Nobody Cares About Budgets

Welcome to my Saturday morning stream of consciousness.  Excited? You should be.

Why don’t more people care about their money? Specifically millennials. With so many personal finance blogs and books and other content out there (with gifs! there are so many great articles with gifs) why aren’t more people taking action? Why don’t they see what an impact this would have on their lives, their futures! *passionately shakes fist*

(…Right?)

Well, maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that so many ‘intro to personal finance’ books and articles open with Budget! BUDGET! Thou shall not proceed without a Budget!

Uhhh….

Newsflash—not a selling point. Like, no I don’t want to sit down and put numbers into boxes why do you think I’m avoiding my bank statements in the first place?

And I know (I know!) budgeting doesn’t have to suck. There’s a template for seemingly everyone’s taste and it can be as simple as you like and oh goodness did you know how life changing it is?!

None of that matters.

It doesn’t matter because people aren’t going to get that far. They’re going to shut off as soon as they skim the word ‘budget’, they’re not going to stick around to hear you defend it.

If we’re trying to get peoples attention—to sell them on the magic of caring about their money—maybe we should stop leading with budgets.

Not because budgets are bad, or useless, or unimportant (they’re none of those things) but because nobody cares.

Not at first, anyways.

I mean think about it. That person you know (friend, colleague, family member) that’s ‘bad with money’, do you honestly think all they’ve been waiting for is someone to tell them to get a budget and open a retirement account? If that were the case, wouldn’t they have done it already?

Now before you petition to have me kicked off the interwebs, let me be clear, I’m not against budgeting. I have a budget! I just don’t think they’re the starting point, and I certainly don’t think they’re the be-all-end-all.

If we want to get (and keep!) peoples attention, maybe we should try opening with some different material. Let people get through the door, take their coats off, offer them a drink, before we hit them with the hard stuff.

So where should we start, Kate?

If budgets are out—and retirement, but that’s for another post—how should we get people interested in money? Talking like this I must have the all answers, right?

Nope! (You hate me don’t you?) I think our relationship with money is a good kicking off point, but I don’t exactly know what that looks like.

But this is important. Really, really important. And I want to talk about.

I believe the sticking point with financial advice right now isn’t so much the content, but how it’s being presented.

Rethinking the delivery… That’s the key.

What do you think?


P.S. In lieu of a somewhat-passably-relevant stock photo… Please enjoy this snap I took of pretty red stuff growing on the side of a building in Huntsville, Ontario this fall.

About the author

Kate Smalley

Kate is a marketer, maker, and freelancer living in Toronto. She works with small businesses to help them narrow in on their purpose, share their ideas, and tell their story.

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2 Comments

  • This is a good thing to ponder. There are lots of ways to try to reach people, and everybody finds different things resonate with them, or have different learning styles.

    We have the “budget or else!” school, the “this can be empowering if you seize the reins” school, the “dude, it’s boring but you have to just do it to be a functioning adult so let’s get it over with school” and the “you done screwed up real bad, so let’s fix that hot mess” school.

    I’m sure there are other approaches to try (maybe skip budgeting and teach emergency funds or something first, then move back to budgeting to get there, maybe just talk about trade-offs and optimizing happiness, maybe something else).

    One I’m curious about might be to try to get people to normalize talking about it. But that’s hard. Maybe with xmess it could work. “Hey friend, what’s your gift budget this year? We’re thinking of less stuff, more hot chocolate and skating this year.” “Follow-up, what trade-offs did you make for that budget, or, how are you going to make that work?”

    Dunno. More thinking.

    • First, that’s the best categorizing of budgeting schools haha so true!

      I agree with the normalizing talking about it… thinking about how we can do that. It’s definitely starting to happen! There’s a shift towards it which is awesome to see—there’s more and more mention of PF on websites like GirlBoss and Man Repeller and other typically fashion/beauty/lifestyle oriented sites.

      I like what you said about Christmas, that puts it into context and into the relevant here and now. Maybe that’s the key… context?

      I just keep thinking, for someone with no previous interest in PF, opening a book/article what initial impression/content would hook them? What would make them think “OK yes this is for me I’m listening”. Like you said, different for everyone.

      Le Sigh, big topic… thank you for sharing your thoughts John!

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