I created a budget, first, to find out where my money was going. And, second, so I could make plans for various kinds of savings. In the end, it took several months of watching where my money went to decide where I could restrict spending.

My mortgage, for example, is non-negotiable. And I put down the maximum I had to offer. Electricity can be controlled to an extent, but the savings were minimal. (I’m going to wash my clothes.) Gas is necessary because of the nature of my work. And food from the grocery store can be purchased on a budget, but it’s a constant that can only be decreased marginally.

So when it came to a budget, my goal was to find the places where I could cut and, hopefully, cut significantly. What I discovered was that a lot of my money goes to takeout. And that’s money I can control. My wife and I decided that we could limit this expenditure. And if we really needed to save for a period, we could eliminate it.

Unfortunately, there were more necessities than luxuries in our budget. But that was because we were already thoughtfully saving. We allot a certain amount to retirement each month, some to future vehicle expenses, and a bit more to our daughter’s education. We’ll soon be starting a college fund for her.

I’ve found that when you know that you are saving an appropriate amount, you can then feel a little freer to spend money when necessary. That’s what I consider guilt-free spending. For example, if I want to buy an eBook, I now know I can afford to buy it.

(Unless I’ve already bought one that month. My general rule is one book per month. Anything else should come from the library/ digital library.)

I need to be sure I’m free to be spending the money I’m spending. It may not always seem like it, but expenditures should be carefully considered. And whereas I’m not someone who believes in absolute deprivation, it can sometimes be a good practice, especially if one is in debt.

If nothing else, purposely going without a product you think of as essential will only help you appreciate it more when you do decide it’s a necessary purchase.

photo: Fabian Blank