Since we’ve moved into my dad’s house, our desktop computer is still in storage. Unfortunately, my desktop computer is where I have my YNAB budgeting software. Thus, in the last three weeks, I haven’t updated my budget. At all.

Now, I have checked my bank balance frequently, but as far as keeping track of how much I’ve spent on groceries and gas, I haven’t done a thing. I was going along pretty well, but probably spending too much money on eating out, until last Thursday.

I went to check my bank balance on Thursday, and it was down to $300. (We do have other accounts). For that account, a $300 balance is really low, unless we’re near a payday. Since I had completely lost track of when my husband got paid, I asked him if Friday was payday. He said he didn’t think it was. Notice, he lost track, too.

I panicked. Where had the money gone? How on earth had we gone from a balance of over $1000 a week before to only $300 a week later? Had we spent that much money on gas? Or heaven forbid eating out?

I did a quick scan of our transactions at our bank’s website. I didn’t see anything unusual. Scared that I was going to overdraw my account with some bill I’d forgotten about, I did a quick transfer of money between accounts. I swore that I would never neglect my budget again.

Fortunately this story has a happy ending. It turned out my husband was wrong. The following day was payday, and when I logged into our account early Friday morning, I was happy to see a nice big balance again.

This experience has reminded me of something important though. Though some people think having a budget is binding and restrictive, I’ve found that living by a budget is freeing. When you know how much money you have and where it needs to go, you don’t have to worry about making financial decisions. The decisions are made, and you are free to focus on other things.

If you’re new to budgeting, see my series on making a budget that works. And if you need tools to manage your budget, check out YNAB, Pear Budget, and Gibble’s budgeting spreadsheet.

Do you live by a budget? Is it restricting or freeing?