Bee Set Free
The response I hear the most often when I talk to people about having a budget is that it is so restricting. All people hear is “You can’t do this. You can’t do that!” But in reality, it is exactly the opposite. For me, finally being on a budget was so FREEING! Allow me to explain, because believe me, I am still a normal person!
Here is how my day would go before I started budgeting: “Ugh. I have to buy some groceries today. I will try to keep it as cheap as I can. I somehow have to make it until my next paycheck.” After leaving the store, “Did I really NEED that coffee drink and those chips? No I didn’t. But I never get anything fun! I can’t live on no fun all the time. Now I really have to be careful to make it until my next paycheck.” And then, “A flat tire?! I don’t have enough money for a new tire! NOW how am I going to make it until the next paycheck?!”
Later that afternoon, my friend wants to go get coffee. "I really shouldn’t but I haven’t seen her in so long. It’s only one coffee. But I feel so guilty! I’m not going to make it until my next paycheck!” It was all so stressful! Every dime I spent stressed me out and if I spent a little on me, I felt incredibly guilty. Guilty that I should’ve been more disciplined. Guilty for my partner who was working hard too, or angry that my partner WASN’T working as hard as I was.
After I started budgeting, this is how that same day would go: “Ok, I’m getting groceries. I have a plan where I can easily make it until my next paycheck, if I can keep this trip to $x.xx amount. I can do this! Based on what else I need, I can’t buy that coffee drink, but I CAN get my favorite bag of chips this time.” Then, upon seeing my flat tire: “It’s a pain that I am dealing with a flat and no one has time for a flat, but I actually have $200 saved towards my $1,000 emergency fund. I hate to use it because I’ve worked so hard to get that $200, but if this isn’t an emergency I don’t know what is! I’m not happy that I am about to be set back in my savings plan, but I am thankful that I have it.” Then, when my friend wants to have coffee: “I have an honeypot in my budget for $25 for fancy coffee. I can have this coffee and friend time, stress free, because I actually have a small budget to cover coffee.” I can’t express how great it felt that first time I got fancy coffee while on my budget. I was so incredibly relieved that I could have that coffee with no guilt or shame or wondering if I just messed up everything, over one cup of coffee.
When you are not living on a budget, every little thing you need to spend money on stresses you out. But on a budget, those transactions are less stressful because you are prepared for it. I’m not promising an easy life once you get on a budget! You will still have emergencies, setbacks, and things will still get in your way. Sometimes when it rains, it pours and it can feel like life is just piling it on! Sometimes life will still do that, even when you have your emergency fund and have moved up to other phases. But the journey is so much less stressful when you have a plan. I want to challenge you to give it a try. Commit to three months of budgeting. It can take a little getting used to, thinking about things in a different way and planning in a way you may not have ever planned before. Give it three months and see if you don’t notice a difference in your life, in your spending habits, and in your stress level.