Thursday, August 20, 2009

Conversations on the Benefits of Having a Budget

So the other night I was sitting with a friend of mine, we'll call her Maxine (since that is what she calls herself) and we were discussing budgets. Maxine has a seasonal job. She works very hard fall through spring, but in the summer her work is so slow that she usually is laid off. I should note this is an actual lay off - unlike what is happening now where "lay off" essentially means "fired" - she is rehired again once work picks up.

Maxine was telling me that for the first time, she used a budget to plan out her erratic year, and she was really happy with how it came out. "I love my budget," I sighed dreamily. Maxine looked at me, puzzled. She had discovered how good a budget can be, but hadn't yet found the love. "Why?" she asked. "Tell me why you love your budget."

So I did...

Prior to having a budget, I equate my financial situation with walking through the woods - blindfolded. I knew that there were rivers and bears and trees and grassy meadows out there, but I didn't know where they were. People say that ignorance is bliss, but not in my case. Sure, I could pretend to be happy because I didn't see any danger ahead, but inside I always felt lost and scared - never knowing when something terrible was right in front of me. Even the good times were filled with fear - was the sun shining on my face because I had made it to a big sunny clearing, or was I standing on the edge of a cliff?

Over the last year I've been perfecting my budgeting strategies. Simply figuring out what bills I had to pay and how much money I needed each month was like taking that blindfold off. Sure, there was still danger, but at least now I knew where it was. Suddenly, I could see the little roots across the trail that used to trip me up. I could easily avoid them. Do you know that in the last year, when I have had to come up with nine hundred dollars each month and seriously feared foreclosure, I have never had one late bill? That I have never had to use my overdraft protection? And in fact, I have had far more money in my account than I ever had before? The biggest step was just taking off that blindfold.

Then I have tweaked that budget, tried new budgeting challenges and even created an extra budget based on time, which was like creating a map. The blindfold is off, I can see what is ahead of me, and now I even have a map so I can plan ahead. Sure, nothing is perfect, surprises could still pop up, but the big obstacles I can avoid or find my way across. It is so much easier to find the sunny meadows now.

Don't get me wrong, I still wish I had more money.. who doesn't? I have big goals and am working hard to make them happen, but I while I still have my own internal drive, I don't have nearly as much fear. Getting your financial house in order isn't about being super organized or being great with numbers. It isn't about sacrifices, suffering or scrimping. It is about putting everything on automatic so you don't have to worry anymore. It's making it so you can just glance around and see where you are in the woods, rather than having to feel your way every inch. People sometimes say to me about how much work it must take to do what I do, and I just keep trying to tell them, yes it is a little work - but all it does is make life so much easier.



Photo by: kwefeldein
via fickr

11 comments:

getting stuff done said...

that is such a great analogy. it is exactly what it is like. I keep trying to explain to the hubster. He has grasped that we ought not just spend unwisely and that it is good to spend money for no reason. But it is not quite the whole picture. It is having a map. It is understanding what is there and working out what to do with it.

well said

Anonymous said...

I've always paid attention to my spending, etc. but never made a budget. Until this week. I think I love it...not sure yet. Because taking a look at everything right there on the paper is daunting. I am a blindfold kind of gal, and right now my eyes are adjusting to the light. But I can say, that if it were not for you, I wouldn't have done this budget thing at all. Thanks LD!

Dawn said...

Getting Stuff Done - I can see how it is hard for people to understand. It seems so much easier to just live without. But it is like anything - life is easier with a plan. Maybe once your guy gets used to the budget it will start to become clear.

Anonymous (LT) - it is daunting at first. But give it time, and don't be afraid to tweak! It has taken me a long time to work it out so it goes smoothly - sometimes I would plan on too much, sometimes it would be too little, but Goldilocks has finally gotten it to be "just right." If you ever need help on how to get all that financial stuff on auto-pilot, you let me know. After all we have enough to deal with - money shouldn't be an additional worry. You, me, and Miss Maxine could swap stories over cocktails.

RTC said...

What wonderful mental pictures! I want my adult and soon to be adult children to read this post.

Dawn said...

RTC - Thank you!! What a lovely thing to say. You made my day!

Catie said...

I love, LOVE my budget too. And the funny thing is... I rarely make budget!! You'd think that would add stress to my life, right? But if I go off the track, I know how much and why. I'm not standing in the woods wondering if I'm just a little lost or if the bear is going to eat me.

Dawn said...

Catie - that is a very, very good point! I keep tweaking mine so now I rarely go over, but I still do sometimes - that's life. Still, like you said, at least I know the damage!

Miss M said...

I love to budget! In fact I wrote a post about it. Seriously, I visit my budget spreadsheet 5-6 days a week, updating our spending and playing with numbers. Am I weird?

I actually started budgeting years ago but it took me a long long time to get it right. My early budgets were completely unrealistic, and hence not very useful. Only now have I harnessed the power of a budget.

SS4BC said...

Dawn - what a fantastic post. So inspiring. =)

And I love the analogy!

Dawn said...

Miss M - No, I don't think you are weird at all! I've did a lot of tweaking to my budget over the last year. Now it is starting to get automatic, so I don't need to as much. I agree with you on unrealistic budgets - me too! I did the same thing. I suspect that many people who struggle with budgets have had that problem at one point or another.

SS4BC - Thank you so much!!

Saver Queen said...

This is excellent inspiration!