Budgeting Myths You Should Never Believe

It’s hard to prioritize where your money goes even if you have a well-paying job. But successful budgeting makes it much easier to get out of debt and save for your future. A good budget will make you feel in charge of your money, not the other way around. Here, we bust these budgeting myths so you can save and spend confidently.

1. If you go over budget, you’re doomed

Customer paying with credit card
Paying with a credit card | Milkos/Getty Images

An all-or-nothing mindset is risky. It’s like when you splurge on junk food while dieting. You may think, “I’ve already ruined my diet” and then binge on everything in sight. Many people apply the same failed logic to budgets. You likely won’t follow your budget perfectly, especially as you begin. Don’t panic. MoneyWise suggests you cover all of your fixed expenses, then give yourself some flexibility from there.

Next: Is technology your friend or foe?

2. You have to know how to use spreadsheets

Mature woman looks at laptop
Spreadsheets can be complicated. | fizkes/Getty Images

You don’t have to budget with spreadsheets or complex ledger systems. Thankfully, a number of apps now make budgeting a breeze. Try Toshl, Mint, Wally, or Acorn, among others.

Next: Don’t use this common excuse.

3. Budgeting takes too much time

Overworked woman with head in hands in office
Adie Bush/Getty Images

As financial guru Dave Ramsey says, if you think you don’t have the time to budget, weigh your priorities. Really, you can’t afford not to create a budget. It does take time. But once you have a system in place, it gets a lot easier. Consider watching one less Netflix show as an investment in your future.

Next: Did you despise math class?

4. You have to be good at math

Woman uses calculator
Doing math | dolgachov/Getty Images

Plenty of apps and programs can do the math for you. Check out this free app, Every Dollar, to start. Online banking, which you likely already have with your checking account, is another great tool that automatically tracks your expenses so you don’t have to balance a checkbook.

Next: You’d probably rather be doing something else other than budgeting, right?

5. Budgeting is boring

Tired man yawning
Man yawns | Deagreez/Getty Images

Maintaining a budget may not be the most interesting activity. But do you know what’s really fun? Being debt free, as Dave Ramsey points out. Plus, when you start to successfully budget, you probably will start to feel satisfaction from it!

Next: Talented at mental math? This won’t cut it.

6. You can do a budget in your head

Woman paying for coffee
Paying for coffee | Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

You may be good at tracking your spending. But truly, it’s hard to manage a budget in your head unless you’re straight out of A Beautiful Mind. Besides, budgeting isn’t just about accounting for past spending. It’s about deciding where your money should go in the future. Intentionally write down your goals — don’t just think about them.

Next: Do you hate being controlled?

7. A budget is too restrictive

Women play golf
Women playing golf | bernardbodo/Getty Images

No one will ask you to give up every joy in life. You love getting your nails done or playing golf? Great. Just put it in the budget! When you know how you spend, it actually gives you the ability to use money wisely on the things you want, instead of the thoughtless transactions that tempt us.

Next: Sudden medical bills or a busted AC unit won’t stand up to this myth.

8. You can’t account for unexpected expenses

Man Sitting Next To broken Dishwasher
Broken dishwasher | AndreyPopov/Getty Images

Sure, you never know when your kid will break an arm or your dishwasher will clean its last dish. But one thing you can count on: Expenses will come up. And you’ll land in financial trouble by charging them to a credit card. The Balance advises having three months’ worth of monthly expenses in emergency cash reserves for unexpected things that come up.

Next: Do you worry about retirement?

9. Your 401(k) is good enough

Man talking in meeting
Retirement is approaching. | Photo_Concepts/Getty Images

If your job provides you with a 401(k) and even 401(k) matching, you may think you’re set for retirement. Wrong. Planning for retirement is a crucial part of budgeting. And what you put into your 401(k) may not be enough to sustain the lifestyle you want to have. Here are nine things you need to know about your 401(k).

Next: Do you love trying new restaurants?

10. Budgeting means no eating out

Eating a nice dinner
Enjoying a dinner out | Walmor Santos/Getty Images

Budgeting doesn’t mean total deprivation. You can enjoy Chick-fil-A at lunch or do date night at a nice restaurant. Just be aware of how much you spend on these things and plan for them in your budget. You may even find eating out becomes more special when you do it intentionally with money you know you have. Check out these hacks on saving money eating out.

Next: Do you feel pretty good about your finances?

11. Budgeting is only for people with money woes

Exhausted businessman
Troubled with the budget | Михаил Руденко/Getty Images

If you live comfortably, you may think you don’t need a budget. While we have talked about how important budgets are for getting out of debt, budgets are for everyone, debt or no debt. If you don’t save and spend intentionally, your money controls you — not the other way around. Here’s how you can budget like a millionaire.

Next: Take a good look at your calendar.

12. It’s not a good time to start a budget

Man holiday shopping
Holiday shopping |Jelena Danilovic/Getty Images

Big trip coming up? Christmas just around the corner? You may be tempted to say it’s not a good time to start a budget. But you’ll always be able to come up with an excuse. And entering a spendy season is the perfect time to start a budget. Decide ahead of time how much money you’ll use for that vacation or gifts, and keep that promise! This article can help you predict how much money you’ll need for a vacation, too.

Next: Millennials and generation Z are guilty of believing this myth.

13. Everyone goes into debt to go to college

Man paying bills
Student loan debt isn’t for everyone. | Creatas/Getty Images

It’s no secret that many millennials are drowning in student loan debt. If that’s you, you can work hard to pay it off. But if you haven’t gone to school yet, you must know you do not have to go into debt to get a degree. You can budget for college and make it work. It might take more time than you hoped; you may need to go to community college for a few years first or work while studying, but you can do it!

Next: Are you a free spirit?

14. A budget must be super-detailed

Relaxing at cafe
Woman at cafe | Ridofranz/Getty Images

Like we discussed, you don’t need to be a spreadsheet wizard to have a budget. But when the rubber meets the road, aren’t budgets still detailed? They don’t have to be. The 50/30/20 budget is an easier model to follow. It breaks down your spending into three categories: needs, wants, and saving.

Next: This last myth is easy for younger people to believe.

15. You don’t have a current savings goal so you don’t need to save

Young person using laptop
Planning for the future | SARINYAPINNGAM/Getty Images

It can be hard for young people to wrap their heads around the things they need in the future. So naturally, they aren’t motivated to save. But breaking down savings goals into your budget can be a good motivator. If you’re 19 years old, it may not be on your radar to save for a house down payment. But you will thank yourself later if you create savings goals for your future.