The Fix: A budget is your ticket to getting out of debt, saving money, and achieving your financial dreams. In short, your budget is the best financial friend you can have. For those who are resistant to make the leap from foe to friend, I suggest naming your new budget. Name it Desire for something you’d like to be able to afford eventually, or Bill because you want to emulate Bill Gates. Whichever name you choose, the second you give your new budget a name it ceases being an enemy and starts being your friend.
2. It’s Not SMART
“Smart” budgets are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and trackable. Have you ever thought to yourself “I’ve been good about my spending lately” only to take a look at your account balance and wonder where all your money has disappeared to? If your budget does not accurately reflect your expenses every month or sets unrealistic spending limits, there is no way it can work.
The Fix: Making a SMART budget can be scary because it requires you to get down in the nitty-gritty of your bank statements each month. It can also be time-consuming to make a SMART budget. Do it in a place where you have minimal distractions and where you feel relaxed. Whether it is in a bubble bath or in bed, being in a stress-free environment will make creating your budget that much easier.
3. Omitting One-Time Annual Expenses
If you’re not tracking your expenses accurately, this may lead you to go over budget. Keeping track of consistent monthly expenses like mortgage and utilities is easy because you pay these monthly. However, your once-a-year or semi-annual expenses like taxes and insurance premiums have to be a component of your budget as well.
The Fix: The more details, the better! When you first begin budgeting, make a new budget for each month and mark on your calendar which months you pay your annual or semi-annual expenses. This also includes subscriptions, dues, membership fees, annual credit cards fees, etc. After you get the hand of it create a new budget every six months, or when something significant changes in your financial situation.
"Have you ever thought to yourself 'I’ve been good about my spending lately' only to take a look at your account balance and wonder where all your money has disappeared to?"
Photo Courtesy of longliveyourmoney
4. Not Preparing for the Unexpected
Just when we may think we have a handle on our lives, unexpected turn of events can happen, whether you are faced with a busted air conditioner or an impromptu trip to the ER. If you do not have the funds to cover these unexpected expenses you can dig yourself into a hole called debt. It’s so important to have a “what if” fund to avoid relying on credit cards, personal loans, and other forms of self-imposed debt.
The Fix: Incorporate into the expenses portion of your budget called the “what if” fund. Make regular contributions and if you take money from it be sure to replenish what you took out. This fund can rescue you when trouble occurs, or act as a welcome source of cash when you need it most. Having the fund available will give you an extra layer of security and serve as an incentive to continue budgeting.
5. You’re Not Sticking to it
By far the most common reason your budget isn’t working is because you simply are not abiding by it. Whether it is an inability to say “no” or because you aren’t paying attention, the bottom line is it can’t work if you do not stick to it.
The Fix: Budgeting can be like working out; you are really motivated and excited at first, but slowly you get tired and lose interest. It is essential you push through this boredom. If you are struggling, consider budgeting with a friend! Just like you may exercise with friends, budgeting with friends can have the same effect. You can motivate and push each other to get the most out of your budget.
Once you begin budgeting and see how easy it is to turn your bad debt into good debt (and reap the financial awards that come with it), you will wonder why you ever thought it was an impossible task. Your budget shouldn’t be an added stressor but a source of stress relief. Remember your budget is your friend and just like any other relationship you need to give it proper tender loving care, set a date for it regularly.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.