AN ALERT HAS LANDED IN MY OFFICIAL IN BOX for the preparation of departmental budgets and my thoughts dwell inescapably on budgetary exercises conducted at personal, corporate and national levels.
IF ONE IS MINDFUL ENOUGH to live within one’s means all the scruples of a standard budgetary exercise are automatically taken care of. One can even reward oneself with an indulgence or two, if at the end of the day (read budget period) everything has been managed well. The lifelong tussle of allocating limited resources for the fulfillment of our needs is an exercise of continuous improvisation and each of us get better or worse at this depending on how swayed we are by consumerism, keeping up with the Joneses, besides our legitimate aspirations to improve our station in life. This may mean that yesterday’s luxuries may become today’s necessities and this can itself be the subject of never ending debate as our existential dilemma is whether we should necessarily enjoy anything and everything that we can afford. (More of this in the tailpiece). Barring those who are the darlings of credit card companies and those who have perfected the fine art of living on other people’s money, most of us (including those who have a debt or two to discharge) acquit ourselves creditably in the discharge of our “budgetary responsibilities.” For persons like me, who are on the wrong side of 50, there is also the need to have some elbow room for what has been aptly called “catering to a coronary” when one will hopefully outlast the benevolence of corporate medical protection and slip into retirement before long.
IF WE ADAPT ALL THE SCRUPLES we punctiliously follow in our personal budgets to the budgets of our employers, the corporate budgetary exercise, in which we may all be involved in some way or the other, should also be concluded well. Sometimes, this is easier said that done. The care we need to take in spending “other people’s money” is probably greater than the attention we generally pay with respect to our own finances. There are also interesting pulls and pressures when at the end of a budgetary period one discovers that there are still some “unspent provisions” and it will be a brave person who will fill in just the right numbers that are required for budgetary purposes even if one has all the analytical tools to do so. Besides, in some industries, one is always chasing moving targets and assumptions – not to speak of the pressures of listed companies in publishing quarterly results – which Jairam Ramesh, in minor modification of the filmy acronym termed as the Quarter Se Quarter Tak syndrome.
AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL the budgetary allocation of resources to meet the needs of a country and its people is of course far more incredibly complex but the people working on these numbers released every February are with the same compulsions like you and me – the only difference being that they have to contend with the pressures of innumerable lobbies demanding an ever increasing slice of the national cake. The process does not differ – be it India or the U.S.
IT ALL BOILS DOWN TO “making both ends meet”. In this context, I was rattled, moved and provoked when I finished reading recently a series of books on minimalist living by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who take a fresh, clear eyed look at what we really need to make our lives comfortable and happy. I can only suggest that you buy, beg, borrow or steal the three books in question : A Day in the Life of a Minimalist, Simplicity and Minimalism : Live a Meaningful Life. Your life will not be the same again and you will not be unduly worried about setting budgets or meeting them.