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Your Very Own Stock Market

July 13, 2016

Budgeting has such a bad rap. Poor budgeting. It does seem to need a new name but I’m striking out thus far. I have phrases I like such as “organize your money” or “make a plan for your spending” but am still searching for a pithy (my dad introduced me to this word and it’s a good ‘un!) one-word replacement. If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them!

I want to take a stab at convincing you that budgeting is fun. As in: a good time, something you WANT to do. Hear me out as I use an analogy I know super well (not). Have you ever wanted to make gobs of money and spend long days making trades on the stock market? Me neither, but I do think budgeting is a little bit like I imagine the stock market to be in that you’re making investments, choosing certain commodities over others, moving money around and yelling. Okay, the yelling hasn’t yet entered my budgeting life unless you want to count the private yells of celebration when I’ve paid off 3 fairly substantial debts in the past year. Picture Sandra Bullock on Two Weeks Notice preparing to picket for community preservation (or am I making that scene up??) Or Meg Ryan preparing to fight for her small business against Fox Bookstores in You’ve Got Mail. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sorry and please watch those really great chick flicks. ANYWHO…the stock market analogy has come to my mind a couple times and when I think of budgeting as managing my own stock market it makes me feel really financially savvy and empowered. Like I’m keep a nation’s economy afloat. It so happens to be the Sovereign Nation of Emily’s* economy but still, that’s kind of important to me. And your economy’s health should be to you too.

Here’s how it works in practical terms (all assuming you have set up a budget and are now spending money): when you overspend in one budget category, not the end of the world! You just start pulling some dollars out of ones with more healthy balances and shifting the money into the overspent category. Let’s say hypothetically you went shopping for a new shirt and ended up finding TWO shirts that you really liked. [Tangent: with owning less you know what the gaps are in your closet and what colors/fits suit you best and what you like best since you’ve gotten rid of all the things that don’t fit that criteria. Gone are the days of buying anything that is marginally cute or cute for other people]. This hypothetical story is true and it happened to me:) So anyway, I overspent in my Clothing & Luxuries category, kind of on purpose. I knew how much I had budgeted for such things and knew I was spending over the budgeted amount. But I also knew I hadn’t spent a ton in my Restaurants category and had some extra in my Entertainment category and made up the difference with shifting money around. The coolest part? MY CHECKING ACCOUNT DIDN’T EVEN KNOW!!

Basically, a budget allows you to break your own rules IF (important ‘if’ hence the all caps) you have a plan for covering for them (moving money around within categories). Here’s the thing: you have to cover for them anyway, even without a budget. If you’re all anti-budget and don’t want to live the constrained life that you think that implies, you might go spend $300 on clothes one weekend. But then you realize you’d already spent a lot of money that month and now you don’t really have enough money for the Amazon Prime membership that is due AND a payment on a medical bill AND groceries for the last week of the month. One or both or all of those things go on the ever-convenient VISA card (which, even though it’s an evil credit card, I have to say I do admire it for being the most popular credit card) and then it’s like you have to double-dig yourself out of the overspending. Comprende?

Words truly can’t express how nice it is to be separated from my checking account balance. We were so close for a while but thanks to YNAB and my love affair with budgeting I kind of broke up with it. So what do you think? Is your economy ready for change? Ready to try something new and stop looking at your account balances and start living (by making that aforementioned plan for your money)? YAY! Hip hip hooray! I have no idea where that phrase comes from! Maybe however you’re still not sure that you want to/have the moral fortitude to do that 6-letter-word (BUDGET) thing. I’m living proof that anyone can do this – I’m totally a spender and can honestly say I’m happier spending less and more intentionally. My Nation of Em thanks me for it almost every day and yours will too – whether you be a Sovereign State of One or Duchess of Dos or Queen of Quintuplets. It’s late and I’m getting cheesy so I’ll end. Happy dreams of your life as a budgeter!

*I believe credit for this clever phrase is due to clever gents at work