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25 Jul 2014

A budget helps us tightwads, too

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by Jesse Mecham

Recently, my fellow YNAB blogger Alex wrote a great post about how her budget allows her to afford certain indulgences. She’s right: Even if you’re living on a shoestring, you can consciously plan for the special things that bring a little sunshine into your life, without letting them drain your bank account.

But the budget isn’t just for people who want to keep their luxury spending from getting out of hand; it can also liberate those of us who tend to avoid ever spending money on ourselves, even for necessities. (Surely I’m not the only one?)

For example: I’ve been hiking with our new dog a lot this summer. And because I am a cheapskate, I’ve been doing it wearing my only suitable outdoor shoes, a pair of 3- or 4-year-old sneakers that a couple of years ago went from being my primary indoor workout shoes to my beat-up yard work shoes. These were already nearly useless for hiking when I started in May. As of last week, my toes were poking through the mesh and the smooth-worn soles were flapping with every step. (I tripped a lot.)

But, thanks to the budget, I had been saving up for a pair of actual hiking shoes. They cost $100 ($100!) — knocked down to $80 with a coupon code. That’s pretty cheap as far as light trail shoes go, but for me it might as well be a million dollars.

Before the budget, I never would have been able to justify to myself the cost of these shoes. If I had bought them, I would have felt a guilty pang in my stomach every time I put them on. I shouldn’t have indulged myself in something I could have lived without, I would have told myself, because the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

YNAB has changed that kind of thinking for me.

Now that I have a dedicated clothing/shoe category, I can plan for more expensive purchases — even for things I don’t strictly need. I always believed I didn’t deserve Nice Things, because they cost money. I felt kind of noble going without Nice Things because that proved that I was careful with money (though somehow I was always broke).

Now, thanks to the budget, I am able to spend more on myself — plus I have more money for everything else. Go figure.

I’ll probably never get over my innate tightwad tendencies. Heck, before YNAB it took me six months to pull the $7 trigger on a new manual can opener (well, I already had one that kind of worked even though it hurt my hand, and who needs two can openers?).

But my point is this: While most people tend to think of a budget as a way to control their spending, I use mine to help me be less frugal.

When I head out on my morning hike in a few minutes, I’ll be wearing my new Merrells. And thanks to YNAB, I’ll be smiling all the way.

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Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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