Budgets…you either love them or you hate them. People typically have very strong opinions about budgets either being the best thing that ever happened to them or they are basically a swear word in their home.
If you are just considering starting a budget for yourself, I want you to keep an open mind. I am going to share with you the truth about living on a budget.
Prior to 2015, my husband and I had this lovely “budgeting” technique where we would watch the bank account throughout the month and then adjust our behavior accordingly. It went something like this.
On the 1st usually, through the 15th of the month, we were living stress-free. We got groceries, went out to eat, got any other odds and ends we needed. Then, about halfway through the month (out of nowhere!) our account would dip below a level we were not comfortable with and we would go on a “spending freeze.”
This spending freeze was a total lock-down on any spending. Just gas to get to and from work and that was it. Super stressful!
We lived in these highs and lows every month that always had our stress levels elevated. Looking back now, I have no idea why we lived like that for so long. We were stressed out all the time, weren’t accomplishing anything with our money and we weren’t really having fun. We were at the mercy of our bank account. Just watching and waiting for it to tell us we had to have a spending freeze.
Now, we have been living on a budget since 2015. I have every monthly budget since we started. For the past four years, we have sat down every single month to write down our budget.
If you are frustrated with how your finances are right now and you are thinking about starting a budget, here are some things you need to know about what it is really like.
What Living on a Budget is Really Like
Budgeting definitely takes time. A budget is a thoughtful plan for your money. This means you have to sit down every month (before it begins) and figure out where you want your money to go for the next 30 days. You can’t set a budget once and then forget about it because your costs, activities, and needs will constantly be changing.
Real talk: I probably spend 1 hour a month on my budget at this point in the game. This may seem like a lot of time, but if you think about how many hours of TV you watch in a month, it really isn’t that much time.
I am a huge fan of handwriting your budget. Some can do just fine using apps and tracking it that way, but there is just something different in your brain when you write out your budget. The same goes for tracking expenses by hand.
On the 15th and 30th of every month, I sit down and handwrite all of our transactions for the month (this is included in that hour of time). Physically writing all of those expenditures makes you more aware of what you are actually spending your money on throughout the month. It starts to change you.
When I first started budgeting, this whole process probably took me two hours and it was painful. BUT, I will challenge you to come up with any growth-related change in your life that wasn’t painful.
Now that I have been doing this a while, it doesn’t take as long and it is just the “normal” activity I do every month.
What can you accomplish in one hour? Is changing your entire future with a budget worth an hour of your time?
The truth: It is absolutely worth it!!! You will wonder why you didn’t start doing it sooner.
Oh, the guilt of overspending. The guilt of feeling irresponsible with your money when you are an adult and should be better at managing your finances.
Ugly, ugly guilt.
We all suffer from it when we don’t have a plan for our money. We just use our best judgment (which usually sucks) to make purchases we think will be okay. Then we feel insanely guilty when we have spent more money than we make, again.
Guilt also comes around when we continue to rack up credit card debt and promise to pay it off right away when we get paid. Then we don’t and some other “emergency” comes up that we have to use the credit card for because we have no other options.
We keep spending the money before it is even in our hands!
Real talk: Since budgeting, I have ZERO guilt! Seriously, none.
The budget gives a plan for your money. When that plan is in place, all you have to do is follow it. It is really that simple.
When you follow the plan, there is no guilt because you are doing exactly what you were supposed to do with your money. There is no reason to feel badly about your spending behavior because you are spending your money where you intended to.
The truth: A budget allows you to be completely guilt-free when it comes to your money!
Do you play the game of, “I hope there is enough money in my account to cover this purchase?” “Let’s swipe the card and hold our breath….please go through, please go through, please go through.” You hold your breath thinking about what you can say to the teller if the card is declined so you won’t be so embarrassed.
Are you ever worried about being able to pay your rent or mortgage because some other expense came up during the month and you weren’t prepared for it? These situations are so stressful!
I remember having a lot of my bills on auto-pay, which was nice, but there was always the worry there wouldn’t be enough money in the account to cover them when they went through.
Real talk: A budget ensures you have enough money in your account to cover your expenses, ALWAYS. It’s amazing! No more stress about having the money there when you need it. It’s there!
