Discipline Brings Freedom

I’m a couple weeks into using You Need a Budget regularly, and can safely say that it has changed my life. I have a completely new paradigm about money, and feel way more in control of my financial life. I also have this beautiful, newfound sense of freedom about my money in a way I never have before.

Historically, I’ve been a very reluctant spender, at best. I can easily talk myself out of purchasing almost anything, even if it’s something I actually need! It’s difficult for me to buy new socks, for heaven’s sake! Being an underbuyer is something that’s generally good for my bank account, but less good for my wellbeing. It’s no fun to feel guilty every single time I spend a dollar.

The system hasn’t changed my tendency entirely, but it has helped. The way YNAB works is that you “give every dollar a job” – you decide how much you want to spend on the various categories of your life, and then allocate funds to budget for each of those areas. You record & categorize your transactions, and so you can get a quick birds-eye glance at how you’re doing for spending in that category.

This means that if I’m feeling guilty about spending money or unsure if I should, I can “get permission” from my budget. If I want to go out, I can check how much I have left in my “Food & Drinks Out” category, and spend what’s left without fear. And if I overspend, I can always “move money” from another, less important category to cover it. I know all of this seems simple, but it’s been revolutionary for me, speaking as someone who always hated budgeting.

This reminds me a lot of Gretchen Rubin’s paradox: “Discipline brings freedom.” I used to think that having an “anti-budget” (covering for bills & savings, and then spending the rest however I wanted) was giving me the most financial freedom. But I spent my time feeling stressed and tentative. Now, I have an elaborate system that requires a habit of checking in, and I feel free. Go figure!

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