Photo by jonnystiles
When we created our first budget, I felt instantly liberated. I knew our absolute spending limits. As long as we didn’t go over those amounts, I knew we’d have enough to pay for everything. I no longer had to wonder, “Can we afford this?” I knew exactly what we could afford. I also knew exactly how much we could afford to put toward savings and debt.
I view our budget as a challenge. “How low can we go?” That’s my mantra when it comes to discretionary spending for groceries, entertainment, and other shopping. Every penny we go under budget automatically goes toward savings or debt, and watching those balances go up or down is my favorite part of budgeting. It’s what makes me feel so free. I’m constantly trying to lower our budget for discretionary spending so I can increase our savings and debt repayment.
Over the weekend, I had an interesting conversation with my husband about the different ways that we view budgeting. It made me realize that everyone doesn’t view budgets the same way I do. For some people, budgeting can actually work against them.
After creating our menu plan and grocery list, we realized we’d be on the low side of our grocery spending limit. I was happy, as my goal every week is to lower our spending so we can be under budget.
My husband’s first reaction, though, was to start adding things to the grocery list … things that we don’t need. “We can afford it this week,” he said. “We’re under budget.”
Wha …? I had never thought about it, but it made perfect sense once he put it that way.
I see the budget as an absolute limit. Ideally, we’ll spend less than that, but we absolutely can’t spend more. My husband, however, viewed the budget as the number we’re trying to reach. If we go under, it’s a license to spend more. We can afford it, after all. It’s in the budget.
I have to admit, the conversation somewhat blew my mind. We’ve been married since May, but this is only our second month of strict budgeting. I had no idea he viewed it this way.
The conversation illuminated a hidden danger in budgeting. By setting hard figures, are we in danger of reaching them? Can a budget actually lead to overspending? When people like my husband manage budgets, do they overspend without knowing it? Maybe they could spend less, but they’ll never know because they’re constantly reaching to meet their budget goals.
It’s a scary thought. Luckily, my husband and I are working together to amend both of our bad habits when it comes to money. He shares my views on savings and debt repayment. He also feels liberated as our savings account grows and our debt diminishes, and he agrees that the best way to make them grow and diminish faster is to spend even less than we’ve budgeted to spend.
His view on the budget was just if we’re meeting our goals, why change them? The budget is an outline of how much we can afford to spend, so why not spend it? He didn’t see the harm in spending all of our budget as long as we’re meeting our goals for savings and debt.
Though we set our budget together each month and discuss how to manage our money, I handle the day-to-day finances. So his views on budgeting haven’t caused problems in the past two months. But it could have eventually if we never discussed it and explained our differing points of view.
I guess the moral here is something about the importance of communicating about money. Mostly, I just thought it was a fascinating perspective on budgeting, and something I never even considered. I always thought that people got into financial trouble by not budgeting, and never once considered the idea that for some people, the budget can be part of the problem. Huh.