Budgeting Is Depressing? Then You Should Read This…

Is Budgeting Depressing--min

Budgeting is depressing to a lot of people, so don’t feel alone! It’s easy starting a budget but it’s not easy sticking with one. Or maybe no matter how much effort is put in, something keeps coming up that’s out of our control It’s so easy to be over budget and under motivated at first. Feeling defeated, frustrated and hopeless – the budget has completely failed to return any sense of control. There’s not enough benefit for it to be to be worth all the negativity it has caused. So the budgeting sheet is put away and never to be looked at again…

 

If this sounds like you or anyone you know, then that’s the wrong idea about budgeting!

I’m not here to sell anyone a budget. There are plenty of people who don’t budget and do perfectly fine for themselves.

This is just my late little two cents after reading Mr. AE:

 

  1. Budgeting is not about forcing you to give up things that are important to you.

  2. Budgeting is not about imposing arbitrary limits on yourself and feeling bad about not meeting them.

 

The real purpose of a budget is to understand what you are spending your money on and making sure that it’s what you really want to spend your money on.

 

 


I’m a brave man

When Lily and I moved in together, we went a good 6 months without a budget. No hell broke loose but when I brought up the possibility of doing one, Lily (and she will deny this to death) shot back:

“Don’t ever use the B word on me Hippo!!! I’ll never use a budget I’m not even doing anything wrong AND-”

“Why not?”

“Because [we live in] Belltown and I’m young!”

Basically, budgets aren’t sexy.

(they are by the way..)

 

Lily can blindly squirrel away 5-figures without effort and she’s responsible even without a budget. But she hates paperwork (and still does) and the idea of the “B word.” She thought budgeting was a form of punishment. Budgeting was an instant reiteration of what she might do wrong. My goal for the budget was just to give us a better idea of where our money was coming/going and what we wanted to save for!

I ratted her out because she’s the perfect example of why budgets get such a bad wrap among those who actively avoid budgeting. So there, I ratted out the wife.

If you don’t hear from me for a few days, please file a missing person’s report. Thanks.

 


How to Budget the Right Way:


Step 1: Track income and expenses

This is the single most important part of budgeting.  Just record and categorize each expense.  You do not need to set a budget yet.  You can either do this on your own in our spreadsheet or use a service like as Mint or Tiller to help pull together your transactions.

When you see where your money is going, you may want to make some changes.

 

Step 2: Set an initial budget based on income and expenses

Unless you’re currently spending more money than you make, it’s okay to set your budget to be however much you’re spending on average.  In fact, a budget is simply an estimate of your earnings and expenses, so it should be set based on how much you’re spending.  I’d recommend not trying to set aggressive goals for reducing spending from the start; trying to cut too much at once makes giving up entirely more likely.

Step 3: Think about long-term goals

Maybe you want to:

* build an emergency fund 
* pay off debt
* put money towards retirement
* travel the world
* buy an emu farm and sell emu eggs

There’s not really a wrong answer (…except maybe the last one) because we’re talking about personal goals, not anyone else’s.

Also, yes the emu example was so I could have the pleasure of giving you that gif. Budgeting is depressing, right? Let Homer getting beat up by an emu cheer you up! Think of this GIF and my message when your budget is making you feel crummy 🙂

Step 4: Make Adjustments to your budget

Look at your spending; is it in line with your goals?  Are there things you’re spending money on that aren’t as important to you as the others.  Can you cut spending on them to put more money towards your needs or wants?  If you think you can, choose one category to try for a month and set a goal of spending less.

Step 5: Accept who you are

You are going to go over budget at some point, especially at first; it happens to everyone. Sometimes you have unexpected expenses that must be paid for, sometime you just find you’re trying to give up something important to you and it’s too difficult.  

 

The important thing is that you don’t beat yourself up over it.

 

Lily does it all the time. If we’re $15 dollars over in a category she will have a mini disappointment wail even though we’re doing just fine. She’s genuinely concerned and most of you can already tell the Lil’ Mrs sets high standards for herself…

 

(This is excellent advice for the high-strung ones: “You will have setbacks. And that’s okay. The trick is to avoid several years of setbacks in a row.” – Groovies)

 

The trend is more important than any given month. If on average you’re spending more than what you budgeted for a category, then you have two options:

  1. Find a way to decrease spending for that category

  2. Accept that you cannot or do not want to decrease spending for that and increase the budget for it.

Step 6: Go back to Step 3

Budgeting forces you to learn a lot about yourself.  You’ll better understand your what you’re willing to compromise on and what is truly important to you.

Step 7: Roll with life’s punches

not a shackle of spending limits but a reminder of what's important to ourselves.-min

As your life changes, you’ll want to continuously reassess your priorities and make adjustments. Maybe you get a new job with higher pay, maybe you start a side hustle, maybe rent or property tax increases, maybe you get married, maybe you have children to put through college, or maybe you just feel you can use your money more effectively elsewhere.  Keep the habit of keeping your budget aligned with your goals and circumstances, and your budget will keep working for you.

