I’ve Got the Budget Blues

I’ve got the budget blues, but then It’s good to have a budget to be blue about. I didn’t always have a budget, because I didn’t consider one necessary. The budgetary process sounds complex, irritating, and time-consuming.

There are so many demands upon my energy reserves, as a part-time student/full-time family man, that the last thing I want is another time-wasting irritant.

However, when the money runs out before the bills do It’s time to re-evaluate my stand against sticking to the budget.

I know that as a student I have a limited allotment of resources to utilize in pursuing educational endeavours. My studies consume my time and money and I only have so much of each to spend.

There are other aspects of life to be weighed against my scholastic objectives and these require budgeting also. I devise a system that balances family, career, and school needs so that when my spouse’s day is derailed there’s a sympathetic shoulder for her to lean upon.

When life asks the children to sail against the wind and they want my guiding hand on the tiller, I’m ready to climb aboard. My mentally challenged brother often demands help in navigating his confusing, complicated life.

What will help me manage my way through this complex existence that has suddenly sprung up around me? I turn for assistance to that two-fold budget I designed when embarking on my journey as an Athabasca student.

As well as being a student, I’m a husband, father, and brother. There is a duty to family that transcends all other callings; therefore, my first investment is a Day-Timer. I carry the leather-bound notebook in my pocket and record the hours dedicated to family and friends. As well, I jot down the countless demands that surviving the day place upon me.

My second acquisition as a new Athbasca University student is the AUSU planner. I obsessively record the time spent on my university courses, whether it be reading, studying, or writing. Every scholastic commitment that comes my way is documented in the planner; it records the minutes and hours that the fulfillment of my educational pursuits requires. If I don’t keep track of those precious moments, how am I to measure the extent of my obligation?

Next, I purchase a journal in which to chronicle my working day. I’m self-employed and the hours I spend on business ebb and flow, not like the Pacific tides, which have their regular rhythms, but in sporadic, frenzied bursts of activity interspersed with inertia.

I know now the time demands that family, school, and career impose upon me. Knowledge concerning my commitments is a resource; I utilize it in keeping life balanced.

But my chequebook needs balancing also.

For this purpose a financial budget is invaluable in helping me reach my goals. I have wants and I have needs and there is a marked difference between the two. There are many things I want but don’t need and there are many needs that are non-negotiable. For example, I yearn to acquire the latest version of the MacBook Pro, but can’t afford one, because food and shelter overshadow such a yearning. Yet, with judicious planning, a Mac on my desk can be a reality and here’s how it can be done.

A computer-generated spreadsheet is a marvellous tool for taking charge of my income and achieving the alluring financial goals I’ve set for myself. I construct a budget spreadsheet configured to display each expense column in updated totals. I create a want column and, as able, post funds toward fulfilling the family’s current dream. Wants, needs, and income might change, but as they do so does my budget.

By posting each day’s expenditures on a regular basis, I’m able to determine my financial status at a glance and perhaps find that I can post a few dollars into the wants column at months’s end; this is how dreams become realities.

There’s another way of fulfilling my dreams and that is the ubiquitous, potentially dangerous credit card. What a deadly trap I set for myself by using instant credit to instantly satisfy my wants. Credit is useful, but when abused It’s a merciless merchant, who like Shylock, will demand its pound of flesh. I find it less painful and more satisfying to plan and save until I’ve the funds in hand, rather than borrowed, to realize this year’s dream.

I’m a passionate budget advocate, because it makes a hectic life so much easier to cope with. I budget my time and money. There’s time for work, school, and play and there’s funding to meet the family’s needs and wants.

I’m in control again and That’s the way It’s going to stay.