For as far back as I can remember my family had to work its way around a budget. It’s unavoidable for the majority of the world’s population. It’s one of those things that can depress a person and make you want to sit under a tree and pull at your hair. It can drive you to a very dark place, a feeling of hopelessness, or even worthlessness. It’s something that can make you short-tempered and unhappy. It’s a pain. Money can make you forget that there are actually people who are worse off than you, because all your focus goes into keeping your own head, and that of your family’s, above water.
Right, before I bore you to tears I have to thank Sarah, from Sarsm’s Blog, who left a comment on my coffee post a week or so ago. Her “Wouldn’t it be nice is someone asked “What’s your budget?” first.” helped provide the sticky for the thoughts, on related matters, that’s been doing the boot-scootin-boogie in my head for the past month.
I always thought that growing up knowing one has to turn a cent five ways before spending it, would automatically make me a whiz at managing my finances. How difficult can it be? When you earn your own money it is not so easy. That is another sweet life-lesson learned the hard way. Now it isn’t someone else who decides how to spend the money, it’s you. You are responsible for remembering to keep money aside to pay the bills. You have to deal with the consequences of a forgotten bill.
I think the pressure is much worse when you have a family to take care of. You’re aware, all the time, that they need things other than food, and peer pressure finds its way from the child back to you. You may have to tell a child that he/she can’t have the nicest, the best item in the store. You begin to understand the sick feeling your parents felt when they had to tell you the same thing. Pressure, pressure, pressure.
So what is a budget really? For me, it’s a method of finding a way to live within my means. It’s a way to distinguish between the things I want and the things I really need.
Is there shame in having a budget? Of course not! It’s realistic. In my books it’s actually an accomplishment. I certainly earned the right to my budget and I’m proud of it. How come then are we still sensitive about it? Because people, or self, equate money with esteem? Or is it that we see money as something intensely personal?
I’ve noticed in myself different feelings. When I’m living within my budget I’m happy – happy to go for a meal with a friend, happy to treat a friend who may not be able to afford it. When I can’t stretch my budget, or the budget doesn’t allow for any luxuries, I’m less happy, even insecure / more sensitive about the money-issue. I don’t want to mention that I have a budget problem, afraid that the other person will think that I’m asking for financial help.
Since I became better at the budget-boogie, I often find myself wondering. How do I help a friend / family member to enjoy something with me without having them feel bad about, offended by, it? My personal compass is not a good guide in these type of situations as I’m really not good at being on the receiving end of kind gestures. It’s a quandary.
With the continued hike in fuel prices here in South Africa we’ll have to rethink, and rework, our budgets in the coming months.