I’m going to make a confession. Although I recommend you create and use a budget, my wife and I don’t actually follow our budget. In truth, that’s not a confession because I have nothing to feel guilty about. Why? Because we have our spending under control. We’re not big spenders and we don’t buy on impulse. Our savings, giving, and bills come first. We live easily on the rest because we control our money.
I hope you, too, will be able to say the same someday. But until your spending is completely under control and you have laid a firm foundation for your finances, you need to make and stick to a budget. You can live without a budget, but first you must learn how to live within your budget.
I made my first budget when I was 15 years old. I was a very independent teenager and paid for the things I needed on my own (aside from the very basic necessities). No one taught me how to create a budget. I just understood the simple math that I cannot spend more than I earn or I’ll be in trouble. At that age, credit and loans were not an option, and I’m grateful that’s the mindset I grew up with. I learned to stick to my budget very carefully – down to the last dollar. If I spent too much money on one thing, I adjusted for it somewhere else. And I always made sure my important expenses were covered first.
This discipline of budgeting, tracking my spending, and sticking to my budget carried over into college. I had more money now, but I still had to be very careful how I spent it. Credit cards became an available option, and I hate to say that I did make some mistakes. For the most part, I stuck to my budgets very well. However, I did end up coming out of college with about $5,000 in credit card debt.
When I graduated, I made paying off my credit card debt my top priority. I promised myself I would pay it off in that first year out of college. I made a new budget and carefully watched my spending so I could put any extra money toward paying off that credit card debt. Because of my dedication, I paid off all my credit card debt in less than 10 months. I even managed to save about $3,000 in an emergency fund over that same time period! I learned the value of keeping a tight rein on my spending and avoiding impulse purchases.
After that experience of living within a tight budget, I found it much easier to control my spending. I still have a budget, but I no longer find the need to track all of my spending carefully. I look it over from time to time, but I don’t have to track every penny. Because I can control my spending and say “no” to impulse buys, I can easily live on what’s left over after my savings, giving, and bills.
You can do the same, but not until you have control over your money. If you can’t say that your spending is completely under control and your savings, giving, and bills come first, then you need to keep sticking to your budget.
Even when you’re able to live without a budget, you should still keep updating your budget every year. Why? Because it helps you see where your money is going and where you can save on your expenses. It’s also a valuable tool for figuring out how much income you’ll need in retirement. Do everything you can to get yourself to the point where you don’t need to stick to a budget any more. But do not neglect making or updating a budget just because you don’t have to follow it down to the dollar.
If you’re struggling to save anything, find yourself using credit cards to pay for essentials, or just can’t control your spending, sign up for free updates to Provident Planning so you can learn how to stick to a budget and find power to control your money through contentment in Christ.