Hello everyone! I know I mentioned talking about topics other than money in my update on Monday, but I do feel like I owe you all a little financial update.
I had previously been posting my monthly budget for quite some time, and I made the conscious decision to stop.
I also made the not-so-conscious decision to stop budgeting.
*Cue brakes squealing*
I promise, I didn’t fall off the personal finance bandwagon or anything. I’ll admit I got a little too busy to keep updating a spreadsheet. As much as I love crunching numbers, I didn’t have the luxury of time anymore.
But that wasn’t the only reason I stopped.
Let’s take a closer look at my decision to stop budgeting, and how it’s affected our finances.
I’ve Never Been For a Strict Budget
I have to put this out there – up until a year ago, I had never bothered to budget strictly before. However, after a few less than great months of spending after moving, I decided to change things up a bit.
I’m a fan of trying out different money management methods. Everyone needs to find what works for them. Budgets aren’t always a one-size-fits-all solution, nor should they be. We all have different situations that call for different things.
My goal with creating a budget was to simply get us back on track. While we did stay on track most months, we also noticed a decrease in our happiness.
What gives? I’m pretty frugal by nature and don’t really like spending my money.
Well, there’s the problem. I don’t want to spend my money. A budget reinforced that.
That’s not a healthy mindset to have.
Money is a Tool
It was then I realized money is a valuable tool. I always hated hearing the phrase, “You can’t take it with you!” Well, of course not, but that doesn’t mean we need to blow our money all the time, either.
Finding that balance is always difficult, but I think I managed to do it.
After realizing I was obsessing over the numbers in our budget
a little way too much, I decided to scrap the spreadsheet.
Financially, we’ve been okay. This has always been the case, at least for me. I’ve never had a problem living within my means.
I have had a problem with being okay spending money. It’s been dragging me down for a long time.
While I still have student loan debt, I’ve realized I’m not a huge fan of the all-or-nothing approach. I still pay extra toward my loans, but I need to make sure to say “yes” to myself once in a while, too.
At the beginning of the year, I decided to allow myself extra spending room only on certain things that really mattered to me (like travel), for the sake of my happiness. I’m glad to say it’s gone well so far.
Obsessing Isn’t Good
Getting nit-picky about the numbers isn’t good when it makes you lose sight of the big picture.
And the big picture looks fine. Maybe I wish it looked a little better (coughstudentloandebtcough), but don’t we always?
After a few months, I learned obsessing over our budget wasn’t getting us anywhere good. R was becoming annoyed because grocery shopping was a burden. I always insist on buying everything on sale, but sometimes, there aren’t any sales to be had on things we need. Do we just starve?
No, obviously not! While our cooking habits could be better, our grocery spending is pretty modest (around $300-$350) for two people (and R kinda counts as 2 people). We also barely ever go out to eat. I’m talking maybe once a month.
Not budgeting has allowed me to take a step back and realize it’s okay to go over “predetermined numbers” as long as we have the means to do so, and when it makes sense.
Our grocery spending hasn’t skyrocketed, though. Why? Because we’re still mindful about our purchases. We still do our best to clear out the freezer and pantry.
Not budgeting does not mean giving yourself permission to buy all the things. And I still think quite a few people benefit from keeping a budget. But is not budgeting going to kill us? No.
Again, we’re all different. I happen to agree with the Frugalwoods’ “autopilot” mindset because I’ve already conditioned myself to spend the least amount possible. I had never thought of it that way until I read about their approach to money management, and I love it!
How Do Our Finances Look?
I never shared income updates on the blog, and I’m not going to start. However, I will say I reached an income milestone in April. I made a decent chunk more than I ever made at my day job, and it feels incredible.
A year ago, I was making nothing. I’m overwhelmed by the progress I’ve been able to make in such a short time, considering things didn’t really start kicking off for me until after September.
R is chugging along as usual, and our spending hasn’t inflated. Since my income isn’t predictable, I always err on the side of caution.
It’s also been nice to allow ourselves to have some fun. I’m not counting pennies and taking an overly-critical view of every expense we have like I was before. And we’re still okay (we have a buffer in our checking account).
As a bonus, I looked through our auto policies last week and realized we could use less medical coverage since we both have coverage already. That saved us around $50 combined. We both got hefty tax refunds, R paid off one of his smaller student loans, and we had 2 months of low electric usage thanks to the nice weather we’ve had. All good things!
So if you’re a frugal person like me, try not to beat yourself up over the numbers. Your happiness matters, too, even if you don’t necessarily feel deprived. Stressing yourself out over dollars and cents isn’t good, and neither is giving your money too much control.
Do you follow a budget or a spending plan? How strict are you with it? Are you naturally out to spend the least amount possible?