Budgeting is Like Potty Training Your Child

Brent Pittman —  03/23/2012

Budgeting is like potty training your child. For you singles out there,that might not mean much, but experienced parents will understand.

Potty training is hard work, messy, and frustrating. Just when you think you’ve trained your little Einstein, there is another accident and the process begins again.

I was inspired as we will begin potty training our son in the next year. This article has several tips on potty training that can be applied to budgeting.

**Warning there will be bathroom humor and language below, read at your own risk**

Budget Like You Are Potty Training

All About the Bribes- Just like you give your child M&M’s for a successful mission, give yourself a treat every now and then. When you make that $1000 emergency fund goal, give yourself a grownup treat. I like chocolate.

Daddy Does It- Kids need a model for even the simplest behavior changes. Dad goes into the bathroom and doesn’t cry, you should too! When you begin budgeting find people who no longer cry when they budget and know how to do it well. Find a budgeting mentor.


Target Practice- It is tough for little boys to “shoot straight”, but they can learn to aim. You can learn to budget too with a little practice.

Heap on the Praise- When a kid does a good job in the bathroom, parents throw a little party! Praise your spouse for a job well done at the budget party. Better yet, find someone who’ll praise you for a job well done with your money.

What’s the Frequency- A child will get distracted by toys and forget to go into the bathroom when the urge hits. Uh-oh! They need a system to remind them to go. We need reminders to budget and to keep our checkbooks balanced. I enter all the receipts every Monday night and we do our budget on the first Monday of the month. On the 15th I pay the bills. Every month. Keep it systematic.

Figuring Out the Fear- Some kids are literally scared to poop. They have to overcome that fear with much love, education, and patience from their parents. You have to face your money fears. When you think about beginning budgeting, many people are scared of what they’ll find. In actuality, the knowledge brings freedom and blueprint to attack the problems.

Sticker Shock- Stickers will make your child’s day. Make a weekly chart and track the good days on a calendar-works with money too, especially for us visual learners.

Patience is a Virtue- Potty Training takes time and patience. Budgeting takes at least 3 months to get the hang of it. You’ll make budgeting mistakes. (10 Epic Budgeting Mistakes) There will be spills and lots of sheet to wash

Go for Broke- Sometimes the best way to potty train is to go all in with big girl underwear. “Today we are going start using the potty.” Choose to make the switch from doing what feels good to telling your money where to go. Time to grow up.

Location, Location, Location- Where kids go #2 can make a big difference. Public or private. Find the place where you’ll make and keep up with your budget and keep it consistant. Soon you’ll be like Pavlov’s dogs as soon as you sit down to look over the numbers.

On the Road- When you’re traveling and potty training can be an obstacle. Don’t forget to pack that portable Elmo toilet. Pack your budget when you leave the house. If you’ve got a smart phone that should be easy (We use Dropbox). Printing it out on paper is o.k. too, just stuff it in your purse or wallet in case you forget how much you allocated for a certain category.

We can learn a lot about budgeting from these potty training tips. Just start, be persistant, and be ready to clean up.

If you’re ready for big boy underwear and want to start budgeting, start with my How to Budget Like a Pro series.

Photo Credit abardwell (Creative Commons), Nollij (Creative Commons)The Facey Family (Creative Commons)

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.