When most people think of the word “budget”, freedom is not the first thing that comes to mind. Over the years the word budget has become synonymous with words like restrict, ration, and limit. In other words, budgets are not seen in a positive light.
My experience with a budget has been much different than the way budgets are typically portrayed. I believe a budget is very freeing. If you’ve never budgeted, you’re probably scratching your head at that statement, but I stand by it. A budget provides freedom.
A budget is just a plan. That’s it. A plan for where you want your money to go. It is said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and that is also true when it comes to money.
Say you want to take a vacation to Hawaii next summer. Unless you plan to set aside money every month to pay for the trip, you won’t be taking that trip, unless you go into debt for it. But that’s a whole different post.
You have to plan for your trip. Figure out the expenses. Plane tickets, hotel, food. Add it all up and set the money aside. That’s a budget. A vacation budget.
A general budget is no different. You allocate money toward needs like food and electricity, and then set some aside for wants like vacations or a down payment on a home.
Without a plan, though, too often the money gets absorbed into $100 trips to Walmart. You know the kind of shopping trips I’m talking about. It’s the shopping trip where you can’t remember what on earth you spent $100 a week later.
Having a budget frees you to actually turn your dreams into goals. It’s a concrete plan of action to financially make those dreams come true.
Making a budget ensures that you have money available to cover your expenses. When you have a budget, you set money aside for unexpected expenses, like medical bills, the spike in your electric bill during the winter, or the new roof your home desperately needs.
When you live without a budget, it’s easy to forget about those expenses that come up once or twice a year, and if you don’t have money set aside, it can create a lot of stress.
But with a budget, there is no need to be stressed. When your semi-annual insurance payment is due, you just write the check. The money has already been set aside for the payment.
I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck before, and I know the feeling of being controlled by my money (or lack thereof). It’s not fun. Everything is focused on whether you can make the next rent, utility, or medical payment.
When you make a budget, there may be some hard choices at first. Maybe you realize you need to move to a less expensive house. Maybe you discover that drinking Starbucks mochas everyday is keeping you from taking the vacation you so desperately want.
Maybe it’s hard to accept that you can’t have it all. But once you get beyond that point and realize that by cutting a few expenses here can allow you to spend more over there, budgeting doesn’t seem so bad. It allows you to prioritize what is important to you, and then live by those priorities.
Budgeting is freeing, because you make the plan. It’s customized to your wants and needs. And it’s not set in stone. If you find that you miscalculated when you set the food budget, readjust. That’s the beauty of it. It’s your budget. Your money. Working for you.
If you’re new to budgeting, I did a three part series on budgeting earlier this year that might help you get started.
Do you use a budget? Do you find it freeing or restricting?
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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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