(This reflection originally posted June 25, 2016 for Budget Explorers Patreon supporters pledging $5 or more.)
When I tell people about what I’m doing, I think the main thing they wonder is why I am doing this.
That’s complicated question with a lot of different answers. I mean, sure, there’s a desperate need for financial literacy. You read in the news about people drowning in debt, be it credit card, mortgage, student loan, etc. You hear all over the place that people need to be saving for retirement ASAP or else. There’s all sorts of stuff out there about how we overspend, how we need to do this or that.
In other words, there are all these answers out there that you might think are central to why I want to be doing this.
The one reason that I find driving me most this week is guilt, or, to be more specific, feeling guilty unnecessarily.
I see folks, myself included at times, getting caught up in what they’re supposed to be doing.
So much budget advice seems to have that focus on abstaining from desires in order to increase savings/retirement/some other thing that increases barely at all and isn’t always easy to see the benefit of it.
But my feeling about budgeting is that, like so many other things, budgeting that is focused mostly on abstinence is more likely to lead to binge-spending, guilt, etc.
Instead, I think a focus on a particular kind of indulgence would be more useful.
In budgeting and in many areas, I want to encourage people to seek out what they want in life and figure out how they’re going to get there. For the brainstorming and implementation of plans to get from here to successful there, I highly recommend a tool like a Passion Planner.
It can be easy to say, “Yeah, but that’s not going to be able to happen for a long time, so why bother with it now?” until something like a Passion Planner or someone like an awesome mentor asks, “OK, but if you were going to go for it, how would you do it? What steps would you take?”
Once it’s broken down into realistic, measurable goals, it’s a bit harder to put off in the same way and feels more real, more possible.
I view budgeting as a tool that can be used to help reach almost any goal. It’s not the only tool necessary, but it’s a useful one to have on hand.
To me, budgeting isn’t about “don’t do this” or “ignore your desire to enjoy life now because otherwise when you want to retire you’ll be miserable and destitute.”
Budgeting is about having a dream and figuring out what it will take to get there. Budgeting is about being real with yourself about what your priorities are, and that is hard. It’s hard to face that some days, I would rather have a latte than pay off my debt sooner, and it’s hard to tell myself that if I make an informed choice to have something I want now, I am still working on paying off my debt — I’m just also working on making sure I don’t give up on myself before I get there.
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