Are You Suffering From Budget Avoidance Syndrome?

Over the last few weeks I’ve caught myself reverting back to some old bad habits.  I have had a lot of things on my mind, and one of them hasn’t been money.  While some may argue this is a good thing (after all, many of us become obsessive over money), it is rarely a good idea to just totally “zone out” when it comes to your finances.

One thing I’ve noticed about this bad habit of mine is that the longer my avoidance of anything to do with my personal finances goes on, the harder it is to get caught up. And I don’t mean because I have dozens of transactions to record in a ledger, I mean because I am almost afraid to look! 

The difference in the old me and the new me is that I can now recognize this condition creeping in and can carve out adequate time to make things right; to get caught up on balances, payments, etc.  I’ve dubbed this condition Budget Avoidance Syndrome, or B.A.S. and have included some symptoms below to help you identify it should you become afflicted

Symptoms of Budget Avoidance Syndrome

  • Your last checking account ledger entry is three weeks old
  • You aren’t quite sure when your next debt payment is due (you have an idea, but the exact date escapes you)
  • You feel a combination of anxiety and apathy towards your finances

The side effects of continuing to ignore B.A.S. can be quite painful, ranging from overdraft and late fees to non-sufficent funds fees and missed credit card payments, which usually result in a higher interest rate charged to your remaining balance.

Home Remedies for Budget Avoidance Syndrome

Unfortunately, the only known cure for B.A.S. is to simply fight through your anxieties dive headfirst into your finances. Try to set aside some time in the next 24 hours to completely immerse yourself in your financial picture. Gather up paper statements, online passwords, etc. and update all outstanding balances on deposit accounts and any outstanding debts. Then begin to look ahead to determine which bills are coming due soon, and make sure you have enough cash on hand to cover them.

Sometimes life just gets in the way of managing our money, and when we recognize that happening it is unwise to simply continue to ignore finances.  If you feel yourself heading down the same slippery slope I was, I encourage you to make the time today to get caught up.  Turn off the television tonight a couple hours earlier than usual. Ask to leave work a couple hours early if your boss allows.  If you are married, involve your spouse in the process so you are both on the same page.  As painful as it might be, trust me, you will feel better knowing where you stand.

Comments

  1. I’ve actually been doing very well with keeping on track with my budget and other things lately. Blogging about my various debts and other things not only makes it seem more “real” but also makes me think I am being held accountable for how well I do, even if the main purpose of my blog is just to get all my thoughts out!

    I’m sure your B.A.S. symptoms will lessen after the holidays :D

    -JSC

  2. I had the same thing happen recently. I wasn’t totally avoiding the budget but I hadn’t balanced my MS Money entries to my checking account for almost 6 weeks! It’s a total pain but has to be done to make sure nothing is coming out of the account that I wasn’t aware of and to feel good that I’ve been able to keep on track. I finally just manned-up to it and got it done.

    Of course, between the holidays, family and etc. it is easy to avoid what needs to be done. Thank goodness the yard doesn’t need tending to during these times or else it would turn into a small jungle.

    I figured you’d want to jump to your budget FrugalDad since you are so close to paying off some of your debts and freeing up a lot more money for your budget. Not to mention the snowball getting bigger from your writing/blog revenue. Just look at it as a “hey everything is going along just fine” checkup rather than a chore. :-)

  3. From DavidK: “I figured you’d want to jump to your budget FrugalDad since you are so close to paying off some of your debts and freeing up a lot more money for your budget.”

    Normally, this is true. In fact, I am typically on the obsessive side of things balancing my checkbook online nearly ever day, making weekly payments on debt as snowflakes roll in, etc. But, here latetly I’ve gotten really lax. As you say, time to man-up!

  4. @FrugalDad, I may be pointing out the obvious but maybe you should back off on obsessing over the money for a while. I found that I was doing the same (balancing/checking the accounts daily, basically) and started backing down to about once or twice a week. The obsessiveness comes and goes but I try to pay attention and make sure not to get gripped by it. Going down to once or twice a week really helps to separate the thoughts from the action and maybe allow time to get a handle on it.

