Do you have an aversion to budgeting? Does tracking your spending seem too tedious to bother with?
It’s understandable. There are plenty of people out there who think budgeting is restrictive, or too time-consuming. It’s your money, why should a budget tell you how to spend it, right?
Well, maybe it’s time to look at budgeting in a different light. Your budget should work for you, not against you. It should allow you to make room to spend on things you actually want to spend on!
Let’s take a look at how budgeting isn’t the evil, restrictive financial tool some people make it out to be, and why you can benefit from it.
The Simple Purpose of a Budget
First, we need to get clear on what a budget is supposed to do for you.
In its most basic form, a budget is a guideline for how you should be using your money. It helps you allocate your income.
It also provides a snapshot of your monthly spending. At a glance, you know exactly where your money is being spent.
This is helpful if you want to stay in the black. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, there’s a problem. Budgets help you stay on track.
Yes, you could check your bank account every day for that information. While you should get into that habit, do you actually routinely check your accounts?
Even if you do, you have to read your statement line-by-line to see where your money has gone. It doesn’t give you a good overall picture of your spending.
Besides that, it’s not going to let you know if you’ve overspent in a certain category. For example, if you only have $150 per month to spend on gas, how will you know when you’ve reached that cap?
That’s where your budget comes in, as it displays the total amount you’ve spent on each category. You can see the original amount you budgeted for, compare it against your actual spending, and then see how much you have leftover.
How to Use Your Budget for Good
The leftover part is important to note. Let’s go back to that budget of $150 per month for gas. Say you go over that because you had an unexpected trip out of town. As a result, the end of the month is nearing, and you’ve spent $200 on gas.
But wait! You look at your other categories and realize you’ve kept your grocery costs low. You have $50 leftover there, and you won’t need to purchase any more food for the rest of the month.
You can “take” the $50 that’s left from your grocery budget, and reallocate it to your gas budget. Everything balances out now – you don’t have to worry about going over-budget.
Having money leftover at the end of the month is also crucial if you’re trying to save or pay off debt. Many people spend their entire paycheck without thinking about it.
However, when you have that “leftover” number staring at you, and you have goals you want to put that money toward, it becomes harder to spend. Budgets help you earmark your money for certain things which helps lessen the temptation to spend.
Getting the Most Out of Your Budget
Often times, people are surprised when they total up their expenses.
Perhaps you didn’t realize you were going out to eat so much, or you never stopped to add up all the payments you’ve been making toward debt.
Having your spending laid out before you is eye-opening, and empowering (not restrictive).
How? Because if there’s a problem, you have the answers right in front of you. It’s easy to review your expenses and figure out where you should be spending less (or more).
If you have any financial goals, budgets will help you reach them by letting you take control of your spending habits.
Want to save a certain amount of money for a trip, retirement, a new car, or a home? Budget your savings in. Don’t leave it to chance.
Want to become debt free sooner? Figure out where you can cut back, and put that money toward extra payments.
Budgets can also help you spend according to your values. The goal is to cut back on the things that don’t matter, and spend on what does. This is the exact opposite of restrictive, as you get to enjoy spending where it matters. Cutting back on trivial things should be painless if they don’t make you happy in the first place.
Make Budgeting Easier
If the hardest part about starting a budget is getting all your expenses categorized, then you should look into apps that will budget for you.
There are plenty of free ones out there (such as Mint.com) that allow you to link your financial accounts with them. Your spending information will automatically be pulled and categorized, and you can also set up financial goals and receive alerts when you reach them.
Budgeting doesn’t have to mean going crazy with spreadsheets and tracking your spending down to the penny. Start off simple and get the basics down first. Financial success should follow.
Do you think budgets are restrictive? Do you follow a spending plan?