Build A Budget For Yourself—And Cousin ‘Pookie’

The term sounds restrictive, but budgeting is really an exercise in financial empowerment

He may not be as tragic as Chris Rock's character in "New Jack City," but we all have a Pookie in our family.

The word itself sounds and feels restrictive. Budget. When you hear the term, you think you have to stop eating out, eliminate vacations, sell your car, or get rid of that HBO subscription. Admittedly, budgeting can involve some difficult belt-tightening, but in reality, the process is an exercise in empowerment. Budgeting is more about making all of the expenses that you want and need, fit in. In my financial planning practice, I always tell my clients this: “You need to include everything you want and need in your budget plan, including that emergency money for cousin ‘Pookie.’” (Don’t we all have a sister, brother, or cousin who needs the occasional loan?) My job is to let you know how your budgetary decisions affect your long-term financial goals.

Budgeting, simply put, is making the revenues (your income) cover all of your needed and wanted expenses. A budget takes into account both expenses and revenues. It has been my experience that not enough of my fellow budgeteers pay attention to the revenue side of the exercise. We often hear the phrase “pay yourself first”. The slogan is fine, but it’s as overplayed as “war on drugs”. Paying yourself is another way of saying that some of your revenues need to be pledged towards your personal goals. These goals can include retirement, college education, a new home, a new car and vacations. When budgeting, we have to look at each of these things as purchases on layaway. (That’s right, bourgeois Black Enterprise reader. Don’t act like I’m the only person who knows about layaway). In this case, however, you set the terms of your layaway payment plan for your goals. You determine the timeframe and the desired amount of money you need to fund your dreams. You can go to most any financial website, including mine ( to set your payment plan for your goals.

Now that you’ve read this, you plan to sit down and do a budget right? What is probably easier is to go through that monthly exercise of writing down all of your bills, and the payments due, and figure out how to stretch your check to fit it all. Many of you, after making this list, will also prioritize, and decide that somebody won’t get paid, or something won’t get purchased this month. This is the beginning of the difficult but necessary budget effort.

Take this opportunity to put as much thought into increasing your income as you do to cutting expenses. For instance, consider adding the expense of additional education, to increase your revenue. Plan strategically to get a promotion, or a higher paying job, or even a second job. Most importantly, be sure to do the math (or get help from a financial adviser) to calculate how much of your budget should be allocated toward each of your goals.

Eric D. Grant is a financial adviser with Polaris Wealth Management.  Eric is also an Investment Adviser Representative with ING Financial Partners, member SIPC.  Polaris Wealth Management is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by ING Financial Partners.

18 Responses to Build A Budget For Yourself—And Cousin ‘Pookie’

  1. Peggy Duncan says:

    Great article, Eric. I’m so thankful that my mom taught me how to budget. I can’t imagine just spending money with no idea of how what I buy today is going to affect me next week. I account for every dollar and am clear about where my money goes. Software such as Quicken will help and if you’re in business, QuickBooks.

  2. Tracy says:

    Excellent article, Eric. I too, believe that, contrary to popular opinion, adhering to a sound budget provides us with more financial flexiblity, not less. Thank you for reminding us of how a budget plays an important role in our cash flow, short-term, and long-term financial planning goals!

  3. Stephanie Stevens says:

    I too have to comment that this is a great article. I am currently working towards a strong budget (along with my chicken lists of goals and short-term projects)! I am also combining it with a time-management program, so that i am accountable to myself for making sure that i stay on course in a timely manner. Thank you so much for the reminder!

    • Eric Grant says:

      Chicken List? What’s that? That is a good idea to match a time management program with a budget.. I might have to steal that idea…once I determine what a chicken list is. 🙂

  4. Val says:

    After being laid off, only source of income is unemployment, I have to say, I find it a bit refreshing to manage this small amount of money, and still have a few monies for my hide away account. It is interesting to see how I can eat very well, just by shopping at stores using their sales paper and comparing them aganist each other. I found the grocery outlet which is amazing for just about everything too. When I get another job, and I will I will do what I am doing now and have more money to save..With God all is possible ..thank you for the article and letting me vent/share..

    • Eric Grant says:

      Vent away!! You ain’t alone. It’s tight on many of us. Reality is, we come from a resourceful people, starting with those who managed to survive that free boat ride from the west coast of Africa. Try adding shopping with black business only, and you might find a hidden blessing in the effort.

  5. Darron says:

    Thanks Eric! Unfortunately I don’t have a clue about budgeting…the first step to fixing that is admitting it. I got a lot from your article and I’m about to save your website in my favorites.
    I look forward to your guidance.

  6. Budgeting has been a scary word for years. Now that I’m a business owner. The word is becoming my best friend! Thanks for the article!

  7. says:

    Thank you! Eric for this article, I have been struggling with my finances for along time. I start out okay, but can’t seem to stay focus and keep my budget. I am going to apply the information you have provided in this article and I believe everything will be fine….

  8. Alida Timmons says:

    Thank you for the article Eric. What about those of us that already messed up, but are trying to get back on track? Do you have any advice for those of us swamped in debt? Thank you.

  9. Jamar says: is a good website that helps you manage your money, budget and save. It also offers coaching. And its free!

  10. says:

    This information confirms what I am attempting to achieve. I have been trying to budget all my grownup days, and I never seem to get it right. Recently, a friend suggested ‘Quiken’ so I am trying to put it into practice. I have also written down all of my bills and due dates on paper and I also use calendars with the debt written in the squares, with all paydays identifed, this helps me to stay on track not to get too many late notices. I am certainly a work in progress.

  11. Star says:

    Like the article;however, your website is under construction…what…not good when looking fo a got it together company/person for advice. You should think about removing the website from the article until its available for review. I have always had a very very very hard time budgeting. I take the easier way out by increasing my revenue which is not good. When the revenue slows, like past few years…now I want to learn how to budget again.

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