I don’t usually get sucked in by YouTube ads. But when I do, I buy a $1,000 mattress sight unseen because I love the commercial and I really, really want a nice mattress for once.
However, at the same time in my current financial situation, spending even $20 on anything I don’t strictly “need” to survive the day feels utterly extravagant.
To contrast my devil-may-care mattress splurge, I’m currently wearing a pair of $4 thrift store shoes to my brand-new job, which also may or may not have been chewed on by one of the dogs I sit for as a side hustle (spoiler: they have been).
This may seem like a contradiction in budgeting practices. But here’s the thing: This type of spending is precisely what budgeting is all about.
Budgeting is about spending less so you can spend more
“Budgeting” often gets a bad rap. People hate budgeting because they think it involves slashing all of their worldly expenses and living like a pauper — or at least feeling hella guilty every time they do choose to spend some fun money. But that is not the case at all.
Budgeting, my friends, is about choosing which things are a priority to you and which ones aren’t, and using those priorities to make your money fit your life.
For me and my husband, budgeting means making choices that help our limited income fit our wants and needs as much as possible. We cut back drastically on the things that don’t matter to us — like the possibility a coworker will ever closely examine my feet enough to know I spent less on my shoes than she did on her coffee. This allows us to afford the things that do matter to us — like investing in what wound up being the best thing to ever happen to two people with sleep disorders and pain problems (btw, I’ve bought the company’s pillow too, and I’m just as unabashedly in love with it).
Budgeting is all about priorities, baby
Budgeting doesn’t have to mean miserly number-crunching or shaming yourself when you buy something just because it makes you happy. All it means is asking yourself which things you value and which things you don't, then making changes that allow you to concentrate your spending more on those things that you truly desire.
For example, maybe you’re passionate about staying healthy and being green, but you couldn’t care less about the latest fashions. So you splurge on organic food and all-natural cleaning products. But your wardrobe consists of two pairs of pants and a handful of shirts, and that's totally OK because that's how you choose to balance your budget.
Or, maybe experiences are more important to you than things. So, you choose to contribute to your travel fund each month, but your cell phone is from the Zack Morris era and your car can be best described as a hooptie. Again, it's the personal choice to spend, and save, where you want and need.
So, unless you're one of the very few people who has an unlimited supply of money at your disposal, it's time to budget what you have by simply understanding where your priorities lie. Simply start by asking yourself one important question: What matters most to me?