I love budgets. I love talking about budgets. I love helping people start budgets. I. Love. BUDGETING!!!
I regularly FaceTime dear friends, and we sit and work on our budgets. I’ve been called a nerd. I’ve been called budget-crazy. And I will shout about having a budget from the rooftop of every building I can just to get the word out.
You need a budget. Let me tell you why.
When people hear the word “budget,” they want to avert their eyes. What I’ve come to realize is that when people hear, “We have a budget,” they think, Oh I see. You have crippling debt and are barely making it by. That’s not always the case.
But I will say, that’s exactly what I thought when my dear friend Christine first offered to help us start a budget. We don’t need that, I thought. And it took a solid 5 years before I decided to ask her more about budgets. After that, my eyes were opened.
She told me (in all her seasoned milspouse wisdom) that, “having a budget simply means assigning all of the dollars you own a job.” Oh. Well, I like being the boss. That might just be something I can get down with.
We set to work assigning every existing and incoming dollar a job. Gone were the days of not knowing how much Christmas was going to cost. All the money was there when we needed it because we assigned some incoming dollars a “Christmas” job every month. Gone were the days of a huge emergency costing a fortune (and for some of you, maybe a credit card payment). We were able to fly home for a funeral and pay for everything because the money was already there. Gone were the days of being caught off guard, unprepared, and scrambling to decide how to pay for things.
We have a budget = We have a plan.
Another misconception that I hear is, “I couldn’t do a budget because I don’t want to restrict myself.” I can happily say I have never once felt restricted on a budget. More conscience of my spending? Absolutely. Less likely to go out to eat an extra time during the month because I know I’m out of “Eat Out Money?“ You betcha. Restricted? No.
I think moderation is important. I think self control is important. And I think understanding that going over in one category takes away dollars that have been assigned a job somewhere else is great. It adds a level of accountability to spending that I think is important. Which brings me to…
2. Nothing to Hide
Here’s something you should know about me. I love Target. I love coffee. And I looooovvvveee to drink coffee while I am at Target. Early in our marriage and before we budgeted, it was very easy to go to Tarjay and check out with a much higher bill than I anticipated. Then later, my husband would ask me about it, and it was like I had no recollection about the bags full of goodies in my closet! That conversation was never an easy one.
But now, when I go to The Happiest Place on Earth (get outta my face, Disney), it’s too easy to put that transaction into my budget. Oh, you bought some tops? Great! Take it out of the “Clothing” line. You also bought several unnecessary things from the Dollar Spot? We’ll call those “Household Items.” That coffee? Take it from the “Entertainment” line because you deserve a little fun in your life. There’s no hiding what I’ve spent or what my husband has spent.
It’s easy to track down where our money is coming, going, and staying, because we log each transaction and there’s nothing to fight about. We discuss our budget. We look it it and move things around. But we don’t fight because we aren’t hiding anything and can face each other in total accountability for our spending. Trust me, if you are fighting about money in your marriage, I am a firm believer that a budget can be of some help! But where do you start?
3. It’s Easier Than You Think
I’ve talked a bit about “logging” transactions. That sounds horrible, I know. I used to use a spreadsheet and had to do math; it made me cry sometimes. But the easiest and most beneficial budgeting tool that I could ever imagine came into my life and has my allegiance for all time: You Need A Budget. That’s the actual name of it. If you are a seasoned user, we prefer YNAB. And also we call ourselves YNABers, there’s merch and Facebook groups…but We don’t have to get into it.
YNAB makes budgeting easier than you can imagine. It links directly to your accounts (not in a way that money can be pulled from them!) so that each transaction you make comes through. You create your budget lines, your goals (savings OR payoff), and you approve/change transactions. The best part: YNAB DOES ALL THE MATH. There’s no tears from me anymore. My calculator sits collecting dust (Yes. I used an actual calculator instead of my phone in the old days) while my mind sits in peace knowing that my money is working for me.
I love that it very low cost: $11.00/mo or $84/year. You can access it from both the computer and the app on your phone. Guys, budgeting has NEVER been so easy! They offer free classes constantly, from setting up to paying off debt. They do it all. They even offer a free trial month to get your budget legs under you. YOU NEED A BUDGET. And so do I. So I use YNAB.
Of course, there are other budgeting programs out there. I’ve never used them, so I can’t vouch for them. I’m certain they all have their positives and negatives. But I can say, wholeheartedly, that I love YNAB and the way they do things! Again: NO MATH. So I am signed up for forever!
Budgets don’t have to be scary.
They don’t have to be taboo to talk about.
Budgets aren’t just for people with debt (although I highly recommend starting a budget to pay off your debt! You’d be surprised at how seeing the money you spend in real time will change how much money you’re willing to throw at debt!).
Budgets are a great way to build marriages, to steward your money, and to take control of what is already yours. Christine, my budget-sensei and real life friend always says, “It’s your money. You should make it do what you want it to.” I couldn’t agree more.