Hello there, beginning budgeters!
The first three posts especially are full of practical tips for creating and implementing your first budget, while the final two tips are more about adopting the necessary mindset for successful implementation of said budget. All of them are important, so go back and catch up already! Tip #5 will be waiting for you when you return.
Before we begin, here’s a reminder of where we are in the series:
I think the best way to approach this topic is to explain what I mean by “flexible” and, just as importantly, what I do not mean. I’ll start with the latter.
What I don’t mean by “be flexible”:
I don’t mean be flexible with implementing your budget, and I don’t mean spending money all willy nilly. In other words, don’t give yourself $50 for entertainment this month, then buy tickets to the Super Bowl and justify it by saying, “Sierra told me to be flexible!” I’m telling you right now, I will not defend you when you can’t pay your credit card bill next month. No offense.
What I do mean by “be flexible”:
First, I mean give yourself a break.
If you are able to implement a budget perfectly the very first time you try it, then you’re probably a computer. And good for you. Also, you should probably have that checked out…
Your budget will require adjustments as you go. Sneaky bills will arrive in your mailbox or inbox that you completely forgot to budget for. Surprise expenses will crop up that will remind you that you should probably start squirreling away money for the next time the same thing happens “unexpectedly”.
If you had a chance to read the last post in this series, you’ll remember that many of the things that we categorize as unexpected can, in truth, be expected.
Car break down? Yeah…they do that from time to time.
Hot water heater need maintenance? Yup, that’s to be expected.
These types of surprise expenses are guaranteed to pop their little heads up in the first few months after beginning a budget. Don’t be afraid of them. As they appear, try to acknowledge them without emotion and say, “Oh, right, you live here too.” Then, give them a proper home in your budget, so the next time they show up you can say, “Hey there, little guy! I know just what to do with you.”
That is the peaceful feeling that comes with having a budget that works. And you’ll only achieve it if you stop beating yourself up.
Second, I mean give your significant other/spouse a break.
While many budgeting journeys begin with both spouses (wouldn’t it be way more awesome if the plural of “spouse” was “spice”? Just saying…) on board, probably an equal number begin when only one spouse is ready to make a change. That might mean having a difficult conversation or two. Or admitting some not-so-great realities about your own spending. Or signing a contract in blood. OK, maybe not that last one…
Communication and grace are essential components of a new, shared budget. Communication because budgeting is a partnership that requires continual, reciprocal conversation. Grace, because you probably each have your own ideas about how your money should be spent. And both of you deserve the same amount of say in this process. Be kind to one another.
I am speaking from experience when I say that both of you are more likely to actually stick to the budget you’ve laid out when it includes things that are important to each person. It’s about compromise, people. Nobody likes feeling deprived. Nobody likes feeling like their interests don’t matter.
And third, I mean actually take a break.
Not from the budget, but in accordance with the budget. Decide on a reasonable amount of money that you’ll allow yourself to use for pure enjoyment, and (here’s the kicker) actually allow yourself to enjoy it!
In our budget, we give ourselves a weekly dollar amount that we are allowed to spend any which way we choose. No questions asked. It gives us just the right amount of freedom to feel like we can scratch that frivolous spending itch without completely derailing our carefully crafted budget.
Nobody can think about saving money 24/7, and who on earth would want to?? We all need a mental, physical, and emotional break from thinking about our finances, especially if we’re in a situation that is stressing us out. So, be proactive, and expect that you will in fact need to take a break and live a little. Just make a plan, and stick to it.
If we keep these principles of flexibility in our minds as we create and implement our budgets, we will be much better equipped to deal with those inevitable feelings of frustration, disappointment, and failure that sometimes come with making significant changes to our spending habits. And if we’re lucky, having a plan for our spending may help us replace those undesirable emotions with feelings of gratitude, control, and peace.
Creating positive, lasting financial habits is a process.
And I know you’ve probably heard this a million times before about a number of different things, but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s simply the truth: this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Don’t expect to find all the answers right this minute. Don’t expect to have all of your financial problems solved by the time the sun rises tomorrow. Lasting change does not happen overnight.
Instead, try to accept where you are in your own financial journey. That doesn’t mean raise the white flag and give up on any hope of gaining control over your money. It means, recognize your position and make a solid plan to better that position for the future.
And above all else, be flexible.
I sincerely hope that you’ve found value in what you’ve read here. If so, please consider sharing this post with a friend who could use a gentle nudge in the right direction!
Now, it’s your turn. What are some strategies that have worked for you as you journey toward financial freedom? Please share!