I’m a hypocrite

Yes it’s true. Full disclosure, I’m a big freakin’ hypocrite. I preach the wonders of living on a budget, when in reality, I pretty much don’t. Maybe this makes me a terrible person to go to for financial insight, but I think it just makes me normal. Let’s face it, we all compromise a little bit on financially sound principles every now and then. Even the Dave Ramsey “rice and beans” fanatics dine out occasionally, when that money could have been put towards paying down debt. See, I’m not so bad after all.

Just because I don’t live by a budget, doesn’t mean that I am a reckless spender. Actually it’s quite the opposite, I’m a frugal mother lover. I think my frugality fills in as my quasi-budget. If you have been tracking my expenses, you know that I have a dining out/grocery goal of being under $250 each month. If you really pay attention you will notice I’m almost always under that amount.

My budget may say that I have allocated $250 in spending this month, but I rarely restrict myself from doing something I want because “It’s not in my budget.” I guess what I’m trying to communicate is: A budget (to me) is a lifestyle and not necessarily a set of defined parameters. If I live in a way that reflects my ultimate goal of being debt free and owning a home, I don’t have to count pennies. All I have to do is make as many smart spending choices as possible and do my best to minimize any stupid ones.

So now I’m curious. To those who have a budget: Does it determine all of your decisions? How often do you track your spending to make sure you are within your limits? Am I a crappy financial blogger for saying that I don’t really use my budget that often? I guess this is just another area where I resist the financial norm, and make things personal.

14 thoughts on “I’m a hypocrite”

  1. This is why I don't preach much of anything on my blog 😀

    While I have a set budget, I break it all the time. It's annoying. Yes, I do keep track of every penny in and out, and how close or far away I am at breaking the biweekly budget, but it doesn't stop me from doing so. Shit happens. And, as I've said before, I don't want to feel like I'm poor (in my Frugality Sucks post, I believe), because I'm not.

    This doesn't make you a crappy financial blogger, because that would require being a financial blogger in the first place. You're a personal finance blogger, with emphasis on the personal. Just not quite as personal as mine.

  2. I don't think it makes you a crappy blogger… it makes you a human! My first shot at PF blogging and budgeting, I really tried to stick to my budget hardcore and it was super restrictive..thus leading to a spending relapse.

    Now I have a budget that's less restrictive and while I do have some things that are set amounts every month, I try my best to stick within the parameters of the variable spending categories but I'm not going to cry if I go over by $1.52 or something. As long as your making smart spending choices and handling your business (paying off debt, savings, etc) I think your doing an a-ok job!

  3. What a timely post.

    I recently started using Gails 'magic jars' but I'm been floundering when it comes to keeping track. I was feeling moderatly guilty about that – but it's working for me, so that's silly.

    I know how much 'jar money' I have, and I plug that into my jars/wallet. It doesn't matter what 'category' I had planned to use it in as long as I don't use credit to buy more or go back to the bank before my next withdrawl.

    ps. my roommate loves you blog! particularly the creative art that dons each post.

  4. No way. If something isn't in my budget and I want it, I make room for it in my budget, which does defeat the point of a budget.

    I still track my spending and try to hit an overall "average", but I feel like I'm saving enough to allow myself leeway.

  5. I think the problem people have with budgets is they frequently make them too restrictive. Like you, I have a dining out budget (mine is $100) and I almost always come in under that. I see my budget more as a guideline to help me keep things in order, rather than laws I must obey. I have, on occasion, chosen to do something different if I was close to the max on my budget – asked a friend over for dinner rather than going out, or suggested a glass of wine out, rather than a full meal, but I've never felt like I have "given anything up" or had to sacrifice. The important thing was the time with my friend, not what we ate. If push came to shove, yes, I'd break the budget (and have) but I try to structure so that I don't have to.

  6. I used to have a spending diary to track every penny and it helped me to curb needless spending and find my money leaks, but now that I am fairly frugal in all my purchases, I don't use it anymore. I thought about making a budget, but I never did because much like Ninja, I simply do what I want. My overall spending is low and frugal, so if I want to splurge one month, I can.

  7. I've always been a fairly frugal person, but about a year and a half ago I realized I had no idea where my money was going and exactly how much I was spending or saving. I came up with a fairly simple budget/spreadsheet in Excel that allows me to track all my expenses. I probably spend about 10 minutes a week on it max, and setting up the spreadsheet at the beginning of the year might take about 20 minutes. At this point it's mostly copying and pasting with some fine tuning as I continue discover the best way to budget for my lifestyle.

    I have allocated a certain amount of money towards various categories. Sometimes I go over sometimes I go under. The goal is to hit 0 by the end of the month. Although I don't mind having surplus! Usually if I see that I’m overspending in some category, then I will try to balance it out in another. For instance if I see I’ve been doing too much shopping, which I will admit happens quite frequently, I will eat out less and utilize what’s already in my pantry instead of going food shopping.

    I have a 13th workbook that covers any additional income (bonuses, rewards, gifts) and expenses (doctors visits, traveling, emergencies) that are not in my monthly budget. When I do go over, I can decide if I want to remove from my emergency, vacation, or indulgences savings accounts. Simple formulas track how much is spent and how much goes into savings. As long as I see that I’m meeting my yearly goals, then I don’t mind if I overspend from time to time. Otherwise I’d be probably feeling guilty quite frequently for breaking the budget!

  8. Supposedly we have a budget, but we never actually follow it. As long as we have more money coming in than going out, we don't sweat the small stuff.

  9. I use a budget as a guideline, not a wall. I do track my spending through Mint.com and like to see when I am under budget. I only really have two categories, Dining out, and groceries. If I go over budget, and we need some groceries or decide to eat out, we still do it, but we do try and keep spending within those guidelines.

    It is a personal thing. Some people dont use a budget at all. I really think tracking and knowing your spending is far more important than restricting it.

  10. Our budget is a guideline. If we find something we want, but it doesn't fit in a category, then we put it in miscellaneous. It just ends up that we are usually under in other categories enough to cover the overspending in misc.

  11. So it's pretty much a consensus…

    No one lives by their budget to a T

    I was waiting for someone on the envelope system to chime in

  12. Our budget doesn't determine our decisions. I wish I had the discipline to say, "Uh oh, we don't have any more money in our grocery budget, we can't buy any more food til payday." But sometimes I do defer or delay unnecessary purchases until pay day, especially if we're tight.

    For us, our budget is our general allocation of money more for tracking than for living by. I use mint.com and go through our transactions just about every day, assigning them to the right categories. Then I can see where the money goes.

  13. I feel like I'm always so late in commenting, but I agree with your post and many other commenters. I have "guidelines" which I call my budget, but if I spend too much in one area, I don't throw up my hands in the air all stressed that the budget's ruined, I just don't spend as much in another area. Usually as long as I at least increase my net worth by $500-1000 each month I'm happy. 🙂

  14. I'd love to say I follow my budget but heck no I don't! I follow my budget to the point where I have a set amount of money each month to spend on categories that can fluctuate. If I want something I'll make it work within that amount.

    The envelope or 'jar' system would never work for me because I prefer to use plastic (debit) cards. This also makes it easier because I can just track all my transactions and spending online through my bank account.

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