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I get it, you’re thinking that you don’t need a budget, that it’s restrictive and limiting. It’s only what people who have no money do. I mean, come on, the rich don’t budget. Do they?
The sad truth is that budgeting is looked at with the same stink eye as frugality. It’s a measure people only take when they’re broke.
To a certain point, the last theory is correct. Most people don’t think of creating a budget until they HAVE to. If only they knew that budgeting was the diamond in the rough for their finances.
Budgeting can completely change your life and give you the freedom that you’ve always wanted. It’s the road map that tells you how to get to your goals. In a simple word, it’s amazing!
Life Without a Budget
Now, if after you’ve heard my ode to budgets, you still think of a budget like it’s too much penny-pinching and sacrifice, and you want to run right now, hang tight, I got a shocker for you.
I, like many of you, wanted and dreamed of a lavish lifestyle, the one that would prove that I made it in life. The type of lifestyle that would make some think I was a baller (cue in the 90’s rapper, haha).
You know what I mean, right?
I wanted to drive a new Mercedes with my Louis Vuitton bag keeping me company in the passenger seat.
Anyone up to go to Bora Bora during the high season? Me!
Who wants the 5 bedroom, 2-story house in that gated community in the suburbs? Me, again!
Shopping sprees and brunch with friends? What a life.
So, naturally, a budget had no place in this dream lifestyle I was striving to have.
At one point or another, we all have lavish dreams of what we wish our lives were like.
Being Middle-Eastern, I was raised to accept the fact that people work to flaunt their success. You must SHOW that you’re rich so your mom could be proud of you.
Otherwise, you’re the poor soul who still hasn’t made it to success yet.
The breakthrough moment-Why I realized I needed a Budget
I tried really hard to keep up the facade of being rich. But, it was incredibly hard keeping up with the
Kardashians Joneses on my income.
I found myself always unhappy, and endlessly wanting more possessions. As a result, I never saved a penny.
I worked and worked….and had NOTHING to show for it. Nothing, but possessions that became meaningless a month or two after they lost their “new”-ness and began to clutter my home and my life.
It was a constant cycle of buying things to make me happy, and then running out of happiness in a month or two, only to find something else to buy to fill that void.
And for many years, I was under the notion that I needed to MAKE more money to fund my obsession, which in turn made me always resent my job, which made me even more unhappy.
But, I always thought of saving and budgeting as too restricting, and I justified my spending by thinking somehow I deserve whatever it was that I was buying, because I worked hard for my money. The cycle just kept on going for years.
Then, about 8 years ago we were buying our first house (my current forever home) and we had to make a realistic budget plan in order to make it possible to live comfortably.
My husband convinced me that a budget would help us afford the house, so I got on-board, reluctantly, at first.
Once we closed escrow, my mindset changed.
If budgeting can afford us a house, what else can it do? Something FINALLY clicked inside of me and I was ready for change.
For years, my husband was trying to get me on board with saving and living within my means, but now, for the first time in my life, I could HEAR what he was actually saying.
Working through my budget
I’m not going to lie. It was hard. Heck, it IS hard! It took everything out of me at the beginning. I was frustrated and felt so tied to this budget. There was no leg room or leeway or anything else that cut me some slack. It was me, the budget, and the bottom line. Who would win?
For several months, I went over budget. It was like being on a diet. I would do well for the first 3 weeks, and just binge spend the last week because of the deprivation…and would bust all of my bottom lines.
It was frustrating and I felt defeated all of the time. It felt so restrictive…until I realized I was doing it wrong.
Learning how to budget the right way
Learning how to budget the right way took time and practice. I knew that if I could find a way to make my budget work for me, it had potential to change everything.
I sat down and re-adjusted my budget, several times.
My original draft was unrealistic, it was more of what my spending should look like, but we know that life doesn’t work well with ideals.
Life throws money challenges your way and you’re forced to face them on the fly. So how do I create a budget that covers all of the “if” categories and still manage to save money?
Well, I literally added EVERYTHING I could think of into my budget.
I added things like eating out, gifts, kids activities, fun money, vacations, car and home maintenance. It seemed ridiculous at first, but when it actually worked, it felt amazing. I didn’t leave any uncertainty that wasn’t accounted for.
I also made sure that my budget ended at zero. A zero-based budget is one where you make sure to allocate and direct every dollar of your income into a budget category.
I also made sure to add “savings” as one of my categories. This way, I made sure to pay myself each month and start growing my savings naturally.
My “Aha!” moment
This surprisingly had me seeing my budget in a whole new light. By adding every possible expense that I could foresee, I was telling my money where to go instead of having fear that something would just come up and take it away.
For the first time, my budget (and money) worked for me!
Why a budget works!
The day finally came where I experienced the month that I would be within my budget with NO overage.
I remember talking to my husband on the phone. I will never forget the excitement in his voice as he was telling me that we were going to be able to pay all of our payments with just one of our paychecks while the other was going to mortgage and…GASP….Savings!
I thought “Did this really work?”
I couldn’t believe that something as simple as a budget can make all of my financial worries go away and give me so much to look forward to.
It was such a surreal moment for me. I started to feel a blanket of relief come over me. One that was comfy and snug at the same time, much like my budget.
It felt so good knowing that I had control over our finances and our savings.
I went from mindlessly spending to knowing exactly where every dollar went. And it paid off in such a big way!
Budgeting gives your money direction, like a GPS for your finances. It showed me the way to control my money.
Budgeting is what helped us get out of more than $105,000 in debt in less than 5 years.
What I discovered in the process
Budgeting is not synonymous with restriction.
It is not the evil that I once thought it was. Budgeting secretly spells out freedom, but it whispers it so softly that only the really focused can hear it.
Budgeting the right way can make all of your lavish dreams possible.
It is how most of the rich, STAY rich. Budgeting has afforded me my forever house, a car that I love, memorable vacations, many dining out memories with my family, and all of the financial stability a 38-year old craves.
My “budget” is my hero and I value it so much.
It’s my new BFF and I look forward to forming deeper bonds with it as time goes on.
If you’re new to budgeting and want to get started, grab the cheat sheet here.
Until next time my frugal friends, happy budgeting!