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.

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