The Federal government came within hours of officially shutting down last Friday. Normally the federal budget is set in advance of the fiscal year that starts on October 1st. Not so this year — the budget has been set forth only a few weeks or months at a time. All through the week there was much justified frustration pointed at Congress for failing to put together a budget for the entire year. Not to mention next year’s budget that needs to be set before October.
While Congress has gone back and forth in front of cameras and behind closed doors trying to hammer out a deal, I’ve been going on with my life. My financial life (thankfully) is stable. It’s well planned. It isn’t extended week to week like the government’s.
But maybe yours is. Maybe your Congressional representatives are accurately representing how their constituents manage their own finances. That’s not a winning strategy. Like Congress you’ll always have debt and you’ll always wonder if you will be able to make it through the next week.
Mimic Congress, Fail at Finance in 10 Easy Steps
If you want to be like Congress take the following steps:
1. Spend more than you earn
The United States government spends more than it earns. Tax revenues (income) have fallen, but expenses have not been reduced to match that tax revenue. If your income falls or completely disappears be sure to keep your spending levels high. You might even consider raising them for special expenses. It can’t hurt in the long run, right?
2. Publicly put down your spouse’s opinion
Your wife is asking you to consider cutting back on eating out. Your husband thinks you should drop cable to save money. Don’t go along with their crazy opinion. Instead talk to all your friends and co-workers about how dumb your spouse’s opinion on your married finances is. For maximum effectiveness make sure they’re standing right next to you when you do it.
3. Don’t compromise on anything
It’s all or nothing in your book. So what if your spouse doesn’t want to consider dropping cable? Even dropping to a lower cost plan would save significant dollars in the monthly budget. They might be open to that, but stick to your guns. It’s all or nothing on these budget cuts. Don’t consider small cuts on anything. Scorched earth policy lives here.
4. Don’t have an emergency fund
Rainy days never happen in your world. There’s no need to have cash set aside for major emergencies. I mean you’ve got a fine running car and your house is in decent shape. Plus, even if something did happen you can always pay for it with a credit card, right?
5. Live paycheck to paycheck
This one is especially good when you don’t have an emergency fund. It’s the ultimate in living on the financial edge! Get rid of your emergency savings and then live paycheck to paycheck. Rely directly on next week’s check to pay for today’s expenses. What happens if that check doesn’t come? Oh come on, you’ll get paid! You’ll never be unemployed. Go back to enjoying life and deal with that other stuff later.
6. Keep pushing back decisions
What’s better than having to face potentially awkward, painful, and uncomfortable financial decisions? Pushing them back!
No one likes pain or cutting back, so don’t do it. Bury your head in the sand. Set a date next month to talk about your finances… and when that date gets here, reschedule for the next month. Whatever you do make sure you keep pushing back the deadline of making tough decisions. If someone draws a line in the sand, just pour more sand over the line like it wasn’t there. Keep paying your monthly minimums on your debt and make sure you don’t cancel any service contracts with anyone like your cable or cell phone provider.
7. Spend more time talking than doing
Pffft… actions don’t speak louder than words! Words speak louder! Keep talking in circles about how you’ll change your financial life, how you’ll put together a budget, and how you have the best intentions of paying off that car loan. Just make sure you don’t actually do anything. Just keep talking and hope those around you don’t notice your inaction.
8. Make lenders dependent on you
Head down to your local one-branch credit union in your community. Walk in and demand to meet with the head of finance. Force the credit union to lend you so much money you become a huge portion of their loan portfolio. Then, and here’s the kicker, make your minimum payments, but every few months ask for more money. Keep coming back until you make up almost all of the credit union’s loan portfolio. Now, come back and let them know you need to borrow more money or you risk defaulting on all of their loans. With the financial stability of the credit union on the line they’ll have no choice but to find a way to let you borrow more.
For maximum effectiveness do this at every bank and credit union in town.
9. Fund luxuries over necessities
You need things like food, water, and a roof over your head. But instead of paying your power bill take that money to keep your Porsche car payment current.
10. Rob Peter to pay Paul
Instead of making tough decisions like cutting your cable off, become adept at juggling funds and creditor leniency. Since there’s only so much money in each check, send a smaller payment to one company that you know will extend your payment deadline a few days. When that bill comes due, pay the minimum required payment by not paying another bill in full. Juggling is so much fun!