by Matthew Perry
(last updated February 21, 2009)
Making budgets is an odd hobby, I think, but if you don't stick to a budget, is it really anything more than that? A budget does absolutely nothing if it has no reference to your spending or your saving. It can be hard, especially if you're on a comparatively restricted income, to refrain from unplanned indulgences, but it's definitely worth it; sometimes even your legitimate expenses turn out to be more than you'd anticipated, but you can recover. You have the money you have, and you can only make the most of your money by spending it wisely, and the best way to do that is through a plan: your budget.
Budgets are (generally) not meant to accommodate unplanned pizza binges, visits to the masseuse, or late-night shopping sprees. Expenses resulting from this type of behavior are strictly up to you and your personal discipline, which I know from experience can be a scary prospect. (There's a pan of brownies in my kitchen right now that is disappearing much more rapidly than anticipated, and I seem to be the only one with chocolate on his lips.)
If possible, make sure you plan some indulgence into your budget to keep temptation from getting too strong. If your budget is so tight it's cutting you in half instead of holding your pants up, something needs to change. Hopefully, by planning fun into your budget, it will be easier to deal with and you will be less vulnerable to sudden cravings, intense advertising campaigns, and sore muscles.
On the other hand, some expenses are beyond your control. No one plans on being pick-pocketed, but a stolen wallet can mean a lot of unplanned expenses in terms of time and money. Recovering from such accidental costs may take you off the beaten trail of your budget, but the detour doesn't need to be permanent if you make your budget flexible. You may have a few unstable points in the first few months of your budgeting experience, but before long the benefits of using and sticking to a budget will seem so obvious you'll wonder how you got along without one.
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