As I was driving home from from the grocery store yesterday, I was thinking about how I hate spending money. I’d gone to the grocery to pick up just a few items, and somehow my grocery bill had ended up costing almost $100. When the cashier had told me the total, I’d thought, Yikes. Guess I wasn’t paying as close attention to costs as I’d thought. I even double-checked the receipt to make sure nothing was charged incorrectly. And this is a regular occurrence for me — not the overspending part, but rather the aversion to even the slightest overspending.
I wasn’t always this way. There was a time about 10 years ago when I loved spending, and I limited my spending only to the degree that I had to limit it (i.e., until my bank account was empty). But that all changed once Johnny and I got serious about budgeting and changed the way we thought about money. Budgeting didn’t just change our finances, it changed our brains. And now here we are, debt free, and I still get hung up on spending extra money. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but sometimes it spills over into aspects of my life that I wish it wouldn’t. For instance, when I think of having people over for dinner, I can’t help but calculate the costs involved. Or when I think of going on a vacation, I can’t help but start calculating the huge chunk of money we’ll be saying goodbye to. Or if my sisters mention doing brunch, I immediately think of the money instead of the delicious pastries I’m going to consume.
So even though we’re no longer in the trenches of paying down debt, I still don’t enjoy spending money. And I don’t know that I ever will, although I’d love to be a little more relaxed about it. We talk about how budgets give you freedom, and I believe that wholeheartedly. We were able to become debt free, start saving for retirement and our girls’ college educations, and put enough into savings to start our own business, all things that never would have happened otherwise. In every sense, our budget has changed our lives for the better — probably more than we’ll ever know. But ever since we began budgeting, my mindset towards spending is just different. I think part of it is that I’m painfully aware of just how hard we’ve had to work to have savings and being on a good financial path. And knowing how hard we’ve had to work for every little dollar makes me want to be extra careful with how it’s spent. That’s not to say we’re cheap with gift giving or being charitable. We make a point to set aside money so that we’re not. It’s more to say with day-to-day expenses, I have a hard time ever spending extra or splurging.
So I guess it all comes down to this: has budgeting made me stingy? Or I guess to put it more specifically, has budgeting made me more stingy with myself? It’s definitely changed my mindset towards money — and Johnny’s, too. And I think that mindset will be key in ensuring we’re always responsible with our finances and always on track towards meeting our financial goals. But I also want to be careful not to take it too far.
What do you think? What are the pros and cons of having a budgeting mindset forever?