The budget monster is winning
For years I hated budgeting and only tracked my expenses because my parents always did. The budgeting stress started mainly in college, when I had more bills to take care of on my own and had to be responsible to pay them on time with no one to help bail me out if I missed a due date.
I absolutely did not like keeping track of my expenses. Receipts drove me crazy, and still do. Balances that did not match would make me want to pull my hair out. Panic would start to hit when I sat down to work on the budget, afraid of what I would find.
I knew I had many areas I did not handle money the best way possible and working on the budget only seemed to confirm how often I would fail with money. Overspending, unexpected expenses, having to juggle money around to pay for immediate bills were all common occurrences.
Tracking my expenses seemed to be so restrictive and I was not sure how to be successful at budgeting. What was the point? There were always more bills and expenses compared to my income or savings.
Choosing a profession that relied on a variable income did not help with the stress level. I was always worried I would not have enough hours for the month and the paydays varied as well.
I wanted to have more financial margin in my life, not just living paycheck to paycheck. I loved traveling and doing things with friends. I wanted to have money to be able to give gifts to others, and buy some things for myself. I wanted to have savings on hand so I would not have to worry about every day expenses or unexpected surprises.
All of these things were out of reach as I did not have the money after the expenses were taken out for the month. Frustrated with seemingly impossible desires and no way to fulfill them, it is no wonder there was so much panic when it came time to working on the budget?
Married + Debt= One Hot Mess
Once I acquired debt and then married someone who came with debt of his own, the stress went through the roof. When you add a spouse into the mix, talking about money often causes fights especially if you are not on the same page with how to approach finances or when you are waiting for the other person to take over the budget.
Opposite backgrounds growing up, fear of not being able to provide for your family, and no money at the end of the month added to the discussion quickly results in one hot mess.
Managing every day expenses was awful enough before I started adding debt to the equation. Now, there was definitely no wiggle room with finances. I felt trapped, my money was already spoken for before I even received it.
I can totally understand why people avoid budgeting at any cost. It is super scary to realize how badly you are are mishandling your money and to realize your financial situation probably will not change anytime soon, if at all. Going along in ignorance, hoping financial problems will just go away often seems to be better than facing your finances head on.
Another reason dealing with money is so stressful is because you want to do well at it but do not know where to start or what it looks like to handle money well. I certainly did not really grasp what was the best way to handle money and how to change my financial situation until I was in my late twenties and married. I just tried to survive until the next pay day.
When there is not enough money coming in to cover all the expenses and you do not know how you will make ends meet, it is very discouraging, especially when you feel like you are working so hard but realize that it is not enough to provide for your needs.
You can easily feel like you are failing your family. The shame, frustration, and lack of hope is enough to keep you from doing anything to change your financial situation. I did not realize that life could be drastically different with having a plan and not having any payments.
Beating the budget monster back
I have learned that a budget is not just tracking what you spend and how badly you mess up with money. Rather a budget is simply a plan to spend your money. It is a guide to being successful and winning with money both now and long term. Budgeting is a lifestyle bringing about change.
When I was struggling with my dislike for budgeting and the stress of trying to make ends meet with my finances, there was no one who really came along side me to explain the usefulness of having a plan for my money, setting financial goals and how to obtain them by using a tool called a budget. [Tweet "A budget is a stepping stone on your way to winning with money."]
I was never told how to cut my expenses or how I could work more hours to bring in more income to change my financial outlook. Budgeting was portrayed just as something that had to be done and was a smart thing to do, but usually was coupled with disgust.
What is my Why? (I am winning)
I had to figure out what was my Why. Why I should have a budget and stick to it? What was the larger reason behind budgeting?
Towards the end of my debt pay off, I started to realize for the first time how following a budget was allowing me to win financially. The stress and panic surrounding the budget started subsiding when I saw that a budget was my plan for how I wanted to spend money. Yet, it was only after I paid off my debts in totality and continued to budget when I finally understood how useful a budget really can be.
I was in control of my finances instead of bills and payments controlling me. My forecast for my financial feature now went beyond the next pay day and I started to dream about what I wanted to do having financial freedom.
Looking back I did not realize the purpose of budgeting was larger than making the balances match and making sure there was enough money to cover the monthly expenses, which is only a small part of living on a budget. I only worked on a budget because I thought I had to, but did not have a solid reason why I should live on a budget.
I found my reasons for why I continue to live on a budget; the freedom to go and do as we please, the freedom from worrying about providing for my family, the ability to give abundantly to bless those around me, to be a good steward of what God has entrusted me with, and to make a difference in the world around me. When you think about it, none of those reasons are even feasible if I am always choked by payments, debt and a lavish lifestyle.
The purpose of a budget is a tool you can use to change your life, your family, and your future.
Life change ahead: The budget monster is dead
I have changed my life and am no longer just trying to survive to the next pay check. I have seen how it is possible to break out of the prison of too many payments and not enough income; to make my future look different than the past did. I am not a slave to payments anymore nor am I a slave to always trying to impress those around me.
Taking the time now to learn how to handle my money well will continue to have a long reaching impact for the rest of my life. Over the last five years, I have come to know financial freedom and peace. I have gained hope and confidence knowing it is entirely possible to do things most people say is impossible to do.
- We have been able get out of debt while cash flowing my husband's schooling for seven years on one income and still live comfortably.
- When my husband graduates, he will not have a single student loan following him around for years.
- We have continued to live debt free with zero payments.
Obviously, those things are not impossible since we are doing them. It takes a mindset change and the willingness to work hard to make sure goals like these can actually happen.
Now that I have found my budgeting Why, I continue to envision what our life will look like when Jeremy graduates with no student loans to pay back, not even one cent!
There will be so many great possibilities which will be before us once school is finished and we will not have the limitations of being in debt or the lack of financial control holding us back.
I can purchase a new car when mine dies. With enough hustle, paying cash for a house can certainly become a reality. The discipline of living on less than one income will allow us to build up future savings and enable us to be extremely generous.
We will be able to weather financial setbacks so much easier with a fully funded emergency fund. Vacations can look like Hawaii or Italy. We will be able to change our world and leave a legacy of hope behind.
Are you ready to take on your own big, scary, budget monster?
Have you ever taken some time to think about what would your life look like without any debt and having full control of your money? What could you do? Where could you go? How can you change your world?
I would love to hear what your budgeting Why looks like in the comments below.
This post was shared at Thrifty Thursday.
Hi! I’m Charissa. I’m on a mission to help hardworking women overcome money struggles and gain financial peace with a Biblical perspective so they can have the freedom to impact their families and communities. Ready to make some changes that will impact your finances in 2020? Click here to get a free worksheet to help you make it happen!