“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” ~ Albert Einstein
The Land Between: Wasn’t it Ghandi who said, “Somewhere between going bankrupt and extreme couponing, therein lies the elusive middle ground”?. (Well, it sounded like something Ghandi would say.) Much like dieting, exercise, and watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey, budgeting should be done in moderation. This does not mean that you don’t review and try to stick by your allotted funds each week or month, but it’s important that you don’t become so stringent that your daily account balance rules your every waking thought. The only thing that accomplishes is budget burnout, and then you’re right back to square one.
Let’s face it, it’s impossible to have an envelope for every single area of your life. Not only do the need categories change from month to month, but the things you desire also vary depending on the current season. If all you’re doing is knocking down debt and not saving a dime, you won’t be prepared for emergencies that could deplete your income. Never taking your family on vacation because it’s not one of your envelopes will only create resentment for your budget and overdraft their morale reserves. So, you spent a little over the weekly entertainment funds to have a nice dinner with your husband, where you talked about something other than money, or you bought yourself a new accessory after a rough day at work? This doesn’t mean you’ve blown it and should give up budgeting altogether.
Discover Your Rhythms: To achieve balance, you have to pay attention to your rhythms and use them as the guiding forces for creating your budget. Like I mentioned last week, the recommended percentages for how your money should be divided are merely suggestions. Rhythms of life include, but are not limited to work, family time, friendships, health and fitness, recreation, and spiritual practices, and everyone’s rhythms look completely different. Some people travel extensively for their jobs, requiring them to eat out more often and spend more on gas. Others work from home, making it easy to create all their meals in the kitchen and eliminating the need for a large fuel fund. Spend some time in the next week identifying your rhythms and decide what that means for your budget percentages.
Cut Yourself some Slack: Every once in a while, give yourself permission to “break the budget”. Let me clarify that this isn’t an excuse to spend mindlessly, but as part of finding balance you have to create calculated rewards for yourself. Give yourself one day each week to not think about your bills, your spending, or your saving. Do something inexpensive that feels decadent, like order coffee and a chocolate donut and read for an hour at Starbucks (my personal favorite). Or go to a high end boutique and try on everything you’d buy if you had the money, choose your favorite piece, and then drive yourself to Target to get the lookalike for 20 bucks or under. (If it makes you feel better, you can always write Marc Jacobs on the tag in permanent marker later). The point is to treat yourself without going off the deep end. You’ll enhance your quality of life and make it easier to stay on track the rest of the week.
Join me next week where the discussion will center on the difference between being thrifty and cheap, how to deal with friends that make you spend, and why even millionaires should have budgets. I love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment. Happy Friday!