I can still remember the feeling like it was yesterday. I had just finished meeting with a credit counselor who was going to help me climb my way out of the $20,000 credit card debt hole I had created and she used the dreaded word…budget. What was she talking about? What was this thing called budgeting? I had grown accustomed to a lifestyle beyond my means and was not used to restricting my purchases. Of course, that is exactly how I had gotten myself into this situation. Little did I know that this conversation would change the way I viewed finances forever.
Budgeting Begets Freedom
When many of us hear the terms budgeting or living frugally we automatically think of having to be cheap or not being able to buy what we want. It is actually the exact opposite as it gives us greater freedom in which to choose how to spend our money. We live in a consumer-driven culture that doesn’t esteem budgeting or exercising discipline when it comes to finances. However, if we learn how to budget and do it appropriately, we can separate emotion from money and live in the freedom of knowing what we have to spend and what we’re spending it on.
We Learn More About Ourselves
When we budget, we discover our priorities. Put yourself at the top of the list (pay yourself first by saving), then use any remaining funds how you see fit. If you keep track of your budget and track your spending within that, you’ll learn more about yourself. You can learn how disciplined you are as well as where exactly you spend your money. You may be frugal in one area and liberal in another. Having this new wealth of knowledge can help you make adjustments to your budget and in the long run give you more freedom.
Say Goodbye to Guilt
I remember feeling guilty often after purchases near the end of my “all-you-can-eat” style of credit card spending. I now know that guilt was because I knew I did not have the money for that purchase. I was borrowing money, at a dangerously high interest rate, to buy something completely meaningless. This all changed, in time, as I learned the freedom that comes through budgeting. If I want to buy something now and it’s been budgeted and saved for then I can do so guilt free.
Budgeting Makes Decisions Easy
If lived by appropriately, a budget can give great clarity in decision making. I often stop for 10-15 seconds and ask myself the following questions:
- Do I have the money budgeted for it?
- Do I have the money saved for it?
- Can I live without it?
If the answer to those first two questions is yes, then I have the freedom to buy whatever it is. If the answer is no, then I ask myself the third question, which will almost always be yes. If the latter is the case then I can easily say no to the purchase decision. These parameters give great freedom and clarity when posed with the opportunity to purchase something.
We live in a culture that preaches instant gratification. We are human and all fall prey to it at times. However, one who lives frugally knows that instant gratification generally comes at a cost. I know it did for me as I accumulated credit card debt. I have learned that through envelope budgeting and frugal living that I have the freedom to make choices and save for things I want to have. Whether it be going out for dinner or going on vacation, the gratification is much greater now as opposed to 15 years ago when I just spent and got instant gratification.
Living frugally, within a budget, does not happen overnight. It took time for me to get to the place where I could speak with confidence about budgeting and managing my money. Don’t let the time it takes hold you back from making a decision that could improve your life. This journey of budgeting and frugal living is not a quest for perfection, but wisdom and freedom.
What are some of the reasons that you like to budget?
Photo courtesy of: Mario Trejo