Fun with budgeting for millennials

A budget-savvy millennial

Budgeting may not be your idea of fun. I used to view setting up and following a budget as a necessary evil, like going to the dentist or cleaning the bathroom.

What I didn’t realize is that budgeting makes your choices clear. You have the same amount of money to spend whether you track it or not. What budgeting does show you is exactly how you are spending your money. Once you realize where your money is going each month, you have the information you need to decide which spending is worth it to you. Would you rather spend $75 a month on energy drinks from the vending machine at work or go to a concert?

Budgeting also helps you convert your wishes into goals. Always wanted to visit Venice? You can look at your budget and decide where you can cut spending, how much you can save each month for your trip, and how long it will take before you are riding that gondola down the canal.

A budget can set you free by showing you how you can pay down student loans or other debt. Or, if you are one of those people who pinches every penny and feels anxious and guilty when you spend money on anything, a budget can help you break out of self-denial and plan for your purchases. Budgeting is about knowledge and choices, not about going without.

On the other hand, perhaps you spend everything you earn and more on experiences because, hey, YOLO. The problem is YMLAVLT (you may live a very long time), and what you want may change. By including regular savings in your budget, you will have something to work with when you realize that you do want to buy a house and get a dog. Look at budgeting and saving as something you do for yourself and the lifestyle you want—not something unpleasant that others keep harping on you to do.

Saving for a long-term goal or for retirement can seem like no fun because gratification is so delayed. Make a chart that shows your progress. Just seeing your money accumulate can be rewarding. Or allow yourself a small treat each month for tracking and following your budget. Maybe a six-pack of IPA or a pair of earrings you want.

If you think math and writing things down is no fun, don’t worry. It’s not that hard with mobile budgeting apps, several of which are free. Until someone comes out with a Financial Fitbit, these apps are your best choice.

OK, budgeting is not always fun, but it empowers you and helps you achieve what you want most. And that is rewarding.