Zero-Based Budgets: A Healthy Balance of Exhilarating and Exhausting

May 7, 2017

Real talk: I am a zero-based budget's biggest cheerleader. FOR REAL. But sometimes I'd like to cheer for the other team. 

So far, 2017 has been intense on the budgeting side over here. It started with the realization in February, that I would not be receiving a tax refund like I thought I would be, but would instead be paying the government $700. SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. SEVEN HUNDRED NON-BUDGETED DOLLARS. (This is a bit of a long story. I won't bore you with the details, but OMG SEVEN HUNDRED NON-BUDGETED DOLLARS).

Um, hi - I can assure you, I don't usually have $700 just lying around all willy nilly.

So after a breakdown (breakdown because no matter how hard we try to keep a handle on things, sometimes shit still hits the fan and we feel defeated - it's okay to breakdown, just don't stay in this place for too long), and a pep talk from my finance-turned-life mentor, I did some reworking of my budget numbers for the rest of February, March, and April. I had to sacrifice a couple of things that I had planned (i.e. weddings in Alabama, a fitness certification training), but I was able to find $700 in my budget without touching my debt snowball or my emergency fund.  

It was an exhausting in the immediate, but exhilarating in the long run.

2.5 years ago, I never would have been able to do that. 

This month, I finally had a little more wiggle room in my budget, and I've got a line item in it for a vet appointment for #georgethebeagle. This amount includes both his appointment and his flea and heart worm medicine. This amount is carefully thought out based on the last time I bought medicine for him. And I kept staring at this number and thought WHY IS THIS STUFF SO EXPENSIVE, SURELY I CAN FIND THIS STUFF CHEAPER SOMEWHERE ELSE. (Expensive flea meds make me yell apparently).

And so I tried. I was exhilarated by the idea of saving even $20 and allocating that money elsewhere. I checked Amazon, PetSmart, PetCo and 1-800-Pet-Meds. I was a woman on a money-saving, stick-it-to-the-man (read: the vet's office) mission.

But eventually I also became a woman that was kind of over it. Sometimes I just want to forget about the numbers and drop $$ on whatever the easiest option is.

But this would be lazy of me.

And yes there are certainly situations where convenience trumps price, but this wasn't one of them. 

So I hunted a bit and ended up spending $90 on flea and heart worm meds instead of $150, which we chalk up as a huge win. Especially since the vet appointment ended up being a bit more than what I had budgeted for. (For the love...I guess not as carefully thought out as I wanted).

So our moral of the story here is this: living within the boundaries of a budget is smartest, but it is not always the easiest. (And this kind of goes against our motto of live smarter not harder, eh?)

Sometimes you just want to throw caution (and cash) to the wind and shout SUCK IT BUDGET -- I'M GOING TO DO WHAT I WANT AND BUY THOSE SHOES THAT I DON'T NEED AT FULL PRICE INSTEAD OF BUDGETING FOR THEM AND WAITING FOR THEM TO GO ON SALE.

But that might be kind of lazy of you. Your financial freedom is worth more than laziness. 

And just like with exercising, which is also both exhausting and exhilarating - if we get lazy and stop working out, it is extremely easy to fall into a slump of inactivity and the next thing you know you've gained 7 lbs.

Budgeting is the same. If we get lazy, the next thing we know, we stop paying attention to our numbers and we begin to overdraw our account, or we rack up another credit card bill because we're tired of looking for the best deals or saving instead of spending. 

Don't let exhaustion beat you. Instead be exhilarated by the financial freedom that you're fighting for. Even if your financial freedom seems far away, keep hacking away at it, little by little. 

Exercising, losing weight, learning a new skill, paying off debt - they all take discipline and patience. They all have moments of exhilaration, and moments of exhaustion.

Fight for your financial freedom, and don't ever let the exhaustion outpace the exhilaration.

((PS - do you know what a zero-based budget is? It means that you set your budget before you get paid and you have every single dollar allocated somewhere. No dollar left behind. When you're done telling your dollars where to go the total amount left should read $0. These can be scary at first, but then you get the hang of it.))