Sunday, February 22, 2009

the beauty of a budget

i hate budgeting. seriously hate it. why do i hate it so much? first of all, it’s a time consuming exercise. time i would rather spend doing just about – well, anything. plus it forces you to really look at where you’ve been spending your money, which can be a painful reality. a budget hits you where it hurts. translation: following a budget can mean not being able to do some things that we really like to do. it can mean sacrifice and restriction.

sometimes the process of setting up a budget produces conflict. one of vickey’s love languages is gift giving. we do not see eye to eye when it comes to allotting a dollar amount to that category. i have a little better handle on the costs involved in maintaining and ultimately replacing a vehicle. this is another area that can bring some disagreement. what about haircuts? entertainment? see the potential for conflict here? it can take some discussion time, and patience, before any compromise, and then agreement can be made.

there’s no denying that for some couples adhering to a budget can be gruelingly painful. establishing a spending plan requires gut-level honesty with each other, sometimes even forgiveness and understanding. most definitely it means a change in spending habits. and there, boys and girls is where the rubber meets the road.

recently we established a new budget. we’ve set up a spending plan before, but in the last few years we have not followed it as closely as we’d like. with global financial developments taking their toll, our household has not been unaffected. so, in the interest of prudence – and in trying to make ends meet – we agreed it was time to visit our “budget” once more, and really make a commitment to stick to it.

we re-did our budget at the end of december. it’s been a month or so and we need to make a few adjustments. we’ll go back to the drawing board to see how we did – some areas we budgeted too high, others too low. we need to take a good look at how we did and if we biffed on the budget - find out why. honesty, forgiveness, trust, understanding. it all comes into play.

the actual following of the budget can, at times, be difficult. sure, there are things we’d like to do, that for now, we just can’t. or rather, we choose not to. saying “no” to yourself is not a popular american practice.

the good news is that we have a mutual goal – we know what we’re trying to achieve financially. and we remind ourselves constantly that sacrifice now, may pay off later. in today’s economy – the goal of many is simple - plain survival: making ends meet in spite of the loss of a job, or increasing fuel prices, or the loss of a home. for others the goal may be a comfortable retirement, college funds, a nice vacation, debt payoff, buying a home or even leaving an inheritance for your children.

any negatives of budgeting are more than balanced by the positives: living within your means, achieving your financial goals, even learning how to work together as a couple is a big plus.

when i say i hate budgeting – i mean it. but it hurts so good, if you know what i mean. as a married couple, we encourage each other and help to keep each other on track. it feels good when we see the plan successfully working. we have setbacks, everybody does. sometimes it’s two steps forward - one step back. when the setbacks come, we strategize again, adjust the figures if need be, or explore together what other options need to be considered.

if you haven’t already budgeted - there are lots of materials out there to help get you started. we recommend any of larry burkett's materials, or dave ramsey's stuff. both of their websites have free downloadable forms to help get you started. you can also explore your library, your local church, and even community professionals for what’s available.

take a deep breath and dive in. if we can do it – anybody can.