Is Budgeting Depressing? Then You Should Read This...


Remember, budget is depressing is more of a mindset. Budgeting (correctly) is an effective tool that you use to help prioritize spending. It’s not a shackle of spending limits but a reminder of what’s important to ourselves. If you’re finding yourself miserable trying to stick with it, then maybe you’re trying to prioritize the wrong things.

One last thing I like to do is put in a Reader’s Highlight. I love the comments I receive and this one is from Matt:

There’s definitely a stigma around the word “budget” that drums up images of deprivation, restriction, and penny pinching. But I don’t think a budget has to be a spreadsheet or a record of every transaction. At the very least, a thought out plan for where to use your income is going to get you pretty far.

The great thing about thinking that a budget = a plan is that people who are turned off by “budgeting” are, in fact, actually budgeting! The mental math of figuring out when you get paid, when bills are due, making spending decisions based on how much is in your checking account – we would think, “this person needs a budget!”. They already have one. They’re planning what to do with their money.

I think the key is doing it effectively. Effective planning allows you to take risks, weather storms, and feel safe and secure. Ineffective planning causes you more work, more stress, more do-overs, and gives you more restrictions.

Who else finds budgeting depressing sometimes? Who does the budgeting in your relationship and why?

29 Replies to “Budgeting Is Depressing? Then You Should Read This…

  1. Budgeting takes the right kind of person and I don’t think it is for everyone. I love it but it stresses my wife out. We have developed a semi budget. We have a lot of stuff that drafts out automatically at the beginning of every month. 401k, IRA, 529, New Car Fund, New House Fund, HOA, Car Insurance and Tax. The money left over is what we have to spend for the month.

    It is just easier to look at one number. It allows for more flow. Might have spent a lot eating out this month but maybe didn’t spend any on clothes.

    With that said I do still track our expenses and I’m always trying to cut down the amount spent in each category.
    Grant @ Life Prep Couple recently posted…Stop Mindlessly Going To CollegeMy Profile

    1. Thanks for stopping by Grant! I didn’t how you guys had a HOA! It sounds like you’re the budget keeper in the relationship, just like my little traitor 😹

    2. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of people recommending this reverse budgeting approach. I’m sure it’s a great alternative to having a full budget for some people; if it’s working and you’re happy, then keep with it!

      I’m thinking it works better it you have a consistent income, though. I get paid biweekly, so sometimes I have two paychecks in a month and sometimes I have three. We budget based on two and whenever there’s a third it’s extra savings; with a reverse budget, it would be extra money available to spend. Of course, some people may prefer that.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out and for quoting Mr. Groovy!

    I really like “Accept that you cannot or do not want to decrease spending for that and increase the budget for it”.

    One method I’ve always liked is “Pay yourself first.” Automate your saving and investing. What you have left covers all expenses. Of course you need to choose the appropriate amounts but then it’s set it and forget it.

    (Little Mrs. should probably lighten up just a little – or else she’s going to end up with frown lines.)
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…Second Wednesday of the Month Politics: Mr. Groovy Takes On Income InequalityMy Profile

    1. No problem Mrs. G!! I told hubby about Mr. G’s idea last week. Averaging the years of win/lose so not everything is the end of the world is a big anxiety reliever for me. We’re all bound to win & lose some.

      I’m trying I’m trying 😱😂 *positive energy!!*

  3. This is such an excellent post! I like the personal touch and the systematic steps one can go through to start budgeting. (The graphic is hilarious too haha).

    I’ve suggested to Mr. FAF that we do a detailed budget, but he refused. He said we barely spend money on anything except for food. But we both knows we have a certain amount of numbers we don’t want to go over each month. We’re generally good with our purchases. But I’d LOVE to sit down with him and have a detailed budget one day.
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…The Pros & Cons of Our Long-distance MarriageMy Profile

    1. Hi! (And hi to your husband too!) Well, that sounds pretty much like budgeting, except with a single catch-all category 🤣

      Seriously, if you’re spending is already lean, then you may not get much benefit out of budgeting. It can just be difficult to tell how lean your spending is if you are not, and have never been, tracking it.

  4. Great write up and even though I am an avid budget hater I appreciate the technique because it does work for a lot of people.

