Your Budget: Friend Not Foe

May 30, 2019

*Throw-back Friday: This post was originally written in August 2017. I'm re-posting it because helping others stop blaming budgeting as the enemy and embrace it as liberating is simply one of my favorite things.

This past week was a really fun week o’ summer. I was home in my favorite state of Montana for 4 days, then family came to Salt Lake for the weekend. Highlights of my trip home included mountain biking, BMX biking with mountain bikes, ice cream on Bozeman’s charming Main Street, a creekside picnic at my grandparents’ home with extended family, thrifting, my mom’s molasses cake, playing bocce ball, hiking, meals together, and projects around the house.

Shopping stories

While in Montana, I also went to a home party for a women’s clothing line. I typically don’t attend home parties because of the weird sales pressure to buy something to support your hostess. But this was a fun chance to spend time with family so I went. And found something that I really liked—a blue and mustard yellow t-shirt dress if you must know. It was seriously so comfortable. And the colors were great and the fit was pretty good. And I nearly bought it. Why didn’t I? The same reason why I also didn’t buy the jogger-pants-of-my-dreams at the REI garage sale.

The REI garage sale happens maybe twice a year and is always a good time. It’s fun to read some reasons for return. The best reason I recall was from a couple years back. On a tag affixed to a men’s sweater the reason for return was written: “Smelled like smoke after campfire.” Anyway, this Sale was a good time with family as we checked out and tried on the good deals and the not-so-good outdoorsy deals.

In the good deal category was a pair of perfect lounge pants. These were the softest, most well-constructed, sporty jogger sweatpants. The sort of comfy pants that would certainly become part of your everyday, at-home uniform. The sort you can’t wait to put on when you get back from a bad first date. The sort of pants that you find yourself writing about days later. You know, that kind of pant. [For those of who haven’t yet owned such a pair of pants, I recommend putting them on your Christmas list.]

Why I didn’t buy

Okay, so the reason I didn’t buy either the cute dress or the pants? Yup, the budget. I’d already spent the money in my Clothing category which didn’t necessarily mean I couldn’t buy the stuff. It just meant I would’ve had to decide which category to pull money from. And I decided that I ultimately didn’t want to do that.

Being a sort-of minimalist helped too. The dress was only good for a few casual summer wears and I do have a pair of soft, comfy joggers that, even though they aren’t nearly as nice or cute as the REI ones, are technically doing the trick. But the main reason was the budget and my awareness of what I have that money doing for me.

Don’t leave!

If you’re not a budgeter yet, I should say a couple more things before you run away screaming “I knew it! A budget will ruin my life!”

  1. Even as a budget-lover, I am not at all opposed to buying things you like.
  2. I am also not opposed to either of us sometimes deciding that it’s worth spending money from another category to buy something unanticipated but awesome.
  3. It’s not stress-free buying stuff without a budget. I’d argue it’s actually way more stressful spending off a budget than on one. I think back to my previous, pre-budgeting life. In that super long chapter, I would’ve mentally referred to the balance (approximate) in my checking account, run through about how much of that was probably excess, and bought the pants and the dress. And then done damage control when I realized I had spent the utilities money and some of the money earmarked for gas for the car and…you get the idea.  I am so glad that that operating mindset is so 2013. It was so stressful to always be doing mental, shoddy math and scrambling to repair my mistakes!

Friend not foe

Basically, a budget isn’t restrictive. It’s not the enemy. A budget simply helps you make good decisions that fit in with your plans. And ultimately, even though the pants and the dress were really cute and comfortable, I was able to put them back on the rack and walk away because I chose not to afford them. I chose not to reorganize money to make their purchase possible. And I don’t resent the budget or myself for deciding not to buy them!

If anything, I appreciate anew the feeling of being in the driver’s seat of my money, present and future.

Stick to it

If you’re just starting out on your budget or gotten lackadaisical (almost spelled that word right on the first try) about yours, here’s my really exciting invitation to stick with it and be the boss. I have my reasons for sticking with my money plan and so do you, whether it be to keep your vacation budget up, building your down-payment savings category, or getting out of debt.

You’ll be proud of yourself in the short-term and glad for yourself in the long-term that a little bit of discipline trumped a passing desire for the sake of the plans you have for your future.

And if the joggers are still available on an REI clearance rack and fit into your plan, I (with only a smidgeon of jealousy) wish you both a long, happy, and super comfortable life together:)