Sheila has long been an expert at living beneath her means. Even when she was making a relatively low salary and living in an expensive city, she never worried about not having enough. She always had money in the bank.
Because she grew up as one of five kids with a stay-at-home mom and schoolteacher dad, frugality became part of who she is. However, she operated more from a sense of fear than freedom, allowing herself to buy only what she needed and only at the lowest possible cost.
When she and Mike got married, he had been using a simple spreadsheet to guide his spending. As they used it to guide their joint finances, Sheila began to see that her standard response to pretty much any spending opportunity—“we can’t afford it”—was based on an unwarranted fear that they really couldn’t afford it. Seeing on paper that, yes, in fact, they could afford it—whether a restaurant meal or a better brand of clothing—was a completely new experience. It gave her a sense of freedom around money she had never known before.
That’s the most powerful, counterintuitive truth about using a budget. It isn’t the restrictive, ball & chain non-budgeters imagine. It’s a tool that helps create a wonderful sense of financial freedom.
I thought about that the other day when I paid $720 to have some work done on our van. We budget $150 per month for vehicle maintenance and repairs—$75 per month per vehicle. Some months, we don’t spend a dime. Others, like this month, we spend a lot more. By allocating $150 per month toward taking care of our vehicles, that’s $150 per month that’s not available for anything else. When we need to spend some money on maintenance or repairs, we usually have the money readily available.
I thought about it, too, this past Christmas. We budget a certain amount each month for Christmas gifts. Because this is an expense we incur mostly at the end of the year, we transfer the money into a dedicated savings account each month. Then, when Christmas rolls around, we have enough money already set aside that buying gifts is especially enjoyable.
No matter what your financial situation—whether struggling or thriving—a budget will improve your financial life, give you far greater peace of mind, and even improve your relationships.
The plans of the diligent lead to profit, as surely as haste leads to poverty. – Proverbs 21:5
What questions do you have about using a budget? If you don’t use one, why not? If you do, what issues do you tend to bump up against?
I can’t say I have all the budget answers, but I have used a budget for a long time, I genuinely like using a budget, and I’d be happy to take a stab at answering any questions you have about budgets.