Ignore Your Budget


Image by Boz Bros via Flickr

For the first year of our journey out of debt, we had a strict budget, with all of our discretionary money spent out of an envelope system.  We had an envelope for groceries, one for discretionary spending, one for clothes and one for baby crap.   At the beginning of the month, we’d divide the money into the envelopes according to our budget spreadsheet.  If we used a card for anything, we’d take a matching about of money out of the appropriate envelope and put it in a box to get reconciled the next month.

Ugh. Almost 2 years later, it has turned into too much work and too much nagging about everything either of us put on a card.

We decided to simplify the system a few months ago.   Now, we still have a budget.  It’s even a zero-based budget, but we ignore it.  We only look at it if something changes for the worse.  If something changes for the better, the extra money just gets automatically rolled into our debt snowball, so there’s no need to worry about updating the spreadsheet.

Instead of envelopes, we kind of eyeball it.   We budget $450 per month for groceries, so we aim to spend $100 on our weekly grocery run.  That leaves some room for losing track of how much we are putting in the cart, or a last minute addition to the list.  It also leaves room for our secondary grocery trip to buy bread and milk later in the week.  We do go through a lot of milk at my house.  We budget $55 per month for diapers, but the deal we are currently getting with Amazon Mom is only costing us $30.79 for 6 weeks of diapers.  We ignore the difference.

This—and our heavily automated bill pay and savings—lets us keep our finances on track, without stressing over every dollar or fighting over every little thing that comes home unplanned.   I used to fire up Quicken and balance the checkbook every week.  Now, that happens at the beginning of the month, usually.  If I forget, it doesn’t matter.  At the beginning of February, I balanced the checkbook for the first time in almost two months and we never came close to exercising our overdraft protection account.  In fact, we had some extra, so that got sent directly to our debt.

Overall, it’s been good to test out a new system.  We have almost no financial stress and managing our money takes about a couple of hours per month instead of per week.  It’s all win.

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    1. Overly focusing on a budget does sound quite stressful. Focus on the big picture sounds like a better idea.

      Your Member Post is up now on Yakezie.com btw!

      Cheers, Sam

    2. Good luck! Discipline is key and looks like you have got a decent system in place.


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