Budgets = Happiness (Science Says So)

Hey everyone! Today, I’ve got a special treat for you. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on First Quarter Finance during my daily reading. Will did a great job putting that blog together, and he’s definitely got great writing skills. After a few messages back and fourth, we talked about him writing a post for CNA Finance backing up the Synthetic Happiness and Money post a few posts back. Here’s what he came up with, and I’ve gotta say…I’m impressed!

That’s me cutting you free from all of life’s restrictions.  You can now do whatever you please.  The world is your playground.  Inside your right front pocket is a credit card with no limit and no strings attached.  The possibilities are endless.  You’re free.

That would feel great, right??

For a little while that kind of freedom would be awesome!  But a perpetual vacation from responsibility would soon lose its luster.  You would eventually feel like a useless waste of space.  You would eventually start Googling things such as, ‘what’s the true meaning of life’.  You would not be happy.

Wrecked Lambo Wolf of WalstreetIt may take a week, a month, or even years before you realize all this.  But eventually this WILL happen.  It’s why the free-spirit lifestyle of hippies in the 1960’s faded in the 1970’s.  It’s why often people die soon after they begin a do-nothing sort of retirement.  You would have little will to live.  We as human beings need to be constrained at times in order to lead happy lives.  This is what synthetic happiness teaches us.

For an amusing and informative presentation on synthetic happiness, watch this Ted Talk on YouTube.

If you’re pressed for time, I’ll give you the rundown:

Synthetic happiness tells us that if we’re put into a situation we cannot easily change (or strongly do not want to change), we graciously accept our situation.  Alternatively, if we can easily change a situation, we are constantly second-guessing ourselves.  That second-guessing leads to anxiety, fear, loathing, and depression.  Too much choice IS a bad thing!

Here’s where budgeting comes in…

If you create a budget, you give yourself structure.  You are limited in what you should spend.  If you cannot break your budget (or realize there’s no need to), then there’s no thought given to breaking to disobeying the budget.   Why ignore something YOU believe in?  You wouldn’t…

Just the other day I saw a box of the newly introduced Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie Cupcakes.  They weren’t inside my budget, plus I want to stay healthy, so therefore I had no trouble walking away.  I even laughed a little at the idea of paying over $3 for such junk (i.e. I was happy to have my budget).  As long as you are in financial a situation that can’t be changed (or you believe shouldn’t be changed), you will be happy.  At home I had set my shopping budget.  I truly believed it was a good budget.  Once I felt comfortable with the budget, no over-priced, preservative-filled cake could suck away my happiness.

Here’s another example of loving a budgeted life: Remember that friend in high school…  he drove around in the biggest joke of a car?  It was rusty, smelly, and it would double in value with a full tank of gas.  NO ONE on the planet would adore that rusted pile of Detroit metal except for him.  Why is that?  It’s because that was HIS car.  He was in a financial situation he could not easily change.  He could not afford a better car so he accepted that car for what it was.  He accepted the situation and came to love that ugly car.

Here are some areas where I have setup budgets in my life.  I spent lots of time thinking about each topic so I have ZERO desire to modify or break any of them.

1) Car budget (what car to own, what insurance to get, and how often to drive the car)

2) Food (how much spent on groceries/eating out)

3) Electronics (laptop, phone, accessories)

4) Housing (price to pay per month, utilities)

Guess what?  They are perfect just how I’ve created them.  I don’t even have a desire to inflate my lifestyle as my income rises.  I greatly enjoy my car, food, laptop, and house.  I have essentially created happiness.  Much like a dog on a farm who can runaway but chooses not to…  I’ve installed these boundaries and I don’t want to escape them.  If you feel restless about your budgets, you just need to tweak them until you’re happy.  Then you won’t want to break them.

Remember, if you are in a financial situation you simply cannot change or do not want to change, you will be happy.

Do you still want to live that life with no spending limits and no expectations?

Thanks Will!

Again, this post was a contribution from First Quarter Finance. If you liked this, you’ll lave what he’s got to say on his own blog!!!

Fun Reads From Around The Blogosphere…

How To Include Your Kids In Budgeting Sessions – Matt Becker over at Mom and Dad Money is a great blogger. If you’ve got kids, this is a must read post for sure!!!

Budget and the Beach Turns Two! – Congrats Tonya! You’re doing great things over there!

13 thoughts on “Budgets = Happiness (Science Says So)”

  1. I completely agree that budgets make people happy (they just don’t think that it will). When we have a budget, we have definition in our life and we know longer have to guess if we can afford things or not. Without a budget we have so much uncertainty in our financial lives that it actually gives us more stress.

  2. Hmm, interesting. I don’t have that structured of a budget where I don’t feel that I can change or break the budget; if I go over in my gas spending, for instance, I’ll be okay. I don’t think about it that much. My budget is more like a guideline, and less of a “absolutely must spend this much or else”.

  3. I’m with Daisy on my budget. It’s more of a guideline that keeps me in check. Sometimes I do go over budget for example on groceries but at least I’m keeping it in check and have been able to cut down quite a lot. I don’t really feel deprived so it is working for me. I think having a little wiggle room is key to being happy with a budget.

    • Perhaps my $3 box of debbie cakes was too strict of an example. I mainly turned them down because they are diabetes in a box.

      I knew one woman who kept an EXACT (down to the penny) budget. She couldn’t go a cent over, no matter what. It was like a trendy diet… impossible to keep long-term. A little wiggle room here and there is basically a must for a fulfilling life.

  4. It kind or reminds me of the average work day for many of us. If you just clocked in and sat there, with nothing to do, no direction, no goals, no assistance and no one holding you accountable, what would you do? You may succeed sometimes and you may prove motivated but without the plan of attack and the constraint of someone holding you responsible, how long will it last? I love budgets because I’m on autopilot. I just do the work and be done with it.


Leave a Comment