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The Budgeting Carousel

By Brittany Dale

Today, my friends, I'm being honest.

Sometimes budgeting sucks. There, I said it. Penny pinching can be very tedious and constricting. At times I feel like a nag to both myself and my boyfriend. I think we all love to see results immediately and saving money doesn’t necessarily have a tangible reward right away. Being fairly strict with our budget sometimes requires saying no, and dangit, saying no just isn't as fun.

We received our tax returns this week and I am split in two. I want to make myself apply each penny to appropriate places to maximize the funds while I also want to go to a nice dinner with my guy or buy something just for fun. The wish list my boyfriend has and the one I keep silent rises front a center when it feels like we have extra money. It is fun and energizing to feel like we aren't controlled by money and having extra feels like freedom. I want to run wild and free, dollar bills blowing behind me, because I have so many. Except life isn't a Geico commercial. Boo.

Photo: bubblews.com

Before I go back to reminding myself that my sacrifices now will make a more solid foundation later, apparently I would rather whine a little first. I find difficulty in balancing what feels like unnecessary spending and sending every penny we get to our debt or savings account. I wish I had a little financial person sitting on my shoulder giving me constant advice. I have heard people say “pay yourself first” but I think those people are referring to my savings account and not a trip to the clothing store (even if it would be the second hand clothing store).

Money controls everything and I despise it.

We are at the mercy of our credit scores, our debt to income ratio and the size of our paychecks. Sure, I could move off the grid somewhere far away, farm my own food, use dirt and slug juice for shampoo and rebel against commercial control. Can we be realistic though? I really like my flushing toilet and running water. I love the solid roof over my head and I'm grateful that we can buy groceries and gas and truly afford the things we need and most of the time the things we want. Yet, my want is often greater than my ability to afford it. Does this dilemma become a matter of retraining ourselves to live on less? The things that I understand as a luxury like that new Hummer X5LT Gas Guzzler, diamond studded clothes for my dogs or a jumpy castle are all easy for me to resist because I understand they are over the top. What about the other stuff that doesn't seem so luxurious like the shampoo I like that makes my hair really soft, or hiking boots or exactly 1,000 containers and wall to wall shelving to delicately organize all of our odds and ends? My organizing “problem” is beside the point here. Those things don't feel over the top but if I am being honest with myself - truly honest - should I be spending money on things like that, even if my bills are already paid? If we ever want to be debt free, purchase a home or have extra spending money each month then the answer is no, I shouldn't be spending money on things that we don't absolutely need. And we are back to being helpless to money.

Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows.” Photo: dreamstime.com

Is there a balance? Do we find a magic number that allows us to pay our bills, save for the future and purchase the things we want or is it true that the magic number increases, continually growing just ahead of our income. Sometimes I feel like we live in a constant race where “just a couple hundred dollars more” will get us across the finish line. Each time my income increases (although it hasn't increased much) my finish line moves. My want is always greater than my have.

Is there a way out of the race? How can we find a balance and live in peace with the money battle?
 

COMMENTS

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I think of budgeting like dieting.  You cannot deny yourself everything or eventually you’ll end up eating a whole box of donuts in a corner by yourself (or, in the budgeting world, buying $200 of clothes you don’t need). You have to find a balance.  You take that tax return and put most of it towards savings, bills, etc and then you take some and go splurge! Buy those hiking boots that will last years and years and help you to enjoy “free” outdoor recreation!




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