You have income. You have expenses. Surely it’s about time to pair those 2 bad boys up and see what’s left? Those bounced direct debits at the end of the month are your prompt, but you’ve been meaning to do this for ages anyway. You pull out some paper and a pen, and start jotting down where your money goes. You write down rough amounts next to each item, but the numbers are rough as you’ve never really paid complete attention. You add it all up and compare to your income. Fuck yeah, I’m rich! Then you look at your bank account, and have no idea why it’s always so empty.
Attempt 2 begins, and this time you’re serious. You bring up a spreadsheet on the computer and enter the numbers. You check your banking and correct the values. You missed some items the first time around, so you add those in. You total up again, and it’s still looking good. Perplexed, you wonder why the bank is hiding your spare money.
Attempt 3, and you are working out what all those cash withdrawals are for. Those are the things which are absorbing your income. You add stuff to your ever expanding spreadsheet. Food was missed in the first 2 attempts, as was eating out, clothing, work lunches, and a billion other things you can’t remember. As cash is so hard to work out, you guess what the numbers for each item should be. Surely you only spend £7 per week on lunches for work? You finish the budget file for the third time. It has proper formatting now, coloured sections, space for growth, and a yellow box with bold font which shows what you have left each month. The number is positive, and not entirely unhealthy. It doesn’t quite match your bank account, but you’ll monitor those cash transactions over the next month to get better numbers.
Attempt 4, and your yellow box with bold font is staring back at you, judging your stupidity. Your £7 per week for work lunches was actually £35 per week. Most of the other cash items you estimated last month have been similarly misjudged, and you wonder why you, or anyone in the world works at all, if it’s all just going back out of the door.
Lesson – numbers don’t work like they should.