    Like I said before, it really helps to see it as a status check rather than thinking that if you look at it every day something better and magical will happen. Maybe if you start obsessing, you should go play the Wii!

  5. I went through the same thing… except it lasted for 2 years. Now I have a bigger mess to clean up than a checkbook ledger that’s 3 weeks behind.

    @DavidK – yes, I agree that you need to back off. They don’t call it “balancing your checkbook” for nothing. It’s about balance. Know when to zoom in and when to back off.

  6. When I first started in college, I didn’t even think about budgeting. It is a new yet painful concept. To make things worse, I believe I didn’t need it. So the result is I have no idea where all the money goes, little here and there and by the end of the month, nothing left (sometimes it even goes negative?!!!).

  7. Boy, do I know what you’re talking about! I just readjusted my budget after ignoring it for a couple of months while we moved. Not a good situation.

  8. I never knew this had a name! Great post. We had our money meeting last night, and I feel so much better. Now, to wade my way through all the paperwork, pay the bills, and file the receipts. I hate that!

  9. I’m right there with you, brother. I know I have some manual payments due and they’re just hanging over my head right now like a black cloud. I’ve been using the “just enough” method for a few months now. I need to seriously crack the whip on the finances.

  10. You’re so right that the best way to get out of it is to just do it!

    I have found that over the years, when I was putting something off, the task in my head became about 10 times the size of the task itself. When I ended up doing it, it was usually about half of what I expected too. By just doing it, helps to both clear and destress your mind, as well as having a more up to date ledger!

    Just do it, for the win.

  11. Agree with @PT, I have some bills that have been sitting around for some time that I finally mailed away. When I look into my checking account it appears there is more there, of course I don’t deduct the bills I have procrastinated. Maybe its the time of year that has me avoiding it as well. Anyone else feel the same?

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

  12. “You feel a combination of anxiety and apathy towards your finances.”

    Yep, I know that feeling. I’ve been doing pretty good lately, having hard, set monthly goals has been helping. I don’t DARE slip up too much.

  13. I have the opposite problem, “Budget Obsession Syndrome”. I re-balance my accounts constantly and log in to each of them about five times a day even when I know I haven’t deposited or withdrawn any money. Any advice?

  14. I find that sometimes I just need to tell myself that I cannot do something ‘fun’ until the checkbook is looked at, balanced, and the utility bills are paid….

    Usually, the reward I am looking forward to (something non-monetary) will make me get the deed done :)

  15. Lol, I love that you labeled this “syndrome.” It is actually one of the number one reasons why I created my website, BuildMyBudget.com. Not only is it painful to sit down and look at the numbers in your budget, but it’s compounded because it takes SO long to catch up if you are using a financial program such as MS Money, etc. I love the Bmb budgeting method because no matter how far you are behind, you can quickly catch up…assess the damage(usually =) and then figure out how to proceed. I think the spreadsheet style of budgeting is the simplest, most flexible, and easiest to overcome B.A.S!

  16. Oh man, I am suffering from B.A.S. badly! Since we’ve gotten back from our trip for thanksgiving, I just didn’t want to deal with it all. Actually, about a week before we left, I was so busy getting everyone ready(and then suffering from a bout of food poisoning) that I just had no time to update the budget and double check the account. Account was checked before we left the state, but I DID NOT even try to update the budget for bills. Thank goodness I was smart enough to pay all bills earlier in the month, otherwise we’d be in deep doo-doo right now. I gotta get back on that frugal horse though! Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. I was a BAS sufferer until I completed my first Zero Balance Budget and found that I had a $400/month surplus that I was blowing on non-essentials!

    So now, keeping up with my budget is like earning an additional $400/month. If I don’t keep up with the budget that extra cash seems to vanish into thin air.

    Great post!

  18. I totally agree with Bill – I’ve been much more relaxed about money since I adopted a zero based budget, and have found lots of “extra” money fro savings and having fun. I feel much more proactive doing it this way, and would never go back.

  19. I went through the same thing thing in October … or maybe it’s just an early mid-life crisis (I’m almost 40)
    I said to hell with my budget and partied the entire month.
    Well $1,500 later, I’m now paying for it and have had to cut back in Nov/Dec.
    It was kind of fun, though.

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