Budgeting Isn’t For Everyone: Is It For You?

Since I started this site, I’ve been a fan of budgets. They’re useful to make sure you know where your money goes and to keep track of expenses. However, I’m having a change of heart. After 2 years, I’m realizing that they’re simply not for me.

Why?

It’s not because I want to spend and don’t want anyone telling me what to do. It’s not that I always know where each penny goes and can keep in mind where I spent my money and know exactly when to cut back. And it’s definitely not that I have enough money that where I spend it is of no consequence to me.

The reason I want to quit budgeting is that each month, things are roughly the same. I have monthly bills that are steady, I don’t go overboard in any category, and to be honest, I don’t need anyone to keep me accountable because I do a pretty good job as it is.

For the most part, when I am over budget, it is because I am going on vacation or have a large purchase that I’ve been saving for. I don’t really ever spend an extra $200 on food when I wasn’t expecting it. I experience only slight lifestyle inflation, and I’m not at risk of running into money and spending on new clothes each month.

Budgets are not for me. Budgets are for people who can’t keep their expenses in check, for those who are trying to keep themselves on a plan and who can’t do a good job without one, and that simply doesn’t describe me.

I don’t need a budget. I like seeing a snapshot every few days of my accounts, but keeping track of every transaction is time-consuming, exhausting, and stressful.

Readers, how do you feel about budgets? I’m so over them personally, but that doesn’t mean you have to be!

13 Responses to Budgeting Isn’t For Everyone: Is It For You?

  1. Melissa says:

    But you do still *have* a budget though, no? It’s just living in your head and not on paper, so you’re able to manage it better.

    I looooove my budget. I use Mint.com. I like it because it’s quick, and takes no time at all to set up an manage, and helps me see where I am at throughout the month.

    • Daniel says:

      @Melissa, It’s not so much of a budget as it is knowledge that I shouldn’t spend all my money in one place. I don’t plan on changing my spending habits. The difference is that now I don’t have to write down where I’m spending my money.

  2. Austin says:

    Yeah I’d agree that you might have more of a budget than you think ;-)

    For us, budgeting isn’t necessary because we “can’t keep our expenses in check,” it’s necessary for us to plan properly. We are currently saving money to buy a house next year, and essentially (for us) a budget is just a plan for us to save and give. Could we spend $500 a month dining out? Sure. Should we? No. Well, we shouldn’t if we want to put aside $1700 this month for the house and $800 for the church, right?

    Ultimately our budget is about keeping our priorities in check. You could get a feel really quick for the type of priorities one has if you simply look at how they spend their hard-earned money.

    Nice post!

    • Daniel says:

      @Austin, Without a budget, do you think you would spend $500 a month dining out? Unlikely because that’s not your usual spending habit. I think you’d get pretty close to your current spending, the difference might be less stress and more time to enjoy the money you do spend.

  3. I am starting to feel like you about budgets, but at the same time I can’t give mine up. I need to go through every transaction to find mistakes. I found two errors last month that wouldn’t have been found and would have cost me money if I wasn’t doing a transaction-based budget.

  4. krantcents says:

    I agree the recording of your expenses is not much fun and may not be needed for everyone. I meet my financial goals without recording every expense. My expenses are in control and my savings are on autopilot with a payroll deduction.

  5. Evan says:

    I run my life very similarly. I know my family’s “monthly nut” (i.e. recurring expenses that are coming regardless of whether I make money or not).

    I have a general idea of what is spent on top of savings, but I definitely don’t write it down anywhere.

  6. We make a budget every month but really, the only “budget” I need is an eating out budget. I would eat out every single meal if I could. So I do need something to force me to reign it in.

  7. MD says:

    Meh I’m on and off with budgets. It all depends on what’s going on with my life at the time.

    I prefer to set income and savings goals, all while balancing life. I like to see my income go up. I also love to fill up my vacation account :)

  8. I still like budgeting, but it’s probably because my income fluctuates and I need to make adjustments every few months. Then again, it could be that I’m OCD when it comes to excel sheets. Who knows.

  9. We have a cash allowance budget – $500/month. Other than that, we spend as little as we could. It’s too much work to make a budget for every little thing.

  10. Jerry says:

    I think it should be for everyone because it leads to control of your money. I know too many people who make loads of money only to be extremely “poor.” Budgeting is your insurance for learning to have checks and balances.

  11. Ira says:

    Another approach is one my mother taught me: pay yourself first. That just means that if you’re saving (for a house, retirement, whatever) put that money aside first. Whatever is left is what you get to spend that month. You don’t necessarily need to keep track of every expenditure, but it gives you an upper limit.

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