Roadmap instead of prison

Today, I’ll be writing about the importance of having a budget.  Many of you reading this might start to glaze over because I said the “B” word.  Budgets have gotten a bad rap but I’m here to say that budgets are misunderstood.  People might see a budget as a kill-joy.  Why can’t I just spend my money on what I want when I want it?  Why do I need a budget to tell me what I can and cannot spend?  Or some have created a budget but get discouraged by going over budget in some categories and somehow think they failed.  I get it because I’ve been there and I’ve had those doubts.  In the past, I thought that having a budget felt like being in a prison; it felt so restricting and limiting and I wondered what’s the point?  Can’t I just check what my current balance is in my checking account and if I’m positive I’m good?

The notion of a budget feeling more like a prison shattered after I went to, of all places, my recovery group.  In the meeting, we shared the importance of having a personal recovery plan.  A personal recovery plan is a plan laid out for establishing proactive and protective boundaries and the consequences of a relapse.  One of the men who experienced a long period of sobriety shared that his personal recovery plan was the key to his sobriety.  He saw his recovery plan as a roadmap to stay sober and to get well.  That clicked with me in my recovery but also with budgeting.  What if we saw having a budget as a roadmap out of debt or a road map out of living paycheck to paycheck?  That shift in paradigm might be a game changer for you questioning the importance of a budget; I know it did for me.

Having a budget is simply a financial plan to help accomplish what is truly important in your life pertaining to finances.  It helps you say no to purchases that provide momentary satisfaction so that you can say yes to moving closer to what is truly important.  Suddenly, the Starbucks purchase in the morning might not be as tempting because you’re saying yes to putting that money toward an emergency fund.  Maybe that deal online that sounds really tempting to get isn’t so tempting because you’re saving that money for paying off debt.

For those that started a budget but got discouraged, I say keep at it.  Budgets aren’t meant to be a crock pot where you set it and forget.  They are living and breathing plans that adapt to the situations of life.  If you run over budget in a category, don’t beat yourself over the head.  Be flexible and move money from one category that you have funds left over to the one that is overspent.  Going over budget is also an important learning tool that indicates either budget more in that category or reign in the spending for it.

Some food for thought: take some time to write down what are your financial priorities.   Also, what are some of your reasons for not creating a budget?  What would budgeting look like if you saw it more as a roadmap instead of a prison?

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