A budget is just a written plan for your money. The thing is though, your written plan is going to include all of your bills and expected expenses. This means you will have enough money there to cover your expenses. No questions.
You don’t have to wonder if your payments will go through. If the expense wasn’t put in your budget, you can’t afford it. If you stick to your budget, you will be able to pay all of your bills. No question.
The truth: A budget will allow you to live completely stress-free when it comes to your money.
Budgets are restricting! This is something I heard from my husband over and over and over again. I don’t want to feel restricted! I don’t want to be on an allowance when it is my money. You can’t tell me what I can spend money on.
If I had a freaking nickel for every time I had to listen to my husband say that stuff. Everyone is always so worried about losing their freedom when it comes to budgeting.
They feel like a budget is equivalent to being handcuffed. They will never be able to spend a dollar again!
Real talk: Budgets give you permission to spend! Seriously! You can spend money on whatever you want, as long as it was planned for within your budget.
You want to buy $1,000 worth of Hot Wheels?…….go for it!
You want to eat out every weekend this month?…..go for it!
You want to get a massage every month?…..you can do it!
Whatever you want to spend your money on, you can absolutely choose to do that. The only catch is, you need to have it planned for in your budget. If you follow your budget, it will tell you to spend that money on whatever it was you wanted. It is going to tell you to spend!
No guilt, no stress, just complete freedom to spend.
The other awesome thing about budgets is you can create these things called sinking funds. These are like mini saving accounts for expenses you know you will have, but they don’t happen every month. This can include something like a vacation fund. The possibilities for spending your money are really endless and you are in complete control.
The truth: A budget will give you permission to spend and you will feel like you had more freedom than you’ve ever had before!
Being married comes with its challenges, and typically, money conversations can be one of the top sources of contention between a couple. Typically, each person has their own idea of where the money should be spent, how much and what should be a priority.
This is totally normal. You each have your own set of values and have differing opinions on what is most important.
At one point in our marriage, my husband thought video games were super important and I thought L’Occitane body products were super important. We spent more money on stupid stuff with no regard for how the other person would feel about it.
Arguing about money is super stressful and can create a divide within your marriage. It is such a tough subject to navigate because you both think you are right. It can be extremely challenging to talk about money if you never have before.
Real talk: My husband and I NEVER fight about money. When we first started budgeting, it was a bit tough to figure out how to get my husband to want to do it, but after he saw the benefits, he was totally on board.
That first budget meeting was a long one, but it was one of the first conversations we had about money that was actually productive and felt like we were on a path to accomplish some goals.
Since then, we haven’t looked back. We have no issues talking about money and we do it every month at our family budget meeting. We have common goals and work to accomplish them together. There is nothing but openness, honesty, and encouragement when it comes to our finances.
The truth: A budget will put you and your husband on the same page and eliminate money fights.
When you are not living with a plan for your money, you get stuck in this cycle of spend-panic-spend-panic. This can lead to a feeling of hopelessness like you will never be able to live any differently. You can’t see a bright future because you are stuck living from one expense to the next.
You just can’t seem to get ahead. You are always just one emergency away from not making it. This leads to the “when” this happens mindset. Meaning, you always think, “When I make more money,” or “When I get my tax return, life will be better.” You are constantly waiting for the one thing that will make your financial situation better.
Real talk: When a budget is put into place, your entire future opens up. Suddenly there is a real timeline of when you can get that credit card paid off. You can see your money is actually being used to knock out your debt.
Once a budget is in place, you can start making plans for your future! It’s so amazing. You can start dreaming about the life you want and know it is actually possible.
The truth: A budget creates exciting possibilities for your future.
Budgeting often feels like this huge change that will take up all of your time, restrict your spending and just be impossible to implement in your life. Guess, what?! Will it take up some time? Yes, BUT it is so worth it!
Using a budget in your life will open up a world of possibilities for the future, help you and your husband get on the same page and stop fighting about money. It will decrease your stress level and free you from guilt when you spend money.
You want to know what living on a budget is really like? It’s the best decision I have ever made for my life. I have never regretted it and I have only had improvements in my life because of it.
If you need a change and are tired of being stressed out about money, you need to budget.
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