The word ‘budget’ has various meanings. The dictionary defines it as ‘an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time’. The Indian Government also lays adequate importance to the term budget. They say that a budget is ‘a statement of estimated receipts and expenditure by the Government of India that has to be laid before the Parliament’. Although both these definitions are correct and true in their own places, they held very little relevance in my life.

      Why would I need to know about the process the government uses to budget the money everyone pays in the form of taxes? In my household there was never a time when we thought of a budget for something. My children did not need money. I bought everything before them even having to ask for it, so I could not understand why every other family laid so much importance on understanding and creating their family budgets.

Until one particular day…

     It was a bright Sunday morning and my children were eagerly waiting for the trip to the market, an event which was religiously observed in my house. This Sunday was a little different though, the maid did not turn up, I was down with a cold and my children had decided to start the day arguing about something that I can’t even remember now. After a lot of promises and apologies we reached the market and began our Sunday shopping.

    This was usually the time when I let my children move around the market and pick up what they liked as Sundays were their days. However, the first sign of problems arose when I opened my wallet at the billing counter, to my shock and horror I realised that I had only Rs.200 on me. Embarrassing as it was I knew I was stuck in a situation I could not get out of.

    What would I do now? How could I explain my situation to the cashier without embarrassing myself? Worst of all what would I tell my children- that their mother forgot the money at home? The very thought of their sad faces upset me.

    That was when an idea struck me. I decided to do the one thing I had avoided all my life. I was lucky the day at the market was slow, so I told my children that we were going to play a game, I would give them both 100 rupees each and they were allowed to buy only those items which would fit into their “BUDGET”. The cashier who knew me for a few years now, looked at me like I had lost my mind.

   As my children got busy sifting through the items from the shopping cart, testing their new found knowledge of ‘Mental Maths’ the cashier asked me, “Madam, why are you doing this? You are a regular customer, so you have the option of paying the money later as well. Why ask the children to choose only a few items? Did they do something wrong? Were they up to some mischief?”

    I looked at him straight in the eye, smiled and said, “No, my children and I are learning something new today. Time has no guarantee. It never stays the same and is always changing, it is not necessary that the situation at home financially will always be the same. Hence it is good to plan ahead and have a budget in mind when you leave the house for making a purchase.”

   The cashier smiled back and said, “looks like times have indeed changed”. He was correct, my children had selected items which fell in their 100 rupees budget and they had also managed to combine the balance amount and buy a chocolate that they decided they were going to share.

   When I left the market that day with my children walking happily ahead of me, I thought to myself that budgeting was not a bad thing after all. Everyone had their own definition and use for it, all we had to do was create one which worked the best for our situation.