The practical life is a life full of limitation and finitude and so requiring work. In limitation and finitude are the the possibilities of negation, absence, not-it. This absence or lack is that in which lies the category of death which also includes the ultimate rest (or absence of work). Add to limitation the feature of complexity and the possibility of change is born. That which has parts is that which can fall apart. That which is alive and complex can fall apart and so die. Quickly we arrive at what philosophers for generations, and more often in their earlier generations, have taken to be central to living this life–a focus on death.
Once focused on death, and proving its possibility is a waste of time as is proving its probability (proving its necessity is more difficult), and assuming interest in the preservation of life, budgeting becomes central. I will not spend time on interest in staying alive. I leave he who is not interested in living with dissipation and destruction. I only speak to he who is interested in the preservation of life and the importance of budgeting.
It is the finitude of energy and resources for the preservation of life that interests me. Budgeting involves looking forward at more life and establishing work now such that life is preserved into the future. Thus, what is budgeted, how much and into what categories is relative to the life that is preserved.
When I was young, say not yet a teen, my father introduced me to budgeting. A weekly allowance, $2.50, had to be divided weekly into the following categories: spending, short-term savings, longterm savings and tither. Spending and tithe are interesting categories. They are both in some sense setting aside energy for the non-necessary. Spending is set aside for whatever are the desires. Charity is set aside not for the needs or desires of the saver at all but for the needs of others. Short-term and longterm savings were categories of the future: the near and the far. The introduction to my young mind of such categories was helpful. But I did not realize the helpfulness until much later in life. It was enough that I was prepared before I knew I was prepared. In addition to the categories were the percentages of the whole that were to be distributed into the categories. If I remember correctly: longterm was 15%, short term was 25%, tithe was the famous 10% and spending was a whopping 50%.
In budgeting as a much older man for myself and the five others I have made league with (wife and children) the categories are many more. It may be now that the categories are nearing 20. But, what has not grown much are the categories of non-necessity. What has grown in detail and definition are the short-term and longterm future categories. What has also changed is that frivolous spending has been reduced to a minimum and much more is now allocated to short-term and longterm savings. So, we can identify one of the important steps in budgeting. Proper categorization of the distribution of resources which includes the allocation of percentages.
The proper categorization and allocation of resources requires knowledge of (or more humbly–familiarity with) the needs of the the thing being budgeted for which also requires a knowledge of what its ideal state is and the changes that might bring the form of life into (or closer to) its ideal state.
So, the very young budgeter just starts with a categorization and allocation handed to him. But the first budgeting of an independent life requires great flexibility and revision. And in the revision is the opportunity to succumb to temptation. But if done well it does require revision as ignorance is transformed into familiarity. New categories arise. Allocation percentages need to be adjusted. And so the rigidity of the fixed budget must be matched to the flexibility of adaptation.
So, the knowledge of the ideal state, which may be growing in familiarity, is combined with a judgment about how some limited set of resources can be allocated to its preservation. And this is no easy task. Here is what in philosophy is captured as knowledge of the good and the right. The ideal state of the living being that is being pursued is knowledge of the good. The rules for distribution of this much into this category is knowledge of the right. But there is something missing.
What is missing is the third category which is virtue. The theoretical plan of a budget is as practically useful as the regular maintenance of it, and the disciplined living within it. And this may be achieved for a time by will alone. But practically it must be supported in the long run by virtue. The budgeter needs two kinds of virtue (Aristotle): intellectual and moral. Prudence allows for the clear sight and foresight of what is needed and in what amounts. Temperance allows for the balanced relation to the different categories of need and their satisfaction. Courage allows for the facing of the daunting emergency in which the budget must be temporarily suspended in the face or crisis or emergency. The virtue of justice (a virtue of action as opposed to the two mentioned moral virtues of feeling) is the virtue of giving what is due, actually allocating to each category what it is due.
The regular and disciplined budgeting is mundane, boring and in competition with many other demands. The budgeter must be patient, enduring, disciplined. It is only by virtue that the budget actually governs life and enables it to perform its task well. Without virtue it is just a theoretical idea that is not or only partially instantiated.
One can make analogy from the budgeting of money which is a useful measure of the energy required for material sustenance to the budgeting required for the good condition of the life of the soul. Budgeting is everywhere. And so, the boring task of disciplined allocation of energy is everywhere. But the fruit of it is well worth the effort.