A Budget by Any Other Name

By Rev. Phillip Leo, Church Communications Director

I’ve been binging on budget apps lately. In my nerdy opinion, they’re cool and help me feel in control of my money. What’s not to like?

My wildfire of enthusiasm, however, was recently squelched when I showed my wife a favorite budget app. I demonstrated how “You Need A Budget” (YNAB) can be used to set savings goals by dates, build a budget beginning with the current checkbook balance and generate monthly spending reports.

But my wife’s reaction to all these amazing features was less than enthusiastic. “Meh,” she said, “it’s just like the old envelope system.”

Seriously? Envelopes were used for budgeting back in the Stone Age! This is the digital world and modern budgets are linked to credit cards and mortgage companies. We use our smartphones to budget, people! Envelopes aren’t even used for mail anymore!

Hold on, give me a second to calm down…

Okay, I’m fine now.

Such wholesale dismissal of “YNAB” set me on a mission to defend the honor of budget apps everywhere. I became a budget app superhero, adding “Mint” to my phone and researching a half-dozen other budgeting apps.

I found “Goodbudget” which uses, you guessed it, envelope icons to organize a personal budget. “How primitive,” I snorted.

Next, I came across an app called “Mvelopes.” Ugh.

But the longer I used “YNAB” and “Mint,” the more I could see that a budget by any other name is still, well…just a budget. It’s just envelopes. My wife was right!

Again, give me a moment…

There’s a silver lining, though, to this tale of woe. My budget app snobbery provided fresh perspective on the simplicity of a personal budget. There’s a place for sophistication and even complication! But at the end of the day, a budget is about targeting every single dollar you spend.

Whether it’s with envelopes, a spreadsheet or a budget app, the goal is to put an end to willy-nilly spending. The proper path for money is NOT leaking out of the wallet for whatever expenses happen to come along first. Neither is it endlessly bouncing up and down between payday and a zero balance in your checkbook.

Even if there’s only $23 left until pay day, you can make a plan for each one of those dollars. That’s a budget and anyone can do it. It’s not rocket science.

However, it would help to have a few envelopes on hand.

Barnabas Foundation is proud to be your partner in promoting financial literacy and generous giving at your church. Find articles, books, studies and more for your church under Tools and Resources. You can also email me at pleo@BarnabasFoundation.com or call 888.448.3040.

Rev. Phillip Leo is the Church Communications Director at Barnabas Foundation. Read Phil’s online bio.