You just put the finishing touches on that budget for the month. You have checked over all the categories and you are thinking how simple this will be. And just think about all of the money you are going to save. Wow, you are going to kick that debt to the curb sooner than you think. This couldn’t be any easier…until Day One. Life happens. And that beautiful budget that you spent hours planning, suddenly becomes your best work of fiction.
Be prepared for anxiety. Be prepared for shock. Be prepared to feel completely defeated. Those first few days or months on a budget are hard.
In my first month, I went to the grocery store and was proud of myself for spending right on target for my weekly budget. But then, I realized I forgot a necessary item or two that I needed for the week, and when I got done with my second trip (and $25 later) I was over budget. Then I realized that although my husband and I had discussed the budget, we hadn’t really communicated on what that meant. I just assumed that he would cut things out, like his morning habit of stopping at the gas station to grab some lunch for the day. Ouch! Those numbers add up fast, and I hadn’t put them in the budget. Within the first week, I was already close to $100 over budget.
Over the course of that first month, I went through a roller coaster of emotions. The worst was all the stress. Every time a new cost came up, I fretted about it. I wondered, how in the world this was ever going to happen. How were we going to stay on a budget and make it work so that we could pay off debt and start investing in our future?
Well, after 30 long and agonizing days, our budget actually worked out pretty close to actuals. You see, over the course of that first month, I was forced to prioritize my spending, to slow down and think about my purchases, and to make adjustments and tell myself “No”, or “Not this month”.
And after that first month, was I glad that I had started a budget? You bet! I learned a lot of lessons that have only helped me over the course of the following months. Now, I don’t stress or fret as much with every purchase, but I still slow down, think about whether or not I need this, or even if I need it now. Over the course of a few months, I got better at budgeting, and communicating with my husband. We still have large unknown purchases come up from time to time, like a $600 air conditioner fix. But, we have generally been on with our budget from month to month. Even when those big expenditures come, I am able to adjust or hold off on other purchases until the following month.
The process of doing a budget helps you learn so much about yourself and your habits. It has definitely made me feel more comfortable with money and how to handle it for my family. I know when I need to slow down on purchases or put things on the backburner. Living on a budget does not need to feel confining or stressful. Keep it simple and generally things will work out. Just continue to be intentional with every decision.