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I Have a Secret… I Don’t Budget

I have a secret to tell. I’m One Frugal Girl who does not budget. At least not the strict sense of the word. I have a general idea of how much money I can spend on things, but I don’t sit down at the beginning of the year and define just how much I can spend right down to the penny.

I’ve tried to budget in the past, but I always find that I don’t keep track of my spending in a way that makes budgeting easy. My husband and I keep detailed records of our finances. I can generate cash flow, income and expense reports in a moment’s notice that depict how much we earn and spend down to the penny. This tracking is easy. We pay for everything with a credit card and meticulously document exactly where our money goes each month.

The problem with budgeting is that I can’t seem to keep track of exactly how much I’m spending as I’m spending it. For example, if I budget $100 for clothes. I need to keep that number in mind as I go shopping. When I buy shoes for $20 and clothes for my son for $30 I need to go update my budget so that I recognize I can only spend $50 more.

Every time I’ve tried to follow a strict budget I’ve failed to update the numbers as I spend. So when I go out shopping the next time I don’t know if I can spend $20 or $75. Then I get frustrated with myself for failing to update the documentation and ultimately give up on it entirely.

I no longer worry about exactly how much I spend in a particular area and while I look at the numbers on the credit card at the end of the month I don’t keep track as I go along each day. I do make notes as I review the credit card statement though. I track my overall expenses in very specific categories. If I find that I’ve already spent a lot on one specific area I stop myself from heading to any of my favorite stores for awhile. The same goes for any other category for which I seem overextended.

The truth is that these days I don’t spend much money. I try to live my life as a quasi-minimalist. I purge when I can and try to bring new things into the house unless they are absolutely necessary. My no-budget approach works because I don’t desire many new things these days and don’t find myself craving too many things that require a credit card.

I know a lot of people live by a budget and couldn’t imagine having it any other way. Others can’t stand budgeting and avoid it like the plague. How about you? What are your thoughts on budgeting? Do you find it helpful or hurtful? Do you use a specific system to help you stay on track and how often do you find yourself diverging?


Tuesday 11th of June 2019

i set a budget as a guideline every month. i rarely follow it, but at least i am mindful of it.

Emily @ evolvingPF

Thursday 22nd of March 2012

Oh, we definitely budget. Mint makes it REALLY easy. I don't like being off for the month or two it would take to figure out what was happening.

Complete Roundup Of Women’s Money Week Posts

Monday 12th of March 2012

[...] I Have A Secret…I Don’t Budget [...]

Donna Freedman

Sunday 11th of March 2012

I don't track my spending and I don't budget on paper. Keeping the basic numbers in my head -- rent, $700; health insurance, $440, etc. -- is enough to keep me from buying anything I don't really NEED to buy. I take that back: I get my hair cut and colored every six weeks or so; while I do consider a decent haircut necessary, coloring is a "want" and I could probably find someone cheaper. But this woman's in business for herself and I like supporting small businesses. Oh, and I get one professional massage a month. More a need than a want. No machine runs for 54 years without some maintenance issues. ;-) And, of course, being single and middle-aged means I don't have a partner with whom to parse expenses and I don't have kids at home vacuuming dollars from my wallet (field trips class pictures new shoes college application fees....).

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 20th of March 2012

I love your comments Donna and I completely agree about the massage. I'm only 34 and couldn't function without them.


Friday 9th of March 2012

I tend to overspend, so I try to budget in categories where money flows out the easiest - shopping and dining out. While I'm conscious of the budget amount, I'm still working on sticking to it! At the very least, budgeting helps me spend less than I normally would if I didn't have a budgeting consciousness. :P

One Frugal Girl

Saturday 10th of March 2012

That's also an interesting approach. Rather than budgeting all categories, focus on the areas of weakness and address just those. I'd never thought about that.