In prior posts I talked about how finances can impact your happiness. My thoughts are that the greatest thing to do is to renew your mind, by becoming happier with less. Next, I realized that there are things that triggered negative thoughts. Developing skills to change these thoughts were helpful. Lastly, developing a plan of action is an important step to getting financially free. Since developing my goals, I learned that of greatest importance was to create a budget.
I have mentioned this before, but I have never liked budgets, I somehow believed that they stopped all the fun in the world, and totally limited everything that I ever wanted to do. Like a killjoy. A fun sucker of sorts. I never wanted to put any constraints on my spending, nor did I really want to be accountable to what I was doing.
Unfortunately, managing my money this way led to complete stress and worry about how my bills were paid, consistent overspending, and a pretty poor attitude related to money. I must admit I believed that all of my debt would magically vanish, despite my lack of any effort to rectify it.
Clearly, this wasn’t the way to solve my problem. Doing the same thing let me nowhere! In fact, my debt, overspending, and poor attitude was a constant, that at times was getting worse! If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m a google-r, a researcher of sorts, and I like to find out what others do, and bend it to work for me.
What do the experts say?
I found this awesome article about what various experts say the benefits are about creating a budget as a young adult.
In the beginning, most of the experts suggested tracking your spending to get an idea about where the money really goes. In addition, to calculating your net worth, and setting realistic goals based on this.
Once this is done, it was suggested to automate your funds (think savings) if you have difficulty staying on track, or go to 100% cash if you have problems with using those dreaded credit cards.
Recognize that fun happens, and include that in your budget too. But, make sure that you stay within your (cash) allowance, as to not have too much fun and overspend.
One of the biggest tips that stuck out to me was to change your mindset. Recognize that just because you have money, doesn’t mean it all needs to be spent!
Lastly, there is no reason to do any of this, if you have no intent on sticking with it. Take the time (at least monthly) to go over your budget, either with paper and pencil, via your computer, or on a budgeting app. Track your progress, and your growth!
Oh and of course, in addition to these things almost every expert says to eliminate debt, create a savings plan, and invest with as much free money (think an agency’s 401K matching plan) as you can.
Help is On the Way! How Creating A Budget Worked For Me
After reading through that article, and trying some things, here is what helped me:
The biggest benefit that I realized about a budget is that it helped me to identify waste. Here’s what I mean, I tracked my budget as suggested, and I don’t know about you, but I was really wasteful, and spending money on things that were non-essential? Target was my kryptonite! Grrr! For example, I’d spend $100 when I went there to buy one thing! I’d leave with some clothes, household items, pens (I’m a stationary junkie) or whatever else that may have been shiny and caught my eye.
Once I figured this out, I put some things in place. To avoid temptation, purchases are made beforehand, and they are happily awaiting my arrival at the customer service counter. Also, I don’t wander to the store randomly out of boredom anymore, I strictly go with a purpose, a list, and a money-saving app (this is totally an affiliate link btw)! By doing this, I have significantly cut down on wasteful spending.
Calculating My Net Worth
I didn’t really understand net worth, or why doing it may have a benefit. I did know that when I calculated mine, it was negative! Once I realized this, I was determined to get out of the red. I use this nifty program that helps me to track my spending, create a budget, manage my investments, AND it tells me my net worth. I didn’t realize how happy I would be to have a net worth at zero, but i totally was! Seeing my net worth encouraged and pushed me to do better! Numbers don’t lie.
Creating a budget helps with developing plans, to identify how money is spent. There is no need to readjust your funds, every dollar has a purpose. Also, (one of my greatest struggles) it helps to identify what can be deferred until a later time. For example, this has allowed me to say no to many things, because I know that I am saving up for a larger purchase.
Budgeting will allow you to know when your money comes in, and where it is going. I’ve mentioned this before, but often I spent money with the hope that everything would work out at the end of the month. Since creating a budget, I know what to expect monthly, and my month isn’t longer than my money.
Oh boy, in guessing where my money went, and hoping that things would be okay, I occasionally overspent. I can’t say that it was so bad that I was in the red, BUT there were times where I couldn’t get all of what I needed because I brought things that I wanted. Or, I just went full on hot mess with my credit card.
Now, I am honest with myself, I know the things that I like, and have added them as a line item in my budget, it’s like my own little allowance. I have control knowing what I am able to spend monthly on the things that I enjoy. When the money runs out, that’s it!
I really wasn’t able to save before, rather I did NOT save before, because I didn’t have the money. I barely paid myself first, contributed to my retirement fund, and often found myself in a pickle if something unexpected happened; like, a car repair.
Saving in general is a must, and now, I pay myself first (automatically at that) before any of my bills are paid. When life happens, I’m ready. Plus, I’m able to save more, through other means, (another affiliate link) that will secure my family’s future! There is no need to grab the credit card and incur more debt when I already have it!
Look, if I didn’t have money to save, I certainly didn’t have money to give. Barely being able to support yourself, definitely limits your ability to give or to support someone else. Now, I put aside money monthly for the specific purpose of helping others. If I want to make a donation to my favorite organization, no problem! It is an amazing feeling, to be able to help others, it makes my heart swell!
Hoping for my money to make it through the month doesn’t allow for much give, you know? It would constantly cause me stress, anxiety, and worry. Never mind that I was working crazy hours to make ends meet. In addition to stress, I was tired. In hindsight, totally not worth it. The budget eliminates me guesstimating what I have. I simply spend within my means, this allowed me to cut back on some of my hours, and get some sleep!
What Have You Done?
Implementing these strategies helped to eliminate the stressors and worries that I had related to money. By creating a budget it helped me to take control over my finances and make better decisions. I am able to do things that I was not able to do, like save and give to others, and plan for my future.
It can be a struggle, but I continue to progress each month, and I imagine that I will continue to get better going forward.
What benefits have you found from budgeting? Are any of these strategies helpful?