Budgeting is like a four-letter word when it comes to finances, am I right?
Some of us picture budgeting the way we picture what it would be like to be a victim in a horror movie. (Cue terrifying music and a high-pitched scream.) Budgeting has this stigma of being dreadful, of sucking the fun and spontaneity out of life.
Personally, I think the stigma’s wrong. I think budgeting actually gives you freedom, even though so many people picture budgeting as limiting and constricting. It’s all in how you look at it. I’ve witnessed through friends and experienced first-hand how freeing it can be, especially if your financial choices involve another human being (your spouse), which always complicates things.
Does budgeting make you want to scream and run away? Hopefully not, after you hear these 5 ways that using a budget actually gives you freedom:
1. Budgeting frees you from debt
Whether you’re trying to pay off debt (which is most of us) or avoid debt (good for you), budgeting helps you achieve freedom from the grip to debt. None of us want to take orders from our money or debt; we want financial strength and independence. A budget helps you spend money you have and avoid spending money you don’t have.
2. Budgeting frees you from fear of the unknown
Having a budget eliminates much of the stress of wondering if you’ll end up ahead at the end of the month and be able to pay your bills. Rather than letting life just happen to you and crossing your fingers that it works for the best or compulsively checking your online banking app to make sure you still have money, budgeting gives you power because you know where you stand. When you sit down and take a look at how much money you’ve got to spread around, you know how much room-how much freedom-you have in each spending category without draining your checking account.
3. Budgeting frees you from worry
When you budget, you sleep better at night because you’re better prepared for the future. My husband and I don’t have kids yet, but I love knowing that our current budget (how much we spend and therefore how much we save, too) puts us in a position to be able to have kids without huge financial strain. It’s freeing knowing that we won’t have to lower our standard of living or go into debt to be able to have a family. And if future life circumstances cause us to make major changes in our spending habits, I’m not worried, because we know exactly where our money is going right now and how to use a budget to adjust accordingly.
4. Budgeting frees you from marital conflict
I don’t even know how to emphasize this enough. It’s insanely helpful to be on the same page with your spouse when it comes to money, and to decide ahead of time what your priorities are so you avoid disagreements and impulsive purchases. Here’s one of my favorite tips for budgeting with your spouse: Allow each person an allowance. It can be as much or as little as you like, but each spouse has 100% say over their own allowance money and can spend it however they want. When I say however, I mean that you get to spend money guilt-free on the things your better half might deem wasteful or unnecessary. For ladies, that might mean manicures or shoes, and for guys, it probably means something you “need” for one of your hobbies that your wife finds totally useless.
5. Budgeting frees you from awkwardness when you say no to stuff
Saying no to friends and family is hard. You don’t want to look or feel “poor” when you say no to a trip with friends, or when you ask your family if they’re down for cutting back on Christmas presents this year. It sounds a little goofy maybe, but budgeting makes that easier. It’s much easier to say, “That’s not in our budget,” than say instead, “We don’t want to” or “We can’t afford it.” People have more respect for your choices and you’ll feel more confident about those choices when you are clearly being intentional about your financial goals.
Do you use a budget? If you don’t, how do you think it might free you?