Most people panic on the inside when they hear the word “budget” come up in a conversation and when reading articles online.
“What’s your budget?”
“Did you budget for that?”
“Have you tried creating a budget to save more money?”
Unless you are an able-bodied person with no money trauma and an above-average steady monthly income, those questions are going to send off a million triggers inside your head.
Articles with headlines like “I paid off $50k of debt after I finally started budgeting” and “This couple saved $100k in 2 years after using this simple budgeting method” are going to leave you feeling defeated rather than answering your money questions and giving you the financial literacy that you need.
Those articles and stories are completely out of touch with the reality of the folks who desperately need financial advice that matches their specific life situations.
Budgeting Isn’t Only Scary, It’s Terrifying When The Federal Minimum Wage Is a Poverty Wage
Budgeting scares most people.
Not because it’s hard, but because it doesn’t make much sense to people who already know that if they sit down and write out all of their expenses and income, they are going to be left with a 0 at the end of the exercise. While writing out your income and expenses is extremely helpful with getting a grasp on your current financial situation, it only goes so far with someone who might be making minimum wage and living in poverty.
Let’s be real, the federal minimum wage in America has hardly budged in the last 10 years. It was $6.55 in 2009 and the last time it rose was to $7.25 in 2014. While there are states that have set state minimum wages that are much higher like in California where the minimum wage is set to $14.00 and even cities that have set minimum wages like in Seattle where the minimum wage is $16.69, these wages across the board still don’t measure up to the astronomical cost of living in those same areas.
In 2019, 50% of the American workforce made less than $35,000 a year, according to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) annual wage statistics. The official poverty rate was 11.4 percent in 2020 which rose by 1 percent from 2019, the first time it’s risen in 5 years.
Think about it. If you made $7.25 an hour and worked 40 hours a week the entire year without taking any time off, you still would only bring in $15,080 before taxes for the year.
Then your phone shows you an article from Business Insider about a couple who’s been able to save $100k by “just using this simple budgeting method”.
I’d be furious, hopeless, and scared too.
How to Write About Budgeting
When writing about budgeting whether it is on your blog, for a freelance article you’re writing, for a book, etc, you have to account for the array of factors that might be present in our reader’s life that will affect the way they budget.
Factors you should consider are:
● Fluctuating income from month to month
● Fluctuating expenses from month to month
● Income categories
● Who else they might have in their life that they support financially (partners, parents, children, pets)
● What is the best cadence for setting their budget (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc)
● What might make budgeting more approachable and fun for them
Know Your Audience
When writing to your audience about money in general, know who you are writing to and who your information is for. Is it for a straight cisgender white man who is already making 6 figures a year at his corporate job but can’t seem to save a penny or is it for the queer single non-binary parent who’s been estranged from their family and has 1 income source that they are barely scraping by on?
You can poll your audience using social media tools like Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and even your email newsletter and simply ask them questions about their life and money situation. Ask them about their income and debt levels, who they support in their family, how steady or consistent their income and expenses are, and the best way they retain certain information. You can form these sorts of questions however you see fit but the important part here is that you ask them about their lives and needs and then show them that you’ve heard them in the advice you give them.
Introduce nuance in your writing to be relatable to your audience and show them that they are being heard.
This doesn’t mean you have to write for everyone but write for YOUR audience. You don’t know them nor their problems unless you ask them.
People Need Resources, Not Tips
If we revisit the statistics presented earlier in this article, we see 50% of Americans have an income problem, not a spending problem. While yes, part of that problem is because of the way the system is structured in America that puts people like women, non-binary, trans, disabled, and people of color at a huge disadvantage, the majority of online resources fail to mention that harrowing fact.
When you write about budgeting to your audience, acknowledge these systematic inequalities and try to offer resources and solutions that could better their entire financial situation as a whole and give their budget more of a chance to achieve the goals that they want to set.
You could offer something like an editable excel budget template as a resource “freebie” and email opt-in for your audience that gives them the ability to enter the categories they want and include other people they support. They can then go in and dynamically update it as they see fit and share it with other members of their family so they can also add their items. Google Sheets is a great free tool to create a resource like this.
You could also offer guidance for ways to increase their income, side hustle ideas, investing education such as showing how they can start investing with $5 here and there and move up from that, and examples of your own budget.
People are hardly surviving and tips don’t do them much good. Resources allow people to act and create solutions for themselves.
Make It Fun
When I first started budgeting, I hated it. I still hate it but I’ve made it fun by making it an activity my wife and I both do at the beginning of every month. We also like to revisit and shift things around about biweekly now as we flow in this new ritual together.
However, I didn’t even know I could approach it like this when I first started. It was because of following folks like Kara from Bravely Go and Athena from Money Smart Latina that my mind was opened to all the different ways I could make budgeting work for me.
Try to brainstorm creative ideas to make budgeting more fun, less scary, and less cringey for your audience. Ask them about their favorite games or ways to learn and that might help shed light on what fun solutions you can give them.
Don’t forget that writing about it should also be fun and fulfilling for you too. If it doesn’t feel right to you writing it, rewrite it.
Always trust your gut.