For years I absolutely abhorred the word “budget”. For some reason, the term conjured up images in my mind of shackles, chains and prison cells. I viewed a budget as a way to restrain me from having fun, from getting what I deserved in life.
Do I Really Need a Budget?
As such, I tried for years to live with a working budget without any success at all. I’d create one, wait for the paychecks to come in, blow my budget within the first week of the month and then give up, going back to simply spending as I saw fit with minimal idea of where our money was going.
It was only when my husband and I sat down and took a big-picture look at our finances and saw that we had a ridiculously high debt load that I began to see a budget as something we needed, regardless of whether or not we wanted to live by one.
Budgets Provide Freedom
We made our first family budget in January of 2013, and for the first time in our lives, we began to track our daily and monthly expenditures.
But this time, instead of hating living by a budget, I realized a very important key to the budget concept:
Budgets provide freedom, not chains.
Yep, you heard it here first, folks. Or maybe you didn’t. But that simple truth is as rock solid as it gets. Whereas before I viewed budgets as something that limited my freedom, after actually living on a budget and tracking expenses for a couple of months, I realized that budgets actually provide freedom in that they give you complete control over your money.
No more wondering where your paycheck goes each month. No more wondering whether or not you’ll have enough money with which to pay the bills. Creating a budget and spend-tracking plan puts you in complete control of where your money goes. It helps you to see on paper what you’ve got to work with each month.
Budgets and Dreams
From there, you can prioritize your spending as you see fit, to cover both needs and wants. For instance, if your dream is to dump your mortgage debt so that you can live a debt free life, you can prioritize your spending so that all extra funds go toward the mortgage debt.
If your dream is to travel Europe for a month, you can use your budget to allot a certain amount of money each month to a travel fund and pay cash for your dream. That certainly beats wasting your money on lattes’ at the local coffee shop and drive-thru runs for a super sized fries.
Budgets and Me
This month marks the start of our fourth consecutive year of budgeting and spend-tracking. Ironically, I’ve fallen in love with our budget and our spend-tracking system. It brings me great joy to track where our earnings go, and to make adjustments as necessary that help us come closer to achieving our dream of debt freedom.
Budgets and You
If you’ve been living without the blessing of a budget and a spend-tracking sheet, I encourage you to give budgeting a try. Although budgets have a reputation of being dreadful and slavery-inducing, I think that ill-deserved reputation comes from those who’ve never given budgeting and spend-tracking a serious try.
Those who are already in complete control of their spending may do well without a budget, but for those, like us, who were baffled each and every month by why we had no savings and a boatload of consumer debt, a budget will change your life as if you’d won the lottery.
*Photo Courtesy of Chris Potter