Message from Joe: Today our friend Sarah takes the driver’s seat to talk about budgets. What do you think about loosening the budget strings a little? Sarah, take it away!
Balancing life and a budget
“We can’t afford that,”
“There’s no room in the budget,”
“Maybe next month.”
….any of these statements sound familiar?
If we’re not careful, we can let our budget control our lives. Sometimes, emergencies happen (which pro-budgeters are always prepared for), but what about if you just really crave a meal out or you see something at the store you just have to buy? Do you have to say ‘no’ every single time because of your budget?
I would like to hope not, but budgeting can sometimes get the best of us.
I know for me, I’m almost always stressed about money. I’m a stickler for a budget and hate spending money on anything not deemed “necessary.” That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally go to Starbucks or toss a tank top in the cart at Target, but I do feel guilty every time that happens—even though I work hard, save, invest and am growing a business.
So where do you draw the line?
If budgeting is beginning to take over your life in a negative way, you probably should rethink your plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
*Living below your means is always advised, but you don’t need to live on such a tight budget that you don’t enjoy life.
Do you enjoy your day-to-day life?
Do you feel deprived?
Are you living astronomically below your means & feel like you’re missing out?
As I mentioned, I tend to budget to the extreme. Since having kids, I’ve gotten better…but not much. One of my goals for this year is to relax more and enjoy life more. If this means taking a spur-of-the-moment road trip, I’m going to do it. It may mean eating dinner out because the day was just so hectic and I want to be served instead of worrying about cooking. It also may mean I learn to throw a few unnecessary items in the shopping cart without feeling guilty.
How to budget while still enjoying life
Create a loose budget. While some people need to know where every single dollar is going, I like to create (and hit) savings and investing goals, pay all my bills (of course) and enjoy the rest. Life is meant to be enjoyed, especially if you work hard and are good with your money. A “loose” budget may mean you don’t budget an exact amount for groceries, eating out and entertainment, but you combine the categories and adapt to what fits your needs in that particular month.
Allow yourself some wiggle room. If your savings goal is $1,000 per month and your variable expenses are $1200 a month, perhaps save $850 per month and give yourself a little more money for the everyday expenses. If you don’t spend it, transfer it back into savings. *Note: This only works for those that are saving generously. If you’re not currently saving, it’s best to live on a tight budget until you have a little more flexibility in your finances.
Realize that it’s OK to have nice things if you can afford them. I’m not talking about keeping up with the Joneses here, I’m simply stating that if you work hard and have a financial plan in place, it’s OK to decorate your home, live in a nice area and perhaps even drive an SUV. I used to believe I should only have the minimum amount that I needed. While that is true, it’s perfectly OK to have a bit more. A recent example would be our decision to rent a large rental home. Do we need all this extra space? No. Do we like it? Hell yes! We have room for our girls to run around, a big kitchen perfect for cooking healthy meals and plenty of space for guests.
Focus on what really matters in life. I had an interesting realization a few months ago. If we lived in a small house and I died, would I be happy we never upgraded? Nope, I wouldn’t care. At the same time, if we upgraded into a big house and I died, would I be happy I spent my last few months in a large home? Nope, not at all. The only thing I would hope for is that I spent my last few months with my loved ones. That’s when it hit me that money really is so very minute in the grand scheme of things. I am so thankful for my family and that we’re all healthy and we get to spend time together.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can go out and spend whatever you please, but it does mean (for tightwads like myself) that it’s perfectly OK to loosen up the purse strings a bit. If an opportunity to do something with my family comes up, I’m taking it. If the kids are up super early one morning and Starbucks will make my morning a bit brighter, I’m getting it. And if I see something at the store that isn’t on my list, I’m going to buy it without feeling guilty. All within reason, of course, but let’s start enjoying life!
Thanks, Sarah! Everyone, go check out Sarah’s personal finance blog, The Frugal Millionaire. She’s a freelance writer who just moved to Charlotte, NC from Phoenix, AZ and is enjoying life on the east coast. In her spare time, she tells me that she enjoys baking, spending time outdoors and hanging out with her husband and daughters. I think you’ll like following her personal journey.