Happy, Prepared Feelings About Money

June 19, 2019

Do you ever have those days where nothing goes right? Yesterday was not one of them for me (fooled ya!), but for some reason, I have been thinking about the difference between those days and the other, better sort of day.  

You know those days. I’m talking about the ones where you reap the rewards of getting your ducks in a row the day or night before. Lunch is packed, dishes are done, the errands are mapped out, your outfit is picked out (sounds silly, but it’s one less decision you have to make in the morning), you are prepared for the day’s meetings. Those days. The days of peace, feeling on top of the world, and just so dang responsible.

Maybe this is why I took such a liking to budgeting, once I started budgeting in YNAB. I got those same feelings of peace and on-top-ness even while I was fixing my money mess. Realizing that budgeting really is just looking at what I need and want to do, then organizing my money according to those and the constraints of available money was life-changing. And the feeling of satisfaction as I spent according to that plan? A thing of beauty, y’all.

[21-year-old Emily would be rolling her eyes that this is the sort of stuff I love to talk about, but I can’t help it that I’ve discovered and love what a little preparation in financial matters has done for my life:-)]

Be prepared and responsible.

Being responsible with your money does not mean you cannot do fun things or buy nice things or eat out. [I talk about this a lot. It’s part of my quest to re-frame budgeting for the spenders like me.] It just means you organize your money in such a way that you don’t spend your money-for-necessities on figurative Silly String and have all that stress. It just means you care about making good use of what you have and are managing your money so that you make progress toward your financial and life goals.

Speaking of caring, if you don’t know or care about your finances, who the heck will? If you’re single, it is obvious that you are the one primarily and almost solitarily concerned with your money. But even singles (a lot of them) could be more concerned with their finances and really manage them by living on a written budget instead of pretending like I did.  

If you’re married, both you and your spouse have the responsibility to know the numbers—all of them. [You’re welcome for the unsolicited advice from a single person:)] Bad things like divorce or death or disability happen, but that’s not the main reason why you should know them.

Know (or learn) your numbers.

Knowing your number is part of being a grown-up with a voice and a brain and an opinion and agency and interests and preferences. And whether you’re a breadwinner or not, you definitely spend money and will bless your life and your family’s if you know how that money is affecting the rest of your financial present and future.

You should know how much you are spending on rent/mortgage, how much you spend on food, utilities, gifts, vacations, gas for the cars, etc. But if you don’t, give it your best guess by looking back at reporting your bank or credit card might provide. At the very least, know these numbers for the expenses that are fixed and essential (housing, utilities, insurance), then give the flexible categories your best estimate.

Part of this includes surfacing the 20% of stuff that you don’t think about and are perpetually blindsided by. That 20% is what derails your best-laid plans. Things like car registration, Amazon Prime membership, an annual fee for the gym, Christmas. These things happen every year but they’re easy to forget until they get close. Except Christmas. I look forward to that one for months:-)

Be real, not wishful.

You might wish to know how much you *should* spend on these things but that’s not where you start. You have to start with your reality. Acknowledge it by putting your numbers on paper. This is an important part of making peace with your lifestyle. Sounds nice, right? It is:-) Once you have everything down on paper, you can assess how it stacks up against your income, goals, and only then make adjustments. And honestly, if you’re just starting out on your first written budget, I wouldn’t do anything too crazy for the first couple months unless you need to to get your expenses within your means. You’ll find that the mere act of planning your money, then spending according to that plan will make it feel like you got more money.

You’ll find that the mere act of planning your money, then spending according to that plan will make it feel like you got more money.

And that feeling, in addition to the warm fuzzies of being prepared and responsible, will make your life and goals and even the sacrifices you might need to make feel so possible. And while those happy warm feelings might not literally feed you, it will “comfort you deep down inside” like the diner food on Disney’s The Kid.  And the result of better money management is better/more money and that will feed you:-)