By: Janna Adams
The holidays are here! You can tell because at any point these days there's a 96% chance you'll find me curled up in my bed under three layers of comforters watching Netflix and/or sleeping.
I'm not one for winter weather, but this year I'm a little more receptive because winter means the seasons are changing, and changing seasons means time is passing, and time passing means it's almost May of 2018, and that means it's almost time for me to get married to my favorite person!
This period of my life is very exciting, but it can also be very stressful. I'm someone who feels stress heavily—as in, if I'm worried about something it never actually leaves my brain until the situation is solved—and when you add in the expectations of the holiday season, planning a wedding, and just being a 20-something in 2017, you can expect there to be some financial stressors floating in the air around me at all times.
What I've found relieves me (if only a little bit) when I'm feeling stressed out is a plan. When you have a plan around your finances, people usually call it budgeting.
Budgeting is a scary word. I personally hate it. When I started working at my current job, I heard my coworkers talk about their budget often. "I'm really pushing the budget this month," "She says it's not in the budget," "I have to move some budgeting things around, but then it should be fine." When I heard the word budget, I found myself associating it with the word restricted. As in, what I spend will be restricted, when I spend will be restricted, and I'll be locked into how I spend my money.
My whole life I've been cautious of my spending. And moving out to live on my own motivated that caution, and the stress that inevitably came with it. But just being cautious didn't always cut it, because even though I was doing mental math and not going crazy with my spending, I'd always have the fear of spending too much—or worse, the reality of having to dip into my savings (for us planners, this is a worst-case scenario, trust me). And after a few months of "guesstimating" how much I'd spend every month, I realized I needed to budget. And I still hated it.
So I put on my big girl pants and set out to be responsible. I wrote down my monthly income, I wrote down all (how do I even have so many) my expenses, and then I allocated how much I could reasonably spend for each one.
It was really eye-opening, and if I'm honest, created some more stress for me. But you know what doesn't stress me out anymore? Worrying if I'm overspending what I'm bringing in each month. Because now I know just how much I can spend, and I stick to it. Do I move things around almost every month according to my needs—yes, but I stay within the budget. Do I always have extra money floating around to put into my savings at the end of the month—no, but I stay within the budget.
For a planner like me, it's relieving to just have a constant. And my constant is that I stay within the budget, and I work out of it. And what I've found is that instead of feeling restricted, I actually feel that I have more freedom in my spending, that I can spend my money the way that I want more often because I have a plan. Especially around times like the holiday season, allocating my budget to buy gifts and attend holiday parties takes so much stress off of me, because I know what I can spend, and I stay within the budget.
Bottom line: budgeting can be scary. But it can also be life-changing, and mind-altering. The way you look at your finances changes, and mine is still changing—but it's one less stressor in a life full of millennial stress and unpredictable events.
Here are some Budgeting Apps that I'd recommend: