Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Money 29 micheile henderson ZVprbBmT8QA unsplash?width=719&height=464&fit=crop&auto=webp
Money 29 micheile henderson ZVprbBmT8QA unsplash?width=398&height=256&fit=crop&auto=webp
Career > Money

Making a Budget Helped Heal my Relationship with Money 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide professional advice: it is simply documentation of my personal experience and how my relationship with money has evolved. I acknowledge that I am so privileged to have leftover money after accounting for basic needs and appropriate savings.

I’ve never had a problem saving money. My cautious elementary school self would take my single dollar allowance and put it straight into my princess trifold wallet. In middle school, I was so excited to open my first savings account to save my hard earned babysitting money, and I watched it earn pennies of interest each month. While my sister bought candy from the neighborhood pool and my brother invested his extra cash into video games, I rarely dipped into my funds outside of Christmas gift shopping or the occasional trip to the movies.

I’m not sure where this mentality came from: my parents have always been smart with money and taught my siblings and I how to shop deals and understand value, but I was fortunate to never be in a position where I had to worry about not having enough money. From a young age, we are all taught about the importance of saving, as that is typically the biggest challenge for many people. As a student with limited cash, I was proud that saving came so easily to me.

Throughout high school and college, my personal income became steadier and stronger. Babysitting took off, internships worked me 40 hours a week and on-campus research occupied my free time. I learned about stocks and opened a brokerage account. I may have been advanced for my age in my financial journey, but my fear of actually spending money (i.e. using it for its intended purpose) kept me from experiences that my friends or family had an easy time paying for.

Recently, I’ve started tracking my spending and earnings to understand my typical expense breakdown in relation to my earnings. While many people see a budget as restrictive or limiting to their spending, creating a budget actually helped me feel better about putting my money to good use. I took my expected income and broke it into goal percentages of different spending categories, such as rent, groceries, saving, and anything fun. I then tracked my spending in each category and compared the amount of money I allocated to each category versus what I actually spent. I realized that I had often spent much less per month than I had set aside in several of my categories, such as going out to eat or spending on activities and experiences. While there’s nothing wrong with putting some extra cash right into savings, seeing the numbers in front of me helped me give myself the “permission” I needed to spend more.

Now, don’t get me wrong–this doesn’t mean I’m throwing around money like its candy at a parade or devaluing it in any way. My goal is simply to not feel guilty about spending money when I want to. While it’s not necessary for all fun experiences, money is a lovely way to enhance our lives–and that’s what it should be used for! So, if my friends want to go out for dinner once a week, I no longer feel bad about buying a $15 meal when I have food at home because it’s an experience to be shared. If we make a day out of a Cardinals game, then a discount ticket is well worth the three hours spent with the people I love. Splitting gas for a road trip, picking up craft supplies and charcuterie ingredients for a girls night in, or buying movie tickets with pockets full of candy are all small ways I have been investing in my happiness.

When I log these expenses in my DIY-budget spreadsheet, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted money or guilt myself about “unnecessary” spending. On the contrary, looking back makes me happy to remember the fun experiences I have shared during my senior year. Money will always come back, in some way or another, but the brief moments in time we have are never the same. The small fraction of income that I now dedicated specifically to little life enhancements is something even my savvy-saving brain can get behind.

A thrifting enthusiast studying Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at Saint Louis University. You can find her running, reading, cooking, and probably running again when the sun comes out.