Can a Budget Give You Freedom?

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Can a budget give you freedom, or does it have to be restrictive, controlling, and so tight that it makes you feel like a boa constrictor is clamping down on your wallet so tight that it could make a dollar bill scream?

The word budget is almost a dirty word to some. If your funds are low and there’s never enough money to go around, that’s definitely cause for concern. If you’re living in lack or chronic poverty, it’s frustrating to not know how you’ll be able to pay the water bill, the rent, and groceries all in the same month. Robbing Peter to pay Paul gets old quickly. But when your situation is different – and you truly do have the funds needed to cover all the month’s expenses when you start off – having a game plan can set you up for success. Rather than looking at a budget as a dirty word, here are some ways that a budget can give you freedom.

Freedom to make choices: When you make a general guideline for where your money goes each month, you get to make choices. You get to decide. You’re the boss! Do you want to eat out this weekend, or would eating out during the week be better? In which setting, at which time, can you get better tasting food? Will you have more fun ordering take-out at work or does it make more sense to pack your daily meals?  What about at home  – on what nights does it make more sense to cook rather than eat out, when considering your other obligations? Budgeting ahead of time can give you freedom to make informed choices rather than making impulse buys when you’re tired, stressed, or hungry. This might sound like a silly example, but for most people, food costs take up a huge chunk of the funds.

Freedom to enjoy: The ability to budget gives us freedom to enjoy the fruits of our labor to the max. Choosing yes to the items and experiences we only truly want or truly need makes our work more worthwhile. With the freedom to enjoy what we’ve purchased, we reduce the items that will sit in our closets or on our floors unused and unwanted. With this philosophy in place of being more selective about what I buy, I’m much less likely to buy clothing that I don’t wear. I love that I have less laundry to wash, and fewer possessions to care for. I have more time to enjoy my life rather than be a caretaker of things. Enjoying what you buy, and buying what you enjoy gives freedom. If you’re not there, try starting with a budget in just one category or two and see how it goes.

Freedom to stress less and work for less: Considering how long it takes me to work for something always helps me put in perspective if the item is truly “worth it”. You can do the same. If you’re using a credit card, ask yourself if it will really be worth it for the interest rate you currently pay. How long will it take you to really, truly, finally pay for that sweater, that necklace, that ring? Will it be worth six months of paying on the cart of clothes that looks so good right now? Will those clothes even still be in style, or in season, with the changes in trends and fashions? Don’t shackle yourself to buying things just because it’s pay day; it’s ok to just “window shop”. Give yourself a budget and the freedom to enjoy your time rather than taking care of a bunch of junk you won’t like and definitely don’t need.

Freedom to give: Finally, having a budget isn’t just all about saying no and paring down. Having a budget or a spending plan can allow you to say yes. You can say yes to things that aren’t possessions, things that matter, things that can make an eternal significance in your life, your loved ones lives, and the lives of people you will never meet. Do you have the desire, the means, or the interest to support a charity? There are lots of possibilities. Will you do a charity walk or run, or will you make it possible for a child to go to camp next summer? Do you have a church that you want to support financially? When Christmas or Thanksgiving comes, is there a cause you’d like to support with a special end-of-year gift? Having a budget can give each of us just a little bit of wiggle room for those occasions that cause our heart strings to be pulled.. so we can use our freedom to give to say yes to causes we love (and no to those less worthy).

So what are you waiting for? More choices, more enjoyment, less stress, more giving… four wins that you get, only when you budget.

About This Blog: Please feel free to share any information from this site, in part or in full, giving credit to the author and providing a link to this website. Fearless Faith is a blog dedicated to family, faith and frugality. All content is copyright of the author unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Master Your Money by Ron Blue Book Review

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Do you feel like your money is in charge of you, instead of you being in charge of your money? Do you ever wish that you knew how you could master your money?

Entrepreneur and accountant Ron Blue has a few ideas in his new book Master Your Money. This is a re-vamped version of a previous edition published in the late 80s. This time, he’s made some updates, adding personal reflections to the end of each chapter. He’s also added a special writing partner, his son Michael Blue, to add commentary at the end of each chapter.

Master Your Money offers a decidedly  Christian perspective with a heavy emphasis on the spiritual aspect of money management. Probably the biggest takeaway from this book is the idea of stewardship: that God “owns it all” and that people don’t truly own their money or possessions, but are simply caretakers of the things they have. The second takeaway is the huge emphasis placed on giving. Blue talks about giving and goes beyond emphasizing tithing as important, but states that is is the first purpose money should be used for in a budget  (even before taxes, and states that tithing should be done from gross instead of net income). He discusses estate planning for charity and making faith pledges beyond what you think you can give (to help your city, the world, orphans, the poor).

There are some changes that could have been made to this book to make it stronger. There are two big issues that people in this country are suffering from financially that aren’t addressed at all in this book, which could have been updated: student loan debt and health care costs. Blue talks about types of debt, but leaves student loan debt completely out of the picture, which is concerning given that student loan debt cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy. This is a critical issue given that so many students have defaulted on their student loans and are overextended. Another issue that needs further addressing is rising health care costs. The sample budget given for health care costs seems low given that families are experiencing increased costs in the areas of premiums, drug costs, etc. This is not a political issue but a financial one, and to not address it doesn’t give an accurate picture of what everyday families are up against in their personal finances.

Another strange part about this book is in the sample budget, there’s a line item for “margin” – a 2 percent category for a family to help them increase their cash flow. Yet, there is no line item on the sample budget for saving money for the future. When savings is not automated or made intentional in some way, it doesn’t happen. I don’t know if this “margin” category is the author’s way of saying “savings”, but it seems odd that a financial expert wouldn’t urge people to be intentional about creating an emergency fund of some kind, when so many people probably do not have one. Furthermore, I’m not sure why the author wouldn’t encourage people to save more than two percent of their budget when he is urging them to give 10 percent to others. The Biblical mandate is to provide for your own household or you are worse than an unbeliever… how can a wise person prepare for the hard times that will inevitably come in the future without making plans?

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of Master Your Money from the publisher, Moody Publishers, in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

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