Baseball season is back. That means the long road to September is beginning now for MLB teams across the country. As they say, it’s anybody’s pennant right now. The same goes for financial security. If you want to win out down the road, there are some specific things you can do to increase your chances. Believe it or not, baseball and budgeting have a lot in common (aside from the long lulls in between action). Here are four lessons you can learn from baseball about being a better budgeter.
Any good coach will tell you that making the postseason is about winning the games that you should win first. Drop a few to lesser teams and you’ll be in a hole. Likewise, if you don’t stockpile cash every time you should, you’ll find yourself in trouble when push comes to shove. The core set of wins in budgeting is called an emergency fund. Most budgeting pros recommend starting with a small emergency fund – say a month’s salary – and then growing it out to up to six month’s worth of expenses. Take the small wins when you can, even if they don’t feel that important. You’ll be happy to have them in September.
As someone wise once realized, home runs are exciting but RBIs win games. In budgeting as in baseball, your team can’t try to hit the scoreboard every time there’s an at-bat. Making big purchases that will change your lifestyle – like a car, a house or even a new bed – have to be about thorough planning and a proper set-up. More importantly, if you blow your whole check on fun things every time you’re paid, you’ll never taste the sweetness of a grand slam – a perfectly executed long-term investment.
One of the more exciting parts of baseball is the web gem – the awesome diving catch that keeps baseball highlight reels alive. But the moment after the ball leaves the bat is what makes those catches possible. If a good outfielder wants to make the save, he has to be ready to spring into action. The translation? Budgeting is not a set-it-and-forget-it activity. You can’t win just by playing the game. Successful budgeting is about watching for the rare moment when something horribly unexpected happens and springing into action to stay on course.
In baseball, the starting pitcher is the key defensive player. His job is not to seek out some massive success that winds up with him being carried off the field. (That’s for closing pitchers, who seem to get most of the glory.) If the starting pitcher wants to help his team win, he needs to throw consistently for as long as possible and help his team eek out a steady lead before the late innings arrive. Much like in baseball, in budgeting the best defense is consistency. An intelligent spender can keep thing together but a pro budgeter is strategic about every transaction and relies on the things that work well time and time again.
Are there any other keys to long-term baseball success that apply to budgeting?