Your Financial Life on a Treadmill


Nobody wakes up on some random day, sees the bright sun streaming through their window, and thinks, “We need a budget.”

I didn’t. And I’m a budgeting Freak of Nature.

No, my wakeup call came entirely from a Big Event on my horizon: marriage.

I’ve always been a bit of a personal finance geek. When I was 14, my dad gave me Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace” and I read it in a few days. Before I graduated from high school I had read “The Millionaire Next Door” and “The Richest Man in Babylon.” It all made pretty good sense to me.

Because of that indoctrination, student loans were never an option with my education. And because I was getting married with three years of schooling still pending, with debt not an option, I thought my wife and I would need a budget.

We did (so do you).

Most anyone can walk on a treadmill with no degree of incline, at a steady two miles per hour.

Many of us have done this with our finances in the past. Everything’s going fine, we’re keeping pace with the treadmill, and we’re not even sweating. We could do this for a LONG time.

Then some Big Event happens.

Hours are cut at work, so the speed of the treadmill increases to 2.2 mph. You can still make things work. The cut was pretty small.

Or you and your spouse find out you’re going to have a baby! So you’re walking on the treadmill and someone hands you a 25 pound bundle of joy that you now need to carry while keeping pace.

Maybe you’ve outgrown your apartment and decide it’s time to purchase a house. The house payment is a stretch. The treadmill’s incline bumps up to 5.0.

Your oldest needs braces. The kids summer camp bills are due, and the car just broke down (again). Christmas is coming. The vacation that you take with your family every year is in six weeks.

The treadmill is now going faster, at a steeper incline, and you’re having to carry your 25 pound bundle of joy. You’re sweating, you slip, grab on to the railing for some support, and then realize that walking won’t cut it, so you break into a slow jog.

You can’t hold that pace for too long.

And at THAT moment, you realize that You Need A Budget 🙂

Once you begin giving every dollar a job, and treating larger, less-frequent expenses as monthly bills, your breathing will regulate, your leg muscles will find new life, and you’ll get that elusive “second wind” that long-distance runners always talk about (I’m yet to actually receive that second wind in real life, but it sure sounds nice from the descriptions).

Even if the treadmill stays at the faster clip, and you can’t shed the 25 pound bag (as if you’d want to! I’m feeling that analogy break down a bit…), and the incline won’t abate, your budget will help you handle it. You’ll find your stride, and be able to find the time to handle the longer-term financial changes that may need to take place in your life.

Leave a comment below and let me know what event helped you realize that you “needed a budget.” Was it a gradual increase of weight, incline, or speed on the financial treadmill? Which event was the “final straw?”