Missing Out: Budgeting Benefits Part 2
July 20, 2021
In last week’s post, I wrote about the less-tangible but amazing benefits of budgeting. And, as an important definition, when I say budgeting, I mean planning and organizing your money and spending. That’s it. There’s no frugality implied, no deprivation, no misery.
This week, let’s talk about the super practical benefits of budgeting. Because, while the benefits talked about in last week’s post are powerful and wonderful, the one that feels the most readily pertinent to most people is having more money.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, especially if you still think of budgets as restrictive or boring systems. You’re thinking, “Emily, it’s a given that if I get on a budget and my food spending goes from $400/month to $100/month, I will have more money.” But here’s where I get to share magic news with you.
When you plan and organize in the way I teach and my favorite budgeting app allows, you may choose to spend very much the same as you currently are. And, you may simultaneously discover, as I did, that you have more money on-top of that to pay toward debt or to save for your things.
It does not make sense mathematically. I get that, hence calling it “magic news.” And that’s why I was shocked that, when I “got on a budget,” I could spend the same amounts or in some cases more than before, and tuck more away toward my debt.
Every experience before had been geared toward really cutting back on spending to free up money and it only ever worked for like 6.3 days, until I rebelled against myself and returned to my former spending habits and then some.
I’d spend willy-nilly for a couple to several weeks, accompanied by a very familiar guilt feeling, then reign myself back in to a life of deprivation. And the cycle would repeat itself, again and again and again. It was fun.
So, why is it that when you change your approach to money, you magically seem to have more? I attribute the bounty to a combination of the following factors:
1. When you take care of money, it doesn’t get to spend itself without your knowledge.
It’s crazy how good at blurring things together and underestimating our brains are (when it comes to money, overestimating happens in other areas). Normal spending for most people is like being surrounded by kids all asking questions at the same time. You hear some of them and say a conscious yes, but there are the things that you really don’t want to say yes to, coming from the edges and you say “yes” because you can’t totally hear them and there’s just a lot of chaos.
When you have to isolate the requests, you get to choose way better. The spending doesn’t just get to assume your permission like a kid might who saw a head nod even when it wasn’t for them. I think you’d be shocked at how much money is just wandering away from you without your conscious permission.
2. You enjoy spending the money that you plan, so you feel richer all around.
One of the facets of budgeting I advocate is only budget money when you get it. And when you do, you are putting it in specific categories. And it’s honestly exciting when you put money in your categories for fun things, even if it’s only a modest amount. I for one get a small hit of dopamine that I’m giving myself permission to buy, guilt-free, the thing.
And then when I buy the thing, I get something like a second hit of dopamine. That I had the money set aside to buy the thing without jeopardizing any other part of my financial life. This feels worlds better and different than the spending with reckless abandon that has you feeling a bit queasy. You may totally be able to afford it, but you don’t know for sure that you can until it’s captured on paper like I advocate and teach.
3. You’re taking care of what you have, and those things have a way of lasting longer. Shoes, cars, relationships.
There are universal laws like gravity that are proved by science and experience. And then there’s the stuff that you just prove true by your own experiences. A car without regular oil changes will either not run as efficiently, or the engine will go kaput if you really push it like my friend Camber did in high school. Carpet in a car or a home that is not vacuumed regularly will be much harder to clean, and unaddressed dirt has a way apparently of
Also, people tend to care for the things they care about. Profound, right? It sounds so obvious, but if you’re not taking care of something, including money, in your life, you probably don’t care that much about it no matter what you say.
I am also a believer that you can start to care for things better by simply doing it. Like, taking the actions that a person who cares about that thing would take.
An example: I have a pair of Birkenstock mules (clogs). I really liked them and took good care of them when I first bought them. Then I started slipping them on to take out the trash. And I wore them around the garage when I worked on projects. And I stopped wiping them down, and never oiled them. So guess what, I stopped liking them as much.
Until a best friend bought a similar pair and I decided to spruce mine up. And by simply investing time and effort into them, I cared significantly more about them. And that care will result in a longer life for them.
And one more example because I can’t help myself: how well do relationships do when you never call, never write, say unkind things about them (like you may be doing about your money), ignore their existence or expect someone else to keep the relationship alive? Not very well, right?
So get to know your money and give it some care. It will pay you in dividends both short- and long-term.
If I’ve done my job, you’re now maybe a little more open to approaching money differently, seeing that there is really only upside. Upside ranging from less-tangible to extremely tangible, with more dollars in your accounts. If you’re wondering where to get started, check out this totally free handbook. It outlines the steps I took, and have dozens of others through, to pay off to turn finances from a source of stress to empowered.