The “B” Word
A lot of people grimace when they hear the B word. In past conversations with friends and family about budgeting some words that surfaced are “restrictive”, “annoying”, “boring”, “time-consuming”, “unnecessary”, “too difficult”, and so on. What is a personal budget? Depressing, they say.
Well, dear reader, they couldn’t be more wrong.
You see, like anything in life, mindset and attitude are pretty big factors in how we perceive our reality. For example, if you think a budget is “restrictive” because you can’t go out for unlimited food and drinks with friends, then you are correct because that is how you view the situation. However, flip that sentiment to excitement because you’re focused on setting yourself up for the future while choosing to eat out once or twice a week, and you are also correct. In the first scenario a “now” mindset leads you to focus on the immediate future and what you “aren’t able” to do. In the second scenario your mindset is focused on the big picture, therefore the outlook is positive since you’re building future opportunities for yourself.
What is a Personal Budget?
So really, what is a personal budget? Why is it important? Why should you have one? Simply put, a budget is a phenomenal multi-faceted tool. Think of a hammer. If you use it to bake a cake you’re going to be a little more than peeved. On the other hand, if you use a hammer to build a house you’re likely to be pretty thrilled with the results!
At its most basic description, a budget is a plan for how to save and spend your money. It is a framework of the flow of money in and out of your account. The incoming funds are your earnings, and the outgoing dollars are your expenses. This plan allows you to make informed decisions based on the time and resources required to accomplish your goals.
Contrary to (un)popular belief, budgets are not concrete immovable structures that weigh you down. In fact, they are the stepping stones to move your life in the direction you wish to go. Budgets also provide clarity about where you are going and when you can arrive. In essence, they are a roadmap, an accountability tool, and one of the best means to help build your life. After reading the rest of the post below you’ll be able to confidently answer (with a smile!) the next time someone asks, “What is a personal budget?”.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”
It’s said that, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. It is also said that spontaneous people plan for spontaneity. Both of these statements are nuggets of wisdom that can’t be ignored. Every successful person has some sort of plan in place which creates the flexibility to be spontaneous. For example, if a 20-year old starts investing little by little for a decade, that plan to save allows them the ability to make spontaneous decisions later in life. These spontaneous decisions could include making a large purchase, going on a trip, taking time off work, or investing in more education. Planning to save and invest steadily for a decade gave themselves the opportunity to spontaneously make decisions later in life. In contrast, if that same 20-year old spent everything they made and didn’t save or invest, their options for spontaneity down the road will likely be limited.
A budget is a roadmap which estimates how much you’ll make, spend, and save in any given period of time (week, month, year). Remember, nothing is set in stone. The roadmap is there to show you the possible routes and help you make detours when life plops roadblocks in the way. By checking the map beforehand, you become aware of the options and make better informed decisions. You are in the driver’s seat taking the wheel. You are the one leading the way based on the route you have chosen to take.
2. Accountability Tool
I don’t know about you, but I am not always the best with my time, money, or energy. Sometimes it helps to have little reminders along the way to get back on track. Budgets do just that – they help keep you and your finances on track. How you create your budget is up to you – whether it’s with pen and paper or on an electronic device.
When you start to take control of your finances you gain the insight to forecast and plan for the inevitable, as well as the surprises. You gain an individualized “buddy-on-your-shoulder” who scoots you back on track when things get wild. What do I mean by this?
Setting goals and creating a budget may be the first step to your “dream life” but they’re definitely not the last. In fact, they’re the warm-up to the marathon.
Let’s say all of your friends are going on a trip. Of course you’re going to want to go too – who wouldn’t?! But before you hop on board, that shoulder buddy is going to tap you on the noggin and remind you to check your budget. Recently had unexpected car maintenance or spent too much on a shiny new item? Perhaps a trip isn’t in the books this time – or, get creative and suggest a more budget-friendly option. Your budget isn’t just a place for you to track numbers. It is the tracks in the snow to let you know if you’re on the right path and what to do if you’re not.
3. Life Stepping Stones
Want to know a secret? Actually, want to know 2 secrets? First, if you’ve read this far, kudos. Because as much as I love budgets, you may not – but at least you’re taking the time to educate yourself and make better decisions because of the information you’re gathering. I encourage you to keep going. The second secret, the fun one, is that this is the exciting part of this post. Yup! Bust out the balloons because this is where the party planning begins.
Want to know why I love budgets so much? They’ve paved the way for a bunch of major opportunities in my life, 8 of which I share here. If you want the Coles Notes version, it’s simple: budgets help you build the life you want. They set the stage for your goals, your dreams, your hopes, and your wishes to become reality.
This is a tool that helps you build the life you want.
This is not magic. It is definitely not an overnight fix. You will not get what you want tomorrow or even next month (that, I can promise). What you will receive, is the immense satisfaction of having struggled and worked hard to achieve your goals. Despite social media algorithms messing with our psyche through the instant gratification of likes, nothing matches the level of fulfillment and pride of delayed gratification.
TMc’s Budget Tip
Your budget is a tool, not a prison sentence, and should be viewed as a stepping stone. Focus on the positive benefits and it will be much easier (dare I say fun?) to stick to the guidelines you’ve set. Attitude is everything, my friends!
Visit Travel with TMc on Instagram to save bite-sized budget information, tips, and tricks in your pocket. Curious how I’ve afforded 10 years of travel and living abroad? Check out how to Pay Yourself to Travel and make travel an accessible reality instead of an Instagram mirage.