Friday, March 15, 2013

4 Budgeting Lessons Families Can Learn from Federal Spending

clip_image001Family budgets don't work like federal budgets. Still, the average person can learn from the successes and failures of the federal government. These stand out as 4 lessons that we should all learn.


Don't Buy Things You Can't Afford


Everyone knows, or should know, that you can't buy things you can't afford. A big line of credit does not mean it makes sense to spend money that you don't have. Chances are, if you don't have enough money now, you won't have it tomorrow.

Now, the government does this all the time. When you don't include two wars in your budget, you build a huge fence along the Mexican border, and you keep entitlements at about the same level year after year even though you don't have as much money coming in, you end up with a $16 trillion dollar deficit. And growing.

Learn from this. If you can't afford a Ferrari, buy a Corolla. If you can't afford a house, rent an apartment. There are smarter ways to spend money. You just might not like them as much.


Know When to Limit Subsidies


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Subsidies are great for certain things. Federal subsidies, for instance, were instrumental in developing the Internet and countless medical breakthroughs that have improved the lives of millions. Even early subsidies to oil companies made sense. When an industry doesn't have the ability to generate profit yet, subsidies let the government give new companies a little push towards success.

It's similar as you giving your child an allowance. The allowance is basically a subsidy. Sure, it's a lot smaller, but it works in similar ways.

The problem is that the government, like some parents, never learn when to let subsidies expire. Once your kid gets old enough to earn a living, you don't need to give her a weekly allowance anymore. That would be like the government giving the oil industry $20 billion a year even though the top five oil companies made $375 million in profits per day in 2011.

Wait, that happened? You don't need a masters in public administration to see why that doesn't work.


Stop Relying on Fossil Fuels

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Fossil fuels are considerably more expensive than you think. You might get a stress headache while pumping $5 per gallon gas into your car, but you're not even thinking about the tax dollars that were used to pay the subsidy mentioned above.

The fact of the matter is that the country and its people need to rely less on fossil fuels. Riding a bike not only uses less money, it contributes to your health, which will become increasingly important as healthcare costs continue to skyrocket.

 

More Money or Less Spending: You Have to Decide


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The government and families face a similar choice: they can either make more money or spend less money. For the government, making more money means raising taxes. For your family, that means getting a higher-paying job or picking up extra hours.

For the government, spending less money means cutting programs, staying out of wars, and limiting subsidies. For families, it means living within your means by setting a budget and sticking to it, even if it means you don't get all of the things you want.

What other lessons do you think families could learn from the federal government?



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