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Unpacking the Basics: What Exactly is a Budget?

Updated: Mar 5


Does that word make you go… excusez moi? (ps, that’s French for excuse me?)

If you don't dig that word, please replace it with Spending Plan every time you see it.

Per Merriam-Webster, a budget is a plan for the coordination of resources and expenditures. That seems a bit too stuffy for me.

My definition of a budget is:

a path to freedom!

Did you know?

79% of Americans surveyed stated they use a budget, based on a survey

However, of those surveyed,

97% stated everyone should use a budget/spending plan. Although I agree, I don't love to SHOULD on anyone. Money management looks different for everyone and I whole-heartedly support that.

Budgeting/Spending Plan methodologies can vary greatly per person.

An Excel spreadsheet

A Google sheet

A binder with color-coated highlighters to signify categories

A piece of paper with some chicken scratch on it

Numbers floating around in your head

Post-it notes lining the wall

A fancy app

Poster board for the whole family to see

Whatever your method, it has to work for you.

I have been a spreadsheet and formulas gal for almost ten years. It’s worked great, and I still love it. I am currently testing out a software system, and I’m struggling to give it the fair shake it would need to replace my current practice. I have my nails dug into the spreadsheet—we’ll see if I let go.

2024 update: I have been using the software for a solid three years and LOVE it. It has a mobile phone app and a website. If you want to know what I'm using, message me on Instagram and ask away!

If you don’t use a budget/spending plan, what’s the reason...

Does looking at your finances make you anxious?

Do you feel like you make enough money so you don’t need one?

Do you think it will be overwhelming?

Do you think it will take up too much of your time?

Do you think it won’t work because you have a variable income?

Do you think, “I’m operating just fine, thank you very much!”?

Whatever your reason, please give me a few moments to present my case.

A plan for your money gives you control.

A plan for your money allows you to save faster.

A plan for your money prevents overspending.

A plan for your money brings your goals into reach.

A plan for your money gets you out of debt.

A plan for your money stops emergencies from ruining your finances.

A plan for your money is a plan for you.

You are worth the effort. Say that with me… I am worth the effort. Louder… I am worth the effort!

Plus, having a budget/spending plan will get you a seat at the cool kid’s table. (Okay, I made that one up.)

Quote from the SM handle Female Invest: If the idea of making a budget scares you, remember that if you're spending and earning money, you already have a budget. You just may not have control over it.

I’ll leave you with this:

Your budget/spending plan is a living document. If one method isn't working for you, try the next one. And so on until you find the right fit. Whatever you choose, remember you can always adjust. You aren't picking a system for life.

Here's to you!

Melissa Mittelstaedt

Money Coach | Accredited Financial Counselor®


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