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?

12 thoughts on “I Have a Secret… I Don’t Budget”

    • Do you adjust the next month’s spending after you reflect on this month’s expenses? That’s how my husband and I do it.

  1. I guess by your definition I don’t budget either. I don’t start the beginning of the month by saying “I’ll only spend this much on clothes, dining out, etc” but i do keep track of every penny we spend and which bills we still need to pay. This helps me allocate our money and see where we need to pull back and where we can continue to spend. But I’m with you, we don’t exactly have a lot of surplus in our budget right now, so it’s easier to just not spend : )

    • That’s exactly what we do. We pull back if we see expenses are high in a particular category the previous month. You know a lot of people spend money even when they don’t have it. You should pat yourself on the back for recognizing how much you have and keeping your spending within limits!

  2. By your definition, I don’t budget either, although I would still consider what I do budgeting…

    I have automatic deductions coming out of my account when I get paid – a set amount goes into a “Bills” account (I projected the full amount on utilities, insurance etc. etc. for the year, and got a weekly amount), a set amount goes into savings (high interest account), and a set amount is left in the ‘transaction’ account for anything we want. We don’t budget down to categories of expenditure any further than this because there is too much administration involved!!

  3. 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. 😛

    • 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.

  4. 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….).

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


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