Budget – an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time
I can see the eyes glazing over right now. There are few things in life that are considered as mind-numbingly boring as a budget. Yet a budget is perhaps the most quintessential thing we accountants do, and, indeed, if it is done well, it is one of the most inspiring and human activities one can ever engage in. As usual, many of you are now thinking I have lost my mind, but let me state my case. You might agree with me when I’m done.
It is our ability to think that gives us, the human race, our basic tool to survive and thrive. Unlike lions and tigers and bears, who instinctively hunt or forage for their food and have the physical equipment to allow them to do so, we humans have neither the physical equipment nor the instincts to survive in the same way. We only have our minds, but it is our minds that have allowed us to dominate the planet – to go from cave-dwelling ‘animals’ to space-exploring, DNA-cloning, sky-scraper builders in 10,000 years time.
Our mind’s ability to reason allows us to understand nature in such a way that we can take it and re-shape it and combine it to provide for all of our needs and for as many of our wants as our imagination can dream up. Perhaps our mind’s greatest feature, however, is its ability to set goals and plan. We can think as far into the future as we want, and if we do it right we can make that future what we want it to be.
A budget is nothing more and nothing less than a plan for the future. It is also a goal, and if done well, an aspiration. Because it is looking at least a year into the future, often more, and saying ‘this is what we are planning to achieve’ – I think it is awe-inspiring. To me there is nothing more fulfilling in life than to set a goal and achieve or even exceed it. Indeed, it is the long-range planners and dreamers that are responsible for keeping all of us alive, secure and comfortable. In less than 300 years, the best of these people who plan for the future have brought us to the point where we have ceased worrying about our subsistence like so very many of our forebears did. There’s nothing boring about that.
Finally, maybe budgeting is considered boring because even though it may be a plan it is still just a mind-numbingly large pile of numbers to many people. It is true that budgets include lots and lots of numbers, but numbers are easy to deal with if you have a computer. No one needs to spend hour after hour cranking a giant adding machine anymore in order to come up with the right numbers for a budget. All they need is the willingness to sit down and plan their lives by linking that plan to their financial wherewithal to achieve it.
If you are interested in having a wonderful, fulfilling life, then creating that life has to start with setting goals and planning for the future. And a big part of that process has to include the means, i.e. the financial wherewithal, to achieve those long-range plans, which brings us back to the need for preparing a budget if you really want to do it right.
And THAT brings me back to the Cash Flow Analyzer, which I wrote about previously here. The Cash Flow Analyzer is my do-it-yourself tool for creating your own budget if you aren’t already doing so. And if you now believe a budget is something you really do need but you still find the budgeting process boring or difficult to do, then I’m always available to provide the service. I really do like doing budgets.