by Brad Hoffer
For years, my wife and I have struggled to overcome the trap of spending more than we make. When you sit down to budget and compare your spending vs. your income, it is not much fun when you are perpetually in the hole. No matter how you look at it, it is just depressing. These negative feelings make it very difficult to continue to pay attention to your finances because no one enjoys getting bad news, week after week, month after month, and year after year.
It seemed impossible to break the cycle. Everything we were buying seemed necessary. Now, 'necessary' is a very relative word. I may feel we need to eat out because neither one of us wanted to cook that night and it was 'necessary' for our sanity to just enjoy eating out that night. I may feel we need to replace our vehicle because it is nickel-and-diming us and it is 'necessary' to have reliable transportation. It is 'necessary' to have nice clothes for my job. It is 'necessary' to fix up the house. It is 'necessary' to add a patio to the back yard. It is 'necessary' to upgrade the dishwasher because the dishes just don't seem to come clean anymore. On and on the list of 'necessary' items grows and grows. So what can you do?
I believe the only way out is to become 'fed up'. 'Fed up' with the stress, the worry and most of all, the feeling of helplessness. You then use this frustration to become determined. Determined to spend less than you make, regardless of what that means. This sometimes means taking drastic measures. But no bad habit or routine is easily broken. Changing your heart and mind regarding your money is incredibly difficult. Your way of thinking seems logical and your reasons for spending seem legit. But until you can break down the walls that cause you to continue to fall into the overspending trap, you will not succeed.
But the moment you do break the cycle and start spending less than you earned, suddenly, budgeting becomes fun, that very month! I should clarify what I mean by budgeting. To me, budgeting is the act of comparing your actual results to an accurately prepared budget. When your results are better than your budget, you can't help but be happy. You feel empowered, in control and you feel a sense of freedom.
How many times have you heard the phrase 'financial freedom'. What does this mean to you? I use to think it meant you had so much money you could just purchase whatever you wanted, when you wanted. What is interesting, I know several millionaires, and they just don't spend much money. They set limits and parameters and live within them. Why? Because financial freedom is not being able to buy whatever you want, it is buying what you can afford and living free from uncontrollable spending habits. Overspending is not freedom, whether you can afford it or not.
It is very interesting, when you spend less than you make, you find 'financial freedom', regardless of income. You are free from the financial pressures and stress that come from carrying debt and you feel more prepared for the future.
Fun budgeting is when you sit down, and realize you have some cushion, because you spent wisely, made a plan and stuck to it, or even beat it. If you want budgeting to become fun, stop overspending and you will find true financial freedom.
I have been an Auditor, Analyst, Accounting Manager, Business Systems Manager, Controller and Director of Finance over the past 15 years of work experience. In my free time I developed the XLYourFinances spreadsheet and website. I serve my community as the Vice President of the school board and enjoy golf and spending time with my family. We attend church at LCBC.