“It’s not in the budget.” “We don’t have the budget for that now.” “We didn’t budget for that item this year.”

If you have ever worked in a credit union or bank, you have surely heard those words. Or should I say excuses? Because that is what those phrases are.

Technology, marketing and training. Those seem like the areas hardest hit with the budget axe. But the “not in the budget” excuse can strike every part of the operation.

How do you avoid the excuse trap? Here are four ideas:

  • Shift dollars—The budget is probably the budget. There are certain net income numbers you are striving to hit. But that doesn’t mean when a new idea or project arises that you should automatically rule it out because you didn’t budget for that item. Just pull the dollars from another project. For example, if you don’t have the budget for a marketing audit then pause an advertising campaign because you feel the audit will improve your overall marketing efforts.
  • Admit it’s not a priority—You need to align the budget with what is most important to your financial institution. So be honest when it comes to talking numbers. Is there really no room in the budget for a particular item or is the honest truth you don’t want to spend the money on it? For example, you may say you want to be a fast follower in technology but your financial priorities are more important than offering an awesome mobile platform.
  • See the ROI—Return on investment is hard to calculate for some expenses (training in particular). Rather than having a “no budget for that” mentality, dig deeper into what the actual return on a particular item can yield. Examples include higher employee engagement, better member service and improved product penetration. Also ask this question, “what is the cost of NOT doing a particular project?” Looking at the negative outcomes of not taking action gives additional insights.
  • Invest in staff and strategyJohn Maxwell once wrote, “you will never regret the amount of time you invest in people.” Your staff and your strategy are two of the most important assets you have (even though they are not on your balance sheet at all). Not conducting a strategic planning session and not training your staff has long-term negative repercussions. As Stephen Covey once said, “If you have to cut things out you just cut people; you cut training and development; you kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” Remember that your staff and strategy are your golden eggs.

The bottom line is you have the budget for what your priorities are. Stop using the budget as an excuse crutch and instead invest in the items that will yield the greatest impact.