We tend to think of budgeting as restrictive as best, and an overwhelming pain in the butt at worst.
It’s not fun to put limits on spending. Obviously, money is a finite resource, an empty checking account or a maxed out credit card is limiting, but for whatever reason, a budget feels more limiting. Maybe because when you put together a budget you’re assigning the limitations to yourself instead of letting the limitations set themselves. A budget is a self-imposed threat to our comfortable spending habits.
Budgets can also seem overwhelming, even panic-inducing. First of all, who wants to try to tack every purchase? Second, who would want to know where the money went if you did? A budget does take work, maybe not the life-altering amount of work you think, and definitely less work today with all of the additional tools, but it does take work. Unfortunately it’s also fairly detailed work, and overall it seems like way more work than it’s worth.
So budgeting is basically the worst, we know it’s something we should be doing, similar to pulling a painful tooth, but we avidly try to avoid it. Well, I’m here to tell you that budgeting is actually pretty great.
Here’s a question, how many big, fun, purposeful purchases have you made recently? I don’t mean financed, I mean purchased with real money. Vacation package? Weekend trip? New tech gadget? Large gift? If you’re anything like pre-budget me, the answer is depressing. How are you supposed to afford big purchases, let alone big fun purchases, when you’re just trying to keep your head above water?
Here’s another question, how many of your small, seemingly insignificant, comfortable purchases can you remember? Lunch out a few times last week? Starbucks? An extra treat from the grocery store? Again, if you’re anything like pre-budget me, the answer is depressing. You probably can’t even remember most of the whimsical purchases you made last week let alone last year.
These questions epitomize a problem, we don’t think long-term very well. But budgeting is an antidote.
Budgeting helps you spend money on things you actually really want or need instead of spending it whimsically on things you don’t really care about and definitely don’t need. Budgeting forces you to prioritize what you use your money for, it necessarily brings intentionality to your finances. When you start your budget, you’ll get to think about how you want your future to look as it relates to money. And not only that, you’ll begin to see that said future is attainable! You could actually take a weekend trip with your spouse, or bring your family on vacation, or get a new phone! You do have to give a few things up but those daily lunches which were only good for widening your waistline anyway. Budgeting is actually the opposite of restrictive, it’s freeing; now you’re setting the priorities instead of letting whimsy run your life.
Budgeting also starts to help you think differently about the future. Just about anything is possible with enough time and consistent effort, your budget is evidence. Start saving $50/month and a year later you’ll be about ready to book a nice weekend away. Start reading a book 30 minutes a day and you’ll be well on your way to reading 50 books in a year. Start budgeting daily time to your passion project and soon you’ll be quitting your job!
Don’t quit your job, at least not yet, just get started on that budget.