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Why Budget When You Don't "Have" To

November 9, 2019

Hey you guys! You know I like budgeting, right? Okay good. Glad we have (re)established that. And I do sure love helping others discover the wonders of it. But, a question for you: is budgeting really for everyone? What if you have enough money for all of your needs and a lot or all of your wants...why on earth would you budget then?

I, for one, am convinced that budgeting one of the most equal-access opportunities to have a happier life and truly everyone ought to be doing at least some form of budgeting. But not everyone agrees with me–yet :-)

And that is okay! While I do wish for others’ sakes that they give budgeting a shot and discover the inevitable blessings, some people have to warm up to the idea like I did. While no one technically has to budget, I do believe that a person at any income level will be happier for planning their life and spending.

Ready....get set...let's go!

Let’s reframe budgeting for a moment. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it twice or three hundred and seven times: budgeting is simply the practice of planning and organizing your life and your money.  

A few definitions from the Merriam-Webster dictionary add further credibility to my definition:

  1. a statement of the financial position of an administration (as of a nation) for a definite period of time based on estimates of expenditures during the period and proposals for financing them
  2. the amount of money that is available for, required for, or assigned to a particular purpose

You’ll note that not one of these definitions included any reference to how much money is available. None indicate that a budget is recommended only for struggling administrations or early businesses or broke lives. Interesting? Oh I sure thought so! 

Somehow, though, in common vernacular, the word “budget” has come to mean deprivation or a tedious and depressing thing only people of small means do, and then only until their means increase. Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

To those who have some wiggle room in their money situations, I hope you’ll consider a fresh view on the merits of budgeting for any life. Below are 3 reasons I feel budgeting is a gift for every income level and life situation. 

One caveat: if you are that rare breed of person who is hitting all your investing/savings goals, doesn’t carry a credit card balance, and somehow always has positive account balances, good job! I still think you might be able to enjoy your fun spending more and have a little less conflict in a shared-finance relationship, but you get to choose what works for you!

Reason 1: It’s how you achieve your dreams and goals. 

I assume you have goals and plans for your present and future? Things that you'll need money for? People generally do, even if they vary in scope or magnitude. I recently shared the following quote on my Instagram by a favorite author and expert on habits, James Clear. 

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.

Budgeting is one of the systems–and an important one at that–that supports you in  achieving your goals. When you have a system for organizing and managing your money, your actual goals can be less or minimally impacted by the expenses inherent in life.

Side-note: not all budgeting systems or tools are created equal. By far the best system I have found is You Need A Budget. So when I refer to “budgeting” I am specifically talking about a system that includes a zero-based budgeting tool like YNAB.

Also, even if budgeting requires discipline–I’m not convinced it does when you have the right system–can’t we all agree that discipline is a very healthy muscle to be developing? The character that is built by the habits of budgeting will only support you in your pursuit of your goals. Honestly, the rewards very quickly make it less and less of an exercise of discipline, but your character is still benefited. It’s like magic. 

Reason 2: It’s less stressful. 

Why? Firstly, you have fewer financial surprises. There are plenty of things in life out of our control. Economies turn, layoffs happen, major medical crises occur when least expected. But so many of the things that feel like emergencies are simply a reflection of gaps in planning. 

You may not be able to foresee the medical costs of your entire family for the year, but you can start with what you do know or can reasonably estimate. On a monthly basis, you could be setting aside 1/12 of your health insurance deductible. This will keep money building up in a budget category for medical expenses. 

The same could be done for car expenses. Setting aside $100-200 each month will ensure that you have money to pay for registration and oil changes and tires and most repairs. In neither of the above scenarios are you protected from catastrophe, but at least predictable things like tires will no longer be considered emergencies to go on the credit card.

In another way, budgeting helps reduce the stress in your life: your conscience is happier. There is a feeling of “rightness” that comes from doing something well, from doing something responsibly. And there is an opposite feeling that comes with doing a shoddy, irresponsible job. It’s called a conscience, and just about everyone on the planet has one. 

Merriam-Webster defines conscience as “the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good.” 

When you make a plan for your money and stick to it, there’s much less discrepancy between your conscience and your behaviors. This allows you to spend and live with gratitude instead of guilt. 

Reason 3: It helps you be you (instead of the Joneses). 

When you plan your life and money before the moment of spending or impulse, you have a better chance of living with integrity. I’m not talking about the “don’t tell a lie” kind of integrity, although that is always recommended. Actually, I suppose in a round-about sort of way, I am. I’m talking about being honest and whole, being wholly you

When you do not plan your money in advance, why would you not buy what others are buying? Why would you not take the vacations that others are taking, buy the things others are buying and that you “should be able to” afford, and then wonder why meeting the financial obligations of your life feels so tight?

Budgeting gives you the healthiest kind of boundaries, keeping you from ending up miles down a road you never intended to travel in the first place. If you never make a plan for you money, you have less chance to decide whether something fits in your plan for your life. 

Put another way, if you do make a plan for your money with the practice of budgeting, it gives you a glorious opportunity. You get to audit the costs, events and appointments of your life and either enthusiastically keep them or simplify and let them go.

What if keeping up with the Joneses is distracting you from being you

What if it’s preventing you from creating the things that will bring you and your family the most fulfillment and meaning?  

When you create and live by a budget, you are much more likely to plan your spending and your life according to your priorities, instead of someone else’s. 

Summary

How’d I do, folks? Do you agree? Disagree? What'd I miss? I would love your thoughts. The very fact you're here and reading this indicates that you care about doing good things with your money, whether you're actively budgeting or not. And that's awesome.

For those reading this who may not have a lot of extra cash, do you agree that the benefits above are true for you too? Brighter days are ahead for you, especially if you are extra vigilant with your current money, motivated by the reasons listed above. I told you: the most equal-access opportunity for a happier, better life :-)