Getting on a budget is one of those things that I always just figured would come when it was finally necessary for me to make my money stretch just as wide as my life had become, in response to life’s crazy and unpredictable turns. I can chuckle at this now, as I’ve realized that a budget is much more than a cry for help, or a desperate response to a unfortunate turn of events. A budget is a powerful tool that can not only save a failing financial situation, but also propel a decent one much farther forward.
I was never ignorant when it came to money, even as a child. I was taught to work for my money and that I needed to save some of that money in order to buy things that I wanted. This transitioned into bigger responsibilities like paying for my cell phone, putting up my own money for a car, and eventually providing for myself entirely, apart from some help with tuition in college. I knew what a budget was from the beginning, but somewhere along the line, I began to associate being on a budget with not having a lot of money. Even though this might be true in a lot of cases, and one of the reasons for getting on a budget in the first place, I didn’t realize that there was a lot more to be gained from budgeting effectively.
I worked a lot during my time at college and was paid a decent rate for a student, and while I did help pay for some of my tuition every month, I didn’t pay much attention to where the rest of my money was going. Of course I had to provide for myself, so some of it went to the phone bill, gas, a car payment, food, and some other things, but I will be the first to admit that I always had a sizable amount left over, at least for a college student. At the time, I didn’t think to put my extra money towards my tuition, or my car payment, I just wanted to enjoy myself.
This continued after I graduated and started working at a real job. Sure, some bills increased and a few new ones were added, but even after that I was making a lot more every month than I had been making as a student. I still continued to be what I thought was responsible and pay my rent, my bills, my car and student loan minimum payments, and the rest of the money was mine to spend if I wanted to. It took getting married to a saver, some inspiration from financial personalities like Dave Ramsey, and a good amount of thinking and planning to finally get me on a budget for the first time ever. A few months later and now I’m the one who is always thinking about or bringing up the budget when my wife and I go grocery shopping.
My story is not a terrible one, and things went okay for me along the way, even while I was sacrificing progress towards being financially free for things like a new pair of headphones. My point is that budgeting does not have to be something that we dread dealing with. It can be a very useful and very exciting tool when it comes to making your money work for you. Simply writing down where my money was going every month had a much greater impact on me than I thought it would. I began wondering if all the things on my list were worth the money I was spending on them. I began prioritizing things differently, and began to see a lot of ways where I could free up even more money to put to use somewhere more important. For my wife and I right now, that more important place is our student loan debt, and being on a budget has helped to keep track of everything as well as speed up the process!
So let’s all drop any negative connotations we have about budgeting and give it a try! It definitely won’t be perfect the first time, and I will be talking about our budget and how we have shifted things around a bit in the future. Make your money work for you and use budgeting to help you achieve your financial goals!