Discipline and a budget can equal financial freedom

Discipline and a budget can equal financial freedom

Jocko Willink, a former Marine and currently a motivational speaker and author, has a mantra: “Discipline Equals Freedom.”

Someone asked him what it means, and he told them, “Freedom is what everyone wants — to be able to act and live with freedom. But the only way to get to a place of freedom is through discipline.”

Think about it: With an undisciplined approach to any task, it either will not get done or won’t get done right. How does this phrase apply to the financial side of your life? One word: budgeting.

The word budget strikes fear in most people’s hearts due to the inconvenience of sitting down and figuring out which dollar will go where. It is tough to take time out of your day or evening and look over the financial situation at hand to make sure the spending category isn’t more than the making category. For me personally, I know I have been there.

It also is uncomfortable to realize how much money is being spent on eating out when saving money has seemed hopeless for months or years on end. This sobering reality is the wakeup call most people need to kick out some spending habits that are not helping their situation.

We are lucky these days. Thanks to technology, the old way of budgeting that consisted of putting two columns side by side, showing how much money is going out and how much money is coming in on a piece of paper, is obsolete. Apps and websites like Mint and EveryDollar make budgeting on a month-to-month basis easy. You can customize each month to the situation you are in, whether you’re on salary, tips, commission or hourly wage. Every single dollar can be accounted for digitally just by a slide of a finger or some taps on the phone. With the budget being on your cellphone, inconvenience can never be an excuse to skip this activity.

After all the hard work, what is the positive side of budgeting? It is the absence of guilt when you spend money on going out to eat or spending it on clothes. What I mean is this money has already been accounted for. You have given yourself permission to spend this money in the future without it feeling like a waste. I am not saying this practice gives you permission to do whatever you want with your money, but it will get you on the right track the more you practice it.

Budgeting is almost always trial and error for the first few months; it is actually very similar to learning how to play a new instrument or even cooking. When cooking, normally, notes must be taken on what was done wrong and what was done right — the oven’s temperature was set too high, the steak should have been seared just a little longer or the chicken should not look like charcoal. It is the same with budgeting — make notes on what worked or what categories were way off.

Treat the first month as a shot in the dark if a budget has never been part of your life before because you will be way off on some things. But learn from the mistakes.

The longer you stick with it, the better you will be at it. Do not expect to do everything perfectly right at first. Adjust and keep going. Budgeting can be the discipline to financial freedom, and like Jocko said, freedom is what everyone wants.

Take an hour out of your entire week to sit down and track where your dollars are going, then decide where you would like your dollars to go. There is a difference between being proactive and reactive with your money, and intentionality in budgeting is the difference. Even writing this article made me think of how lax my budget is and made me sit down and reconfigure some things.

Holmes County native BJ Yoder is an insurance agent by day and a finance enthusiast by night. This column is for informational purposes only. He can be emailed at benjamin.john.yoder@gmail.com.

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