Financial Update: Why I’m No Longer Budgeting

Categories Budget
After months of no longer budgeting, how do our finances look? You might be surprised to find that budgets aren't necessary for everyone.

After months of no longer budgeting, how do our finances look? You might be surprised to find that budgets aren't necessary for everyone.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.

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? 

Erin is a total goofball who sucks at writing about herself (though she finds referring to herself in the third person amusing). When she's not editing videos, she can be found messing around in Photoshop, laughing at her cats, watching YouTube videos, playing video games, chair dancing, sipping coffee, or any random combination of the above.

28 thoughts on “Financial Update: Why I’m No Longer Budgeting

  1. That’s awesome! We’ve honestly never “budgeted” in the traditional sense and it’s been an ideal approach for us. Since you’re a naturally frugal person, I’m so excited that you’re moving to the frugal autopilot methodology. I find it to be a lot less stressful than counting pennies and, it means we don’t have to spend any time during the month checking in on our budget. We do review our expenses at the end of each month, just to make sure everything is on the up and up. But, we’ve never been surprised by our spending–it’s all just in line with our frugal nature. Congrats on freeing yourself from “the budget” :)!

    1. Thanks Mrs. FW! It’s exactly as you said – it’s much less stressful for me. Life is more than just counting the numbers and tallying things up. I don’t need a budget to reinforce being frugal. Our spending never surprises me either as it’s mostly groceries, gas, and other necessities. We’re pretty boring. =)

  2. We’ve stopped budgeting in the last few months as well, kind of. We still track our spending and sort of look at how it compares to our budget from last fall (thanks, Mint!) but we haven’t updated it to be current. We are basically just trying to not spend much! A budget would probably help us be superfrugal but that’s not a goal at the moment.

    1. I like that point – being superfrugal isn’t our goal at the moment, either. We’re trying to work our way out of student loan debt, but you don’t have to kill yourself with ultimate frugality to get there. I generally like to think as long as you’re moving in the right direction, that’s all that matters, and that’s where we’re going!

  3. Congrats on the income milestone Erin! That’s excellent! We don’t write out a strict budget anymore either. Interestingly, I used to find that I actually spent more when we wrote a budget because it kind of gave me a license to spend money. Now we just focus on keeping expenses as low as possible, and we are definitely spending less!

    1. Thanks, Dee! That’s an interesting result of budgeting. I’m not sure if that happened to us, but we did go out to eat more when we kept a strict budget as it was a line-item already in there. “Well, we have money leftover there, may as well use it!” can be a bad line of thought, now that I think about it! (Of course, we still had enough room for savings, but I can see how that might happen.)

  4. I think it’s a personal decision and you have to do what works best for you. I’d say if you were living paycheck to paycheck or realized you never had enough money in your checking account, then I would certainly advocate for having one. But if you have money leftover, are saving, paying a good amount towards your debt, then maybe you don’t need one!

    1. That’s pretty much how I feel. I still recommend budgeting to others, but there are also some people out there who are naturally good at managing their money (or not spending it), in which case, it might not be needed.

  5. I try to follow a budget because my spending is out-of-control enough as it is. If I didn’t have a budget I’d be back to racking up more debt again I think. For the most part, my debt is going down, down, down, although I’ve had some setbacks this last month. But I’m trying not to let those get me discouraged because I want to keep paying off my debt quickly so I can quit my job soon. I’m ready in every way other than financially… Ugh!

    1. Budgets certainly have their place, especially if you’ve had challenges with overspending before. Experiencing a setback is definitely annoying, but it’s good you’re not letting it hold you down. I’ve just tried to move past the bad months and look forward to the good months, because there are bound to be a few!

  6. For some reason, I thought you were someone who always had a budget. I’ve tried but I’m too lazy and I’m also bad with spreadsheets and stuff. The online apps aren’t always the best either. But like I mentioned in a previous comment…I think when you’re naturally frugal you don’t necessarily have to have a strict budget. It’s still good to keep track of expenses and see where the money goes…and that’s something I’ve been meaning to look more closely at.

    1. I had a “budget” spreadsheet where I really just filled in how much we spent on what at the end of the month. It was more or less for the sake of tracking our spending, not really budgeting in the sense of planning the month beforehand.

      I actually do love spreadsheets, but I look at it from a time perspective – if we don’t have the spreadsheet, we’ll be fine, so my time is better spent earning money. It sounds really nitpicky, but we only have so many hours in the day, and so much mental energy!

  7. Personal finance is certainly just that – personal. I think Ramit Sethi explains what you’re talking about well in his book – we’re lazy by nature and budgeting kind of stinks, so instead use a system whereby you have a spending plan. It sounds like you do have a plan for your money, albeit, not a strict budget.

    1. Whenever I think about being kind of anti-budget, I think of Ramit. For many, many people, budgeting is just too time-consuming. Thinking about making a spreadsheet isn’t appealing to most. But it’s still important to know where your money is going and have a plan for it, as you said.

  8. What a great step forward! There are days where I feel I take a few steps forward with the budget, and then move all the way back. I’ve been tracking each and every expense and just trying to get my trigger points again. This will help me find a balance between finance and life.

    1. Haha, to be fair, my traveling isn’t anything too crazy (yet). I don’t have a passport, and R doesn’t get much time off, so we only really have one big thing planned this summer. I’ve been able to get some great sales and travel hack a bit to cut costs as well.

  9. I’m glad that you’re spending mindfully and I agree, budgeting isn’t fit for everyone. If it’s not making you happy you shouldn’t do it. I budget but not super strictly and I don’t beat myself up when the numbers don’t add up because I move things around a lot between categories. I’m pretty organized but I’ve never been a spreadsheet person. For me it’s so easy to spend money on something and then forget so tracking my spending along with a little budgeting is the best solution for me.

    1. Moving things around and making adjustments is great! I would do that, too, but still get upset seeing how much over we were in some categories, even if there were good reasons for it. I was doing the same – tracking along with budgeting throughout the month. I’m glad it works for you!

  10. I personally hate budgets and focus more on minimal spending and goals to keep my money habits in good shape. Most of my clients hate the thought of budgeting too, but really as long as you remain mindful of your spending and focus on growing your income, it does the same thing as a strict budget without you even realizing it’s happening.

    1. Exactly! (And I always love hearing that from someone who knows better ;)). Being aware and mindful is important – I don’t think it’s good to not know what’s happening with your money – but it’s also not good to drain all your mental energy on it. Goals are much easier to focus on!

  11. We don’t budget exactly. At least, not the way most people do.

    I tried keeping discrete categories for our spending. It constantly went awry and stressed me out horribly.

    So now we do a set weekly spending amount. It keeps us aware of our spending, but I don’t have to sit around and worry that we spent too much on groceries or some other variable expense.

    1. That’s an interesting way to do it! It sounds like we were experiencing stress over the same things.

      My mom kind of did something similar when I was growing up. She had a set amount left from her paycheck every week, which basically had to last us for food and gas. She never actually designated a certain portion of it to one or the other – it was just a pool to pull from for whatever we needed. She still does it, though I was able to introduce her and my dad to tracking their spending!

  12. I used a strict budget when I first started blogging a couple of years ago. I think budgeting is great if you’re just starting out. Also, it makes you more aware of your purchases. Once you get used to the budget, I think it’s totally okay to let it go. So long as you’re aware of what your spending.

    1. Yes, budgeting is a great introduction to the art of managing your money properly! Most people aren’t natural born savers, and I think most can benefiting from budgeting/planning at least once. =)

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