(Loose Transcript because I improvised, a lot. lol)
In July, I made a budget for the first time that didn’t feel like a restrictive box.
“Ew. Shelby. A budget?”
Yes. A budget.
Lines of expenses, categorized into needs, desires, and savings. Things like rent, internet, insurance, etc. All split between my husband and myself. And it felt great to sit down and calculate out the numbers. Things felt possible. Doable. Expansive.
But budgets haven’t always felt that way. In fact, in the past, intimacy with money felt scary oftentimes.
I didn’t want to look at my bank account. I didn’t know the password for my retirement account for many years.
I put distance between myself and money. Distance that only further fed into fear and estrangement.
Money is a resource that our lives depend on in so many cases. Shelter. Food. Transportation. Clothing. Healthcare. And so on.
And it IS scary to feel at the whims of something that could easily disappear and leave you without. In 2019, it was reported by Forbes and CBS that 40% of Americans don’t have enough cash or assets that can be easily turned into cash – “to replace their income at the poverty level.” Basically, at that time, 40% of us were one paycheck away from poverty. And this obviously doesn’t include those of us who were already living in poverty.
It is a precarious and terrifying position to be in.
Then besides that, many of us have been in situations were money has been used as a tool for oppression and abuse – both on an individual level and a systemic level.
Given all of that, it is totally understandable that you or anyone else would be uncomfortable with money. That you’d not just shy away from it, but turn from it in fear and disgust.
Then budgets have an added layer of restriction. Of forcing ourselves to fit into some box.
And I felt the same way. And I was doing the same thing.
But as I have worked on healing my relationship with money and changing my programs around money – shifting my mindset – things changed a little bit at a time.
And in July, as we were planning our move, and what we felt comfortable with spending on an apartment – it made sense to create a budget.
Here is the perspective change I made, that you can make too so that having a budget feels expansive rather than restrictive.
A budget is a tool. It gets to be a mere tool – devoid of any inherent meanings.
Thus, you get to put meaning to it. You get to decide how to use it.
For me, it was a tool to empower myself to understand what I prioritized and what I then felt comfortable with. It was a way to explore and find out what could be possible, or how it could be possible.
Now, this obviously isn’t removed from our experience of money.
If the budget had shown me that it wasn’t at all possible given the information I had put in, I probably wouldn’t have felt as good about having a budget as I do. Our perceptions are framed by the experiences we have, and it would be negligent to not include that.
BUT – the budget still gets to be a tool.
If the situation had been different, it isn’t the budget itself that is to blame. The blame resides with the decreasing valuation of labor and work and that fact that here in the United States, wages have not kept up with the cost of living. And there are people who have allowed this.
So, next time you think about a budget – try seeing it merely as a tool. Try seeing it as a way to discover possibilities.
And remember where the blame really lies – not with you, and not with the budget – but with the systems that are creating economic oppression.