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If you had asked 9 years ago, if there were benefits to budgeting, I would have said cats with hats had a better benefit.
In less than a decade, a whole world evolved, mine.
I was a girl who avoided personal finances like people avoiding eye contact after a bathroom break. I struggled to control expenses because I didn’t focus on where I spent. Without parental supervision, I assumed it would all work out. Plus, math was a skill I struggled with and instead of trying to improve, I evaded it.
Eventually, I had to pay attention. My learning process started with reluctance and forced effort. It was many daylight-saving cycles before I could appreciate what a budget could do.
After budgeting for almost a decade, I have a listicle of budgeting benefits, but these are the top 3.
#1: Cheerful Control
The sense of control I have over my finances feels like I’m the captain of a Boeing 747 and being able to land the burdened beast with the grace of a swan.
Sometimes I have little control of expenses including surprise medical bills or insurance deductibles or a train ticket for a cowboy dinner. In most instances, I have control because every cent is budgeted and has a job. The intense insight is how I can adjust midmonth for spending, gas, and restaurants.
Does that mean I never go over budget? The scourge of the west says, no! I busted my budget last month while traveling to California, purchasing tickets to a 5-course dinner/beer tasting, and admission for the Charlies Russel Chew Choo. My spending was more wild than restrained, but I can flex my budget by rolling extra expenses into the following month. Then, I temper the spending glut with no-spending sprees. I can absorb costs, because memory and past budgets reflect boom and bust cycles too.
No-spend days, weeks, and months are a skill worth its weight in saving when going from spending splurges to purges.
#2: Measuring Progress
It’s hard to measure how far I’ve come if I don’t keep track. Budgeting and keeping track of expenses is how I can set up a sinking fund with an allotment or predict the ideal amount for an emergency fund (shout out to the 6-week furlough!).
A budget is how I confidently move forward with financial plans for the future. There are many things I hope to accomplish that don’t require money like 2022’s intentions of learning constellations and playing a song on the piano, thank the 21st century YouTube for free learning platforms. But most items on my life list are needy and demand payment.
Budgeting is how I leverage past information to create a future boon. Just like the stock market, past results don’t guarantee future performance, but that doesn’t stop me, or millions of others, from using that information to set a course for the unknown.
#3: Plucky Planning
I shared gobs of insight into my personality when I stated the first budgeting benefit is feeling control over my finances. I can’t help it, it’s a human thing alongside climate-controlled houses, manicured parks, and light-defying daylight savings. What a misleading term, you can’t save daylight humans!
With control comes the joys of planning, lists, and pretending to keep chaos at bay. In the before times, it was hard to plan because I didn’t know what my future finances would be.
In some ways, that hasn’t changed. I don’t have guaranteed year-round employment, but a budget absorbs some uncertainty similar to a bladder infection absorbing antibiotics.
I can plan events like the color run, a silent meditation retreat, or a trip to India because I have budgeting benefits that will achieve big goals even with a possible furlough.
If I wasn’t tracking spending, I would end up with a checking account riddled with fees and overdraft charges, which is what happened over a decade ago. It took effort to build and stick with a budget and there were plenty of false starts, but once the system was set, it became a way to leverage past failures for future success.
Budgeting was the easiest and hardest part of getting my financial life together. Initially, the effort was time-consuming and felt like I would be better as a cat herder than tracking my purchases.
But establishing a budget was the platform that would springboard my growth in personal finances. Once I had a budget, I could build an emergency and sinking fund, then I could start aggressively investing.
Besides, budgeting money is a way to avoid spending money. Per Darius Foroux, “An active person is less susceptible to desiring unnecessary things.”
Turning a log into a kayak would have been easier, especially since most of my adult life I’ve made less than 30k.
Little pay is hard to maneuver a cumbersome tanker of hopes for early retirement, but it’s how a budget is benefiting my boatload of dreams.