I love my budget!
Some of you think that’s crazy talk. Budgets conjure up images of men in straightjackets, whispering quietly to themselves in padded rooms. They are restrictive torture devices often forced upon us by an all-knowing and all-wise budget Nazi (aka the spouse or other special someone). They make us feel confined and boxed in.
I’ve been there.
I love to spend money as much as the next person and once felt like a budget wouldn’t help me accomplish any financial goal. I knew for sure it wouldn’t make me feel good because I couldn’t buy the things I wanted. Budgets seemed so difficult to piece together and I frankly didn’t have the time (or want to take the time) to figure it out.
Fortunately, my special someone (Mrs. Luke1428) was patient and loving in those days (and still is). Slowly, over time, we (I) agreed to give budgeting a three-month trial run. That decision changed our lives. And the best part was, we received something I never thought a budget could possibly produce:
That’s right…budgets produce freedom, not bondage. Here’s how.
Focus. In 9th grade, my dad and I built a wooden telescope for my school science fair. The mirrors reflected the light so that an image could be viewed through the eyepiece. The telescope worked perfectly except for one problem – it didn’t focus clearly enough. The image of the moon could be seen but not the fine details. (We built it that way on purpose as my only point was to show the reflective properties of light. Got an “A” on it, so woo-hoo!)
Focus fine-tunes our life. It brings to the forefront issues we haven’t been seeing clearly. Or maybe issues we know are there but have been avoiding. Deciding to focus on our lives and create a budget revealed big, gaping money holes, ones that were causing us to lose financially.
Discipline. See a new computer…buy it! The new Nike shoes just hit the shelf…charge it! Tired after a long day at work…eat out…at someplace NICE! This was our mindset, day in and day out – completely undisciplined in how we spent our money. Money was controlling us.
The focus we began to develop spawned discipline in our spending habits, something we had been sorely lacking. Now that there were categories with dollar amounts allocated in them, we seemed to be more careful with splurge spending. We actual had thoughts run through our head like “Do we really need this?” and “Maybe we can wait until it goes on sale.” That was the first sign things were changing.
Crisis Avoidance. As our discipline increased, it became apparent we were no longer managing from crisis to crisis. As part of the budgeting process, we had allocated a certain amount each month to be deposited in an emergency savings fund. This continued to build each month until we had several months of expenses saved.
Now when the stove broke, we didn’t have to scramble to get it replaced. If the kids needed a doctor, we didn’t check the budget to see if we could afford it. When the car unexpectedly wouldn’t start, we had the money for the tow and the repairs. All the money to cover these “surprises” came from our emergency fund.
I can’t describe the pressure this released out of our lives. No more crisis managing. And it was all because of our budget.
Deeper Relationships. I said budgeting changed our lives. But it wasn’t all about money.
In a marriage situation, you just don’t sit down at a computer one day and say, “Let’s make a budget.” The reason is that we are different. I like to spend. My wife prefers to save. Our vision on how to handle money is different. We are money opposites, headed for conflict, unless we talk it through.
The budget numbers cannot be queued in until the personal issues are resolved. Budgeting requires communication beforehand – deep communication, about values, goals, dreams, and fears. We have to be willing to see the needs of the other person and understand why they are like they are. For many couples, this will be the toughest part of the whole budget process – actually talking with their spouse. In the long run, however, it will be the most rewarding for the oneness it will develop in your relationship.
The budget freed me from an undisciplined and unfocused lifestyle. It relieved the pressure of managing crisis to crisis. And it brought me into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with someone very special to me. And through it all, choices became simpler to make because we developed a plan.
If I had known budgeting would do all that, I would have created one sooner.
What’s holding you back from doing a budget? How has budgeting changed your life? Do you feel more freedom or does it still feel like the budget controls you?
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