What Does Budgeting Really Mean?

present participle of budg·et (Verb)

  1. Allow or provide for in a budget: “the university is budgeting for a deficit”; “a budgeted figure of $31,000”.
  2. Provide (a sum of money) for a particular purpose from a budget.

Do you believe in diets? I’ve been told diets don’t work because you need a lifestyle change to lose properly and maintain your weight loss. It makes sense — most things aren’t effective long-term unless your lifestyle choices reflect the change you’re wanting to make. Same holds true for budgeting. The dictionary definition of budgeting doesn’t do the verb justice. Succeeding at budgeting has more to do with your lifestyle choices than allowing or providing for a dollar figure.

Our income(s) has fluctuated greatly over our 12+ years of marriage. So have our methods of budgeting. I can honestly say, regardless of method used, having more money doesn’t make it easier. The longer I try budgeting, the more I realize it has more to do with clearly defining my needs vs. wants, prioritizing accordingly, and being disciplined enough to follow through.

Budgeting comes down to lifestyle choices. Believe me, if done well, budgeting will affect your lifestyle. It might even define it. Once you understand what your greatest priorities are, the rest can feel like clutter.

SIDE NOTE: I remember reading a wonderful post awhile back from Amy at The Finer Things in Life regarding budgeting with discipline. It was so honestly refreshing, I would suggest you take a peek yourself. You may find it here.

Let me try to describe how budgeting works for me. 

My husband and I allot a certain amount each month for entertainment. Based on our priorities, this category has a relatively small budget. When we were determining how to spend this figure, we had to decide how important certain things were to us: Cable/movies, internet access, date nights, kids/family activities, smartphones, travel, play toys, vacations, etc.  Once we acknowledged which of these were most important to us, it became easy to cancel cable channels and survive sans smartphone for now. Our entertainment budget covers our needs with ease and portrays the lifestyle we want to lead. I couldn’t be more satisfied, even if I had that iPhone or The Food Network. Could I crunch the numbers so I could have them? Sure, but I decided they weren’t a priority to me. To say they don’t fit into my budget would be inaccurate, because they could. I have consciously made the choice not to have them.

I love chai teas. I love knowing I could pick one up no matter which direction from home I go. But I only pick one up a couple times a year. That $4 bill would add up in a hurry and I know I’d rather spend that money on better meals for my family or visiting extended family. Knowing that helps me drive by Starbucks with ease. I don’t blame my budget, I simply realize I have other things I need more.

My husband and I talk about our budget often. We like to know where we’re both at and determine if our needs have changed. We re-organize our priorities and brainstorm ways to save more, spend less, feel more fulfilled.

You don’t have to be a numbers person to do a budget well. You just have to know what’s most important to you and live accordingly. Once you decide where your money is best spent, stick to it. Own it. Make no excuses for how you’ve prioritized your needs. Be proud of how you spend your hard-earned income.

I wish the dictionary would show what budgeting really looks like. To me, it’s a reality check on your priorities and a discipline exercise on your expenditures.

How about you — What does budgeting mean to you? What do you struggle with most when it comes to budgeting? I’d love to hear and maybe delve into that further on another post. I might not have the answer, but we can strive to become better together.

Thanks for spending your time with me.

Simply striving,