From Hating Budgeting to Loving It

I used to hate the idea of budgeting, because I didn’t understand what it really was. But once I mentally renamed “budgeting” to “my spending plan”, I felt a lot better about it. That’s because a budget really is a plan for where you want your money to go when you spend it, and I enjoy making plans.

In fact I actually like looking at my spending plan now. It’s great. (It also helps that I’m out of debt except for our mortgage, so most of my money stays mine.) I track investments, savings, and taxes separately, and those come off the top before I start spending anything.

I do my spending plan maybe a little oddly. I have some expenses that I consider my “bare minimum” expenses, and then a bunch of things I like to spend money on that are flexible.

For the flexible ones, I don’t have any set amount, so long as I don’t spend more money than I have available (meaning in my bank account right now, whether it’s just on hand or whether I’ve saved it up over a few months for a specific purpose like a trip). That method works for me, which is what’s important.

Here are my bare minimum monthly expenses, if you’re curious. Note that some numbers are my share of the total bill, since my husband and I keep separate finances and split the joint bills.

Mortgage – $400 (my minimum share, but I pay more than this)
Escrow – $120 (my share)
Groceries – $150 (my share)
DSL – $25 (my share)
Electricity – $57.50 (my share)
Water – $30 (my share)
Netflix – $5.46 (my share)
Vet bills – $75-$112.50 (my share)
Gas – $40
Medication – $35
Life insurance – $16.70
Allowance/gas/clothes for my son – $140
Car insurance – $168 (but not actually paid monthly)

I also have some business expenses that are in a separate plan.

Everything else I spend money on is either “flexible” or paid in a lump sum out of money I’ve earned that month. I have a very detailed spreadsheet with all of my expenses on it, that includes the flexible items. My biggest flexible items are travel, (mostly-but-not-always) school-related spending for my son, eating out, gifts, and donations, in that order. So guess where I’m cutting back to send more to the mortgage…

How do you plan your spending? Do you enjoy it?

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16 comments

  • The enjoyment of a budget doesn’t come in the short term. In that realm, having to pass on buying certain items is not fun, but the ‘enjoyment’ comes when you look over the long term and realize how much a budget has benefited you through increased net worth, better money spending habits, and lower debt.

    You definitely need a long term approach to see the ‘happy things’ that come from a good budget.

    • Hm, I don’t agree. To me a budget isn’t about “having to pass on things”, rather it’s about being able to get the things I want. Maybe not everything all at once, but eventually.

  • I certainly don’t enjoy it. In fact, I was of the opinion that I would simply pay myself first and spend what was left. I am starting to change my thinking somewhat as I get older. Maybe I am simply getting wiser.

  • Just out of curiosity: Why do you and your husband keep separate finances?

    • We were both married before, and had both had a lot of conflict related to money in our previous marriages. We decided to just split the joint expenses when we moved in together and each take care of our own expenses & spending separately. We kept on doing that after we married because it was working well.

  • I love budgets–instead of constraining me, it gives me freedom. I know that if I stay under the predesignated numbers, then I will be moving in a great direction and everything will flow without further work on my part.

    We are also debt free except for our mortgage, and it is a lot more fun!

  • Yay, someone of my own mind :)

  • I hate budgeting, however now that I have that iPhone I am hoping I will be disciplined enough to track everything on the apps that I have downloaded and that will help me love budgeting. No doubt spending any day is better.

  • I like this way of looking at managing finances. My wife and I do something different…we have a “spending calendar” whiteboard on which we write down known expenditures. If we want to spend money, and it’s not on the calendar, then it requires discussion as to whether we have money for it or not.

    We make sure we update the calendar with what we really spent so that we can see where our money went.

    • Oh hey, that sounds like a cool idea. I would also be unable to resist looking at it to see if there are any patterns to my spending that are tied to certain days or frequencies.

  • i used to hate budgeting. it was tedious, annoying and cumbersome. but in january, my husband and i sat down with some of dave ramsey’s budgeting forms and put together an amazing budget. i can’t believe how easy managing our money is now! it’s pretty much on autopilot and is stress free. now, i love budgeting!

  • If I don’t have my monthly budget prepared by the beginning of the month, I hate to spend any money until I have it all planned. It’s kind of silly because I have the money, but it feels out of control without the “guide”.

    P.S. My husband and I have kept our money separate since we married for the same reasons as you. As soon as my last non-mortgage debt is paid off within a year, we’ll bring it together.

    • Interesting, my budget is basically the same from month to month, but maybe that’s because the only things that change are my list of “flexible” items.