Why You Need a Budget


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I like to say that I’m ‘not super organized.’  It sounds better than, ‘I’m a whirlwind of disorder and chaos.’  I am a beautiful land-mermaid who paints with all the colors of the wind, but I cannot find my car keys…or my cellphone…or my hairbrush. I’m also not a numbers girl. Math and I are friends, but we’re better friends when we don’t spend too much time together. I’m not detail oriented at all and money burns a hole in my pocket. I’m the last person I’d expect to build a case for budgeting. That’s exactly why you should hear me out. Five years ago the word budget sounded like “penny-pinching.” (But I’m a grown adult. I spend what I want!) Somehow though, I ended up on the budgeting bandwagon. It was a bumpy ride at first, but now I can’t imagine living without knowing where our money is going.

In a nutshell, budgeting shows you how much money you have and what you spend it on. There are programs, apps, and entire classes you can take to help you figure out how to do this.  I’m not going to get into the details here, but in general, your budget shows your income and your expenses so you know how much money you have and how much you can afford to spend in each budget category.  I know tracking every dollar you spend sounds tedious, restrictive, and just plain boring, but trust me: the pay off is totally worth it. Here’s why:

Imagine you’re in Target to buy diapers for your screaming non-potty-training toddler. You buy diapers, wipes, and some granola bars cause the kid is screaming his little head off. (He is “so, so, so, so” hungry.) On the way out you remember you need cat litter and cat food, and then you double back for milk and paper towels, ’cause you forgot to get them the first time around the store. You’re heading back to the register when out of the corner of your eye, you see it. The most beautiful object on earth. It’s a cookie jar shaped like a llama. Your sheer excitement at this point can only be compared to The Force as the cookie jar floats itself into your now full shopping cart. Your good fortune has made you immune to your child’s pleas for check-out line goldfish. Happily, you present the cashier with your Red Card to save your everyday 5% off, but money is no object. You practically skip your way to the parking lot. When the cold air hits your face, it strikes fear into your heart. It’s very cold outside.  Do we need to put oil in our tank this week…? As you drive home with your treasures, you can’t shake the mild panic that you may have needed that money to heat your home for the rest of this cold snap. You rush home to find your oil tank is – thankfully- almost full. You breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you and your family are safe from the arctic tundra outside. Phew. That was close. You can now enjoy your new llama cookie jar without guilt…or freezing your butt off.  If you had a budget, you may have completely avoided that drive of shame, because if you know that all of your essentials are already paid for, you can spend your cookie jar money however you darn well please. After all, you’re a grown adult. And with a budget, you can be a grown adult who doesn’t get the sinking feeling they spent too much money every time they leave Target. 

If this kind of financial freedom sounds appealing to you here are a few resources you can check out:

  • Dave Ramsey has tons of resources on budgets and getting out of debt. My husband and I are NOT strict Ramsey-ists, but he has a lot of information that is really helpful when you are just starting out. 
  • The Balance is a financial website geared towards real people with helpful content no matter what stage of your financial journey you’re in. Here’s a post from them on some of the best budgeting apps.
  • “Budgeting is stupid; it’s so boring and most of us never stick with it.” If that sounds like you, this simplified idea of a ‘spending allowance’ might be for you.
  • My husband and I use  YNAB (You Need a Budget) and I highly recommend it. Their method can be a bit trickier at first because they suggest you start out with a months worth of income in the bank, but it helps you save for anticipated future expenses. They even have suggestions for how to come up with that initial month’s worth of wages if you don’t already have it on hand. 

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