Why I need a budget

Budgeting together since '09 . . . that's how we knew we could afford this old timey photo Matt had been longing for!

Budgeting together since ’09 . . . that’s how we knew we could afford this old timey photo Matt had been longing for!

I’m a little high-strung.  So every now and again, while I’m trying to fall asleep, I imagine how I would feel if I lost some group of files on my computer.  I surprise even myself when I break into a sweat imagining if I lost access to my budgeting program and files!  Obviously I could replace this year’s budget with some work, I mainly worry about losing access to the program because it is a much earlier version of the current YNAB (stands for You Need A Budget) software and after a short 4+ years of budgeting with it, I am set in my ways.

After I calm my fears of being separated from my much-loved budgeting tool and remind myself it is stored on dropbox, I try to remember what life was like before we started budgeting.  Before budgeting, we

  • Never knew if our waxing and waning fellowship, scholarship, or loan funds would cover all of our expenses until the next semester
  • Worried about spending any money on household items, restaurants, travel, gifts, or luxury items because we didn’t know if we could afford them
  • Paid the minimum on our student loans because we didn’t know if we had the funds to pay more
  • Felt guilty when we bought anything.

If I’m being honest, it was me that was feeling guilty, and Matt that was feeling squeezed.  It caused tension in our relationship because I wanted to save the money in case we needed it later and Matt wanted to enjoy some of it.  Fortunately, despite the ever-growing student loans, we never had any other debt and we paid all of our bills promptly.

When I started working full-time, I had to convince Matt that we needed a budget.  Understandably, he was afraid that budgeting was going to make me even more strict with what I thought we could spend, but he gave it a try.  We decided to try the YNAB budgeting system because I had read about it online and it has several “rules” that appealed to my natural budgeting instincts, especially the rule that required you to live on last month’s income.

I was surprised to learn that even after four years of marriage and lots of money talk, actually setting a budget together was very difficult for me.  It was so difficult for me that I cried every single time we budgeted for months!  (I know, embarrassing!)  But sticking with it was one of the best things we ever did and has allowed us to accomplish so many things.  I feel certain that we would not have accomplished the following without budgeting:

  • Paid off more than $60k in student loan debt
  • Saved up a 20% down payment for a house
  • Paid cash for a home birth, a new oil tank, a refrigerator, and a vinyl fence for our yard
  • Adjusted to life on one, smaller income while all of our student loans are in repayment

I still tend to get panicky about money.  It will take a long time for us to get out of educational debt and I don’t like that.  I’m not sure how we will save up money for the new car that we will eventually need.  But, I know that we are chipping away at our financial goals.  More importantly for our lives and our marriage, I understand that after we decide to budget for a date night or for birthday presents for family members, we should enjoy spending the money because our true financial needs, for that month and in the long-term, are being met.

I need a budget because I never felt so free and enjoyed our money so much until I decided to record and categorize every dollar spent.  Go figure!

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