    I care almost more about paying your self first than a specific system and it’s clear you two have that part figured out 🙂

    What do you do with the emu after raising them?
    Apathy Ends recently posted…All HAIL the Emergency FundMy Profile

    1. Hi Mr AE! Thanks for stopping by my wee web corner. So the emu eggs…*stifles laughter* they’re popular in fancy restaurants as omelettes. It’s the price of a very expensive avocado toast! Also if you empty out the eggs and sanitize them, it makes for decorative purposes. Looks like a giant avocado! They have it on Etsy for $20 a pop! xD

  5. Yes!! Step 5 is so important! Having a budget is a great way to get data about yourself and just be honest about what you can and can’t change (or ultimately are/aren’t willing to change!) I feel this step is actually the make or break step for budget success because you can either 1.) Be super disappointed and just be like this budget this is total BS!!! or 2.) Readjust and tighten up in other categories which is still an overall positive!

    LOL I’m the same as Lily and sometimes can get a bit….intense….on the mini failures even though I realize it’s just because my goals are aggressive. Literally I’ll have worked on the blog all weekend and if I don’t finish what I set out to do wonder if I did anything productive at all.

    1. Me too! I get back pain from sitting and typing then still get nothing done. Blogging is hard. Ms FAF agrees too! Ayyye we’re all lil’ overachievers!

  6. Budgeting is an exercise in ruthless prioritization.

    Budgets don’t restrict – the amount of money available restricts. Budgets just bring that fact to life. Then let you make sure the most important priorities are covered before lower ones.

  7. We love budgeting! And tracking, because why have one without the other?

    You’ve outlined a great process for getting it done, although I’d suggest that for step #4, people make *small* adjustments. If you plan to lower spending in a category and you shoot for a big change, you’re likely to find yourself frustrated and disappointed. You don’t have to get there in one month, so make gradual steps to reach your goal.

    I also like the idea of reassessing your budget periodically (step #7). Expenses change. Goals change. Your budget is a living thing and it needs to change too.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…What Dad Really Wants for Father’s DayMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Gary, that’s a very good suggestion! Trying to do too much at once is a very good way to burn out on it and give up altogether.

  8. We used to budget down to the penny. Mostly because I was obsessed with it. But my wife helped me moderate a bit. I did the same with her so she’s not in the far other side of the spectrum anymore either. But once our cash-flow started getting a lot healthier, we’ve stopped itemizing everything. It’s been a lot more freeing. It’s a huge burden to not look at your bill when you go out to eat. We’re at that point now and it feels good. So we keep our eyes on the macro picture. Not the micro.

  9. The word budgeting has definitely carried some negative connotations and I love that you pointed out in this article that it’s not about forcing you to give up things you love or imposing limits on yourself and making you feel guilty. I’ll admit, I still have this type of mindset when it comes to budgeting and I feel guilty every time I do something that wasn’t planned, because that’s extra money that’s coming out of my pocket. But I’m definitely trying to change my mindset on all that and look at it more positively and more so of a useful tool than a depressing one. I’m the budgeter in my relationship, and use an Excel spreadsheet to track everything. I also love seeing how much I’ve managed to save every month! Trying to get my boyfriend to do the same but that’s a mission in itself haha.
    Amanda

    1. Hi Amanda! Thanks for stopping by 🌸 I’m fortunate with hubby. He’s the one that budgets, I just watch. The only part about budgeting that I like is if the number saved in the end is a good number. Show your boyfriend the numbers and he’ll be crazy not to hop aboard 🙂 FI is addictive!

  10. My wife hated the thought of a budget when we first got married. After she saw that we were telling the money where to go instead of being told how to spend the money. She loosened up and feels much better about it. I think most people if they’re honest don’t like being told what to do even if that’s telling yourself what to do with your money 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…How I Improved My Family’s Quality of LifeMy Profile

    1. I think the utility of budgeting decreases the longer you do it. After you’ve identified and trimmed the fat out of your spending and made a habit of your new spending patterns, it gets more boring and less useful to budget. At that point it can make more sense to boil it down to the parts that are most useful to you, which is a very personal determination.

  11. I think the juicy secret sauce to sticking to a budget is having a long term goal. Otherwise, budgeting can become boring after a while.

    When we first started tracking our finances, we did it to have an actual plan to pay off our debts. Seeing how that actually worked, we realized thinking big is actually quite motivating.
    Adriana @MoneyJourney recently posted…How to live well below your meansMy Profile

  12. There’s definitely a stigma around the word “budget” that drums up images of deprivation, restriction, and penny pinching. But I don’t think a budget has to be a spreadsheet or a record of every transaction. At the very least, a thought out plan for where to use your income is going to get you pretty far.

    The great thing about thinking that a budget = a plan is that people who are turned off by “budgeting” are, in fact, actually budgeting! The mental math of figuring out when you get paid, when bills are due, making spending decisions based on how much is in your checking account – we would think, “this person needs a budget!”. They already have one. They’re planning what to do with their money.

    I think the key is doing it effectively. Effective planning allows you to take risks, weather storms, and feel safe and secure. Ineffective planning causes you more work, more stress, more do-overs, and gives you more restrictions.

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