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A Budget Will Not Ruin Your Life

October 25, 2018

A rather bleak picture of budgeting:

I’ve been thinking about a post dedicated to the negative words people ascribe to budgeting. One friend, when I asked what things came to her mind when I used the word budget said: “restrictions, organized, strict, no fun, inflexible, boring, responsible, impossible.” Sound about right? I really cannot count how many people have told me similar things either with their words or with their body language. The only 2 words from that list that are wonderfully true are “organized” and “responsible.” You organize things you care about finding and keeping, and being responsible just means being able to choose, and aren’t we all glad for that? I am! Well, unless I’m at The Cheesecake Factory trying to decide on dinner. I do much, much better at places like In-N-Out Burger where my choices are 1 patty or 2, cheese or no, grilled or fresh onions. Oh, and, what kind of shake. (Chocolate, usually).

What you might think life on a budget looks like:

Anyway, back to that list of words that I hear from friends or strangers when I mention budgeting: “no fun, inflexible, boring, impossible, restrictions, deprivation.” Not a one of these describes an activity I would voluntarily sign up for. Am I right – meaning, do you agree? Below are a few visuals for the bleak picture I in my former life conjured up when I thought of life on a budget. If any of these things are your current reality for whatever reason, I promise I am not poking fun. I’ve had my really tight chapter and know that if you get some hope and a plan these can be in your past one day soon. This is meant to be an “I get it – if this is your idea of what budgeting does to a life, no wonder you LOATHE the word and avoid the activity at all costs” sort of post. Friends still? Great. Read on!

#1 Disneyland vacation? Ha! No way, never! You are on a budget and will live “on a budget” forever. Your vacation dreams should only extend to parking lot carnivals. Once a year. Even better if you go on a rainy day so you can try for discount admission. Of course, you eat a lunch of stale bread and peanut butter (without honey, ain’t nobody got room on a BUDGET for such indulgences) at home before going.

#2 Living on a budget means never buying name-brand food or anything ever again. That is, if you even BUY food while on a budget. Let’s say you do buy food. It must be store brand. On sale or nearly-expired clearance or coupon-ed food is even better.

#3 This is what your vehicles need to be like if you live on a budget. A budget equals a life sentence to mismatched paint colors , no air conditioning and no car newer than 30 years. If you are married, you share this car.

#4 On a budget you can’t afford to use things (luxuries) like electricity longer than 47 minutes a day. Use it wisely. Unplug every appliance before you leave the house – those pennies saved really add up and when they do, you can indulge in store-brand, 2-ply toilet paper.

The list could go on and on. You might think that on a budget you can’t get your hair cut or colored, buy new socks when you get holes in your old ones, wear colorful clothing, eat out ever. In fact, it’d be really awesome to hear what misery you think is ahead for life on a budget or, if you’re already converted to making a plan for your money, something that you used to think a budget meant.

I’m not sure who tells us that this is what life on a budget looks like.

Maybe subconsciously the marketers who say “if you want to be happy and have friends you’ll do and buy such and such” (implying that if you don’t, you will have no friends and an unfulfilling life). Or maybe it’s because, being the social creatures we are, we talk with others about all the fun parts of our life but not the unpleasant and then assume that if we put ourselves on a budget and go to Low Quality of Life Summer Camp (for life), our neighbors (who have no need to watch their money, we assume) have glamorous, rich lives that continue running flawlessly.

Or maybe there’s a sneaky person inside each of us (let’s call that person Fred or Wilhelmina) that self-sabotages and wants us to abdicate the throne of decision and hold us back by whispering to us that if we budget a happy life as we know it is over and we never again will enjoy the things in life we enjoy. “Why on earth would any sane, fun, generous person ever sign up for that???” Fred and Wilhelmina ask and then answer their own question with “They wouldn’t!”

Well, Fred and Wilhelmina, you’re wrong.

Budgeting is not the end of life as you know it. Or actually, maybe it is and I’m going to agree with Fred and Mina. Budgeting is the end of always stressing about money, needing payday to come around sooner, bickering about it with your spouse, guilty feelings when you buy “fun” stuff, getting surprised by things like Christmas and car repairs, and wondering when you’re going to be able to chase some of your big dreams. Budgeting for real and getting on purpose with your money marks the start of a life of confidence, freedom, dreaming bigger, even more generosity, guilt-free spending on things you enjoy and like, peace. I don’t like making assumptions for other people but I’m going out on a limb here and guess that you, like me, are more interested in the latter package of benefits.

The pep talk:

It is true that if you earn less than you currently spend, and put the difference on credit cards that you don’t pay off each month, BUT are ready to change that yes, you will need to cut back in some places. If that’s the case, GOOD FOR YOU for being willing to see it and do something about it! Good for the Now You now and good for your Future You and good for your dreams! The same clapping and cheering is true for those who make as much or even more than they spend but don’t have a lot to show for it.

I can promise you that if you get on purpose with your money you will find that you have more of it. Managed money just somehow goes further (or farther…or both) than it currently does. Magnified money will help you regardless of which scenario above is true for you. It will not help Fred or Wilhelmina but we don’t like them anyway.

While budgeting the past several years, I have had slip-ups and lapses when I indulged in retail therapy or bought more than I had budgeted in that Category or had expenses sneak up on me. I’m not claiming to be the Patron Saint of Budgeting (plus, I’m not dead or Catholic so I can’t be a saint of anything anyway). But I have become a budgeter and guess what?? I still like and have nice things! And more nice things are in my future! I heat my house comfortably and, when I am home, I have 60% – 100% of the lights on for cozy effect. I drive a nice car that I like. I buy things like my favorite Patagonia jacket full price because I really liked it and know the value of paying good money for quality and things that will last from good brands. I am going abroad this year paying cash for it. I eat well, go out to eat, travel with friends and family, give gifts, and make charitable donations.

What does all this boil down to?

Basically, my life on a budget is 100% different than the bleak pictures above and so much different in all good ways from life pre-budget; I know yours can be too. You might choose out of necessity or desire to do something toward a life “why” (aka bucket-list item, longing of the heart, etc) to cut back but if you do it will likely be temporary (unless you CHOOSE for it to be permanent) and it will have been your choice!  If one of the choices you make involves a late night Krispy Kreme run or In-N-Out let me know and, if I’m not traipsing somewhere in the world, I just may join you.