I believe budgeting is an essential positive life tool that has, unfortunately, evolved into a negative task for many. This realisation led me to carry out research on feelings towards budgeting and consciously managing money.
What I found is that feelings can vary quite significantly when you mention the word budget, with many people tensing up or dismissing it as an option.
They tell me that it raises feelings of restriction, restraint and unsustainability, but also shame and guilt. Others assume budgeting can only result in living a boring life because of the financial restrictions it dictates.
For me, budgeting is about deciding what I want to do with my money, in my best interests and within my values. Its purpose is not to only highlight what I can't do – but that said, there are things I can’t do if my income doesn’t allow for it.
Budgeting highlights the gaps and provides clarity and information I can use to set goals. If there is something I need, want to buy, achieve or do and it involves money, I set a goal and find a way by using my budget to do it. It is an essential skill in my manifesting toolkit.
What is it exactly about budgeting that puts many off? Language is so powerful and how we talk or think about budgeting has the same effect as the language we use in other parts of our lives.
If you budget or consider budgeting, do you think, “I am on a budget” or “I have a budget”? Is there a difference? I believe the difference is vast.
If you are on a budget, chances are you feel you should be spending as little as possible. You watch every fil, penny or cent and feel guilt or shame when you spend. The goal is usually to cut out as much cost as possible and, usually, this means less spending on the areas of life we enjoy, such as socialising, shopping, eating out and entertaining.
This approach to budgeting often means saying no a lot as you feel you are not allowed to spend. You miss out on so much of life because you feel shame about spending money on what are considered to be frivolous activities, items or events. It is essentially a low-calorie diet for your money.
It feels restrictive and, let's face it, very few can sustain being on a budget long term. But would you want to? It doesn’t sound very joyous or life-enhancing to most. What happens when you don’t stick to your strict budget? We feel shame, a sense of failure and, more often than not, we just give up.
However, having a budget is having a plan. It is consciously deciding how you are going to use your money to live the life you want.
It is telling your money what to do as opposed to telling yourself what you can’t do. It is freeing. It reduces stress. It is clarity. It can even be exciting and motivating. It is a powerful tool to help you best use the financial resources available to you.
It is how I support myself to use my money in line with my values, my goals and how I want to live. In more recent times, I realised it is a powerful form of manifestation.
Think about that. I am planning what I want to happen in my future and using my money to achieve what I want in life. Yes, it is planning my financials but how much of what you want in life is not in some way influenced by money? Very little, when you break it down.
When we approach budgeting with a positive attitude and mindset, it feels natural and helps us to live our best lives. It can be flexible and sustainable as opposed to stressful and unsustainable.
If your budget feels restrictive and is holding you back from living your life, then maybe it is time to approach it differently.
Carol Glynn is the founder of Conscious Finance Coaching