Finance Smarts: They Pay

Becoming finance-smart is relatively simple, they say: “Make a budget.” But how? Well, I am here to tell you that it’s not really that difficult.

The first thing you need to do is get a Google account. With that, you can access the Sheets tool and write up your own budget. You punch in the numbers, make use of the mathematical symbols, and all of a sudden you have a plan.

My sister is terrible at saving money. She once bought me a Zen Garden — you know, with sand and rocks and fake plants and that little rake thing that’s supposed to calm your nerves — because she thought I needed it. Now, as to why she thought that at all is completely absurd. (Men have emotions, too!) The real concern was that her car was broken down and she wasn’t able to bring it to the shop because she couldn’t pay for the repairs.

That said, once you have a budget, there’s no going back. You will see your old frivolous ways as a thing of the past, clearly uncivilized and primitive compared to knowing how much money you can spend at any given transaction. The plan is sacred once you have nailed down the numbers. And it’s not like you can’t spend a little money on random stuff. Those are called “incidentals”. Plan for them.

I have found that having a savings gives me a peace of mind that nothing else can. If my car breaks down (GOD NO!), I have some money set aside to cover the bill. If my house catches on fire, I have some money to buy groceries for a while so that I don’t starve to death as a result. If a tornado hits my town and I am forced to move, I have a little bit of cash for that particularly unsavory plot twist.

Now, I’m no saint. I’m still buying nicotine gum and I still don’t have enough money to pay for a down payment on a house. But, I am getting there. I save about fifty dollars every week. I don’t work full time because I am trying to learn writing but, it’s still something. I stick to the budget because I know, at the end of this year, I will have more money in the bank than I have ever had before, so long as I stick to the priorities.

By prioritizing things like food and the weekly movie for my sanity, I succeed at rejecting ill-found impulses that only get me into financial trouble. Buying a Slurpee might be nice once in a while, but everyday seems a little much. After all, once you spend your cash on that, YOU WILL NEVER GET IT BACK.

What’s more, this habit has allowed me to see the true value of money. The hobo on the street clearly grew up somewhere. To be sure, we can say nothing certain about his life or how he ended up on that one bench. However, we can be sure that he knows the value of money. I think we can be fairly certain that he knows what he would purchase if he had such an opportunity: stability. Giving him a dollar is not going to change much for him but Hey, what the heck.

Moreover, having a limit on my spending makes me pay attention to what I spend money on. Think of it as a meditation on the comings-and-goings of your hard-earned funds. I have fifty dollars to use until the next paycheck. Well, I could go buy a crap ton of liquor and have yet another episode of debauchery OR I could buy some groceries (including one Kombucha) and then go to the library for some reading material.

It’s up to you really. I just wanted to share how having some limits has enhanced my life tremendously.

Josh Gillard is a writer and freelancer working on several projects right now. Opportunity for Writers: