Most people expect that once they start managing their money, their financial situations will improve in a straight, narrow line, right alongside their happiness and health. Unfortunately, while proper financial planning does steadily improve your lifestyle in concrete ways, it is much less straight and constant than you might hope. In fact, most veteran budgeters can attest that money management is much more like riding a roller coaster, with all sorts of unexpected twists, turns and loops.
It is all but impossible to avoid all bumps on your financial planning journey, but by knowing a bit more about what you can expect to feel as you learn to manage your money, you might be able to survive the ride and find success.
Just like when you stand in line to ride a normal roller coaster, you are likely to feel nervous anticipation at the very beginning of your budgeting journey. This feeling, perhaps best summed up by the word “trepidation,” may cause you to put off downloading personal budget software, developing a budget or performing other necessary actions that kick off your new, financially responsible lifestyle. Overcoming your initial apprehension about budgeting is key to gaining financial literacy and developing wealth in a meaningful way.
After you get buckled into your roller coaster seat and the ride jolts to life, the adrenaline kicks in. Once you have a budget in place, and once you start enacting your budget in earnest, you will likely start to feel excited about the possibilities that your new efforts will bring. The first few weeks of using your budget might not result in significant changes to your lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t feel like a massive shift has occurred. However, the potential that comes with a new life path will raise your spirits for what’s to come.
Likely, seeing your savings accounts fill with money on a regular basis will fuel your excitement and give you confidence in your decision to build a budget. At this point in the ride, you probably haven’t encountered any unexpected twists and turns; you might be at the top of a hill, enjoying the beautiful view. You will be happy to have made this change in your life, and you will become certain that budgeting will bring the wealthy lifestyle you always wanted.
The first drop in a roller coaster is scary, but after the first loop, you settle into the pattern of rises and falls. The same is true of budgeting: After a few months of utilizing your budget, you should know what to expect when it comes to your regular income and expenses, and you should feel comfortable adhering to the rules you laid out for yourself. This comfort can be a double-edged sword; though it means you are likely to find success with your current budget, it might allow you to grow complacent with your lifestyle and stop striving for greater wealth. If your financial goals change, you should also change your budget accordingly.
After a certain period of time, you will become accustomed to the results of your budget. No longer will they feel fantastic and life-changing; like the middle of a roller coaster marked by sharp sideways jolts and nauseating drops, a few months into one budget often reveals feelings of bitterness or dissatisfaction. This is especially true if your budget is particularly restrictive. When you give up some luxuries, you expect to see great returns, and when those returns begin feeling less great, you are likely to start questioning why you are budgeting in the first place.
If you let your feelings of bitterness go unchecked, you will likely cheat on your budget. You might spend more than allotted per month in a certain category, or you might splurge on something you never budgeted for to begin with. This will undoubtedly result in feelings of guilt, perhaps even shame, which could imperil your financial stability entirely. It is important to remember that no one is perfect — and no budget is perfect, either. You might need to alter your budget to give you a bit more wiggle room, which should ease your bitterness and eliminate the need for guilt.
Unlike a real roller coaster, which ends, budgeting should be a continuous process. Even if you are earning a salary well beyond your costs of living, you should use a budget to help you manage your savings, investments and more. Ultimately, this level of organization and control over your finances should bring a near-constant feeling of delight — but that doesn’t mean you won’t still ride these roller-coaster emotions sometimes in your lifelong budgeting journey.