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Do We Earn The Right Not To Budget?

by The Happy Rock on November 7, 2007

money-free-happy-rain.jpgI have admitted it before, The Rockette have never lived on a formal budget. The closest we come to real budgeting is what I label retroactive budgeting. This is when you come up with reasonable spending amount for the different categories like groceries, clothing, entertainment, etc. Then at the end the month you compare the actual totals to your suggested limits.

When we were in the midst of shedding our 70k in debt, we did this almost every month. As the debt shrunk, so did frequency of our retroactive budgeting. I have been trying to decide whether this is a negative thing.

Three things happened as our debt decreased
and was eliminated.

  1. Our behavior and spending patterns changed. With less debt and new spending habits our monthly totals feel within a reliable range.
  2. As the immediacy of the situation abated, so did our intensity. Our intensity got us through the tough times and turned the tide, but then our attention slowly began to leak elsewhere.
  3. I felt like we earned the right to not check. Not checking as closely became the reward!

The thing is, changing the direction of the net worth train and your financial habits is heavy tiring work. Work that pays off down the road and work that removes stress. For those of you that are in the midst of an intense debt struggle, this can be a light at the end of the tunnel. For those of us who weathered the storm and are in cruise control, you know that freedom that is created from not having to worry and stress over your finances.

Sometimes, I think I am sacrificing financial efficiency, because of laziness. Other times I remember that the reason I got out of debt was to have the freedom to focus on other areas of my life without having my finances dictate decisions. Obviously, I think the latter is more often the reality or else I would be much more diligent about checking.

What are the readers opinion on the matter? Are you earning the right to ‘slack’, or are you going to better off if you stay focused and efficient?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick November 7, 2007 at 7:39 am

You know, my wife and I don’t live on a structured budget either. Instead, we automatically save before we spend anything, then the remaining money is ours to use for our needs (though we don’t have the mindset to spend everything because it is there!). We have reasonable expenses, and if there is something expensive that we want, we plan for it, research it, and buy the best deal for our money. We do review our expenses every so often, but mostly to make sure we are on track, and not doing anything crazy. I think this works well for us, because we only have our mortgage and living expenses to consider, and no major debt. This won’t work for everyone though, and each person should try their own version of a budget. Good article.

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TheHappyRock November 7, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Patrick,

Thanks for sharing. It seems like your path was about the same as ours. Your already have your spending, debt, and behaviors in control, so it budgeting is not as useful as it once may have been.

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Shadox November 8, 2007 at 11:49 pm

I think you have it exactly right. We don’t live on a formal budget either. Quite frankly, there is no reason to limit spending on a particular class expense as opposed to another. Money spent is money spent. All I really care about is how much money is left over at the end of the month. So long as we max out our 401Ks and also have a little money left over each month from our take home pay, I am happy.

Just don’t back-slide into debt…

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dong November 10, 2007 at 5:59 pm

Yeah, I’ve never had a formal budget either. I think as long as you have good rough idea of where you are financially it’s ok. However some people need a budget, they need that structure to limit them. It really depends on the person.

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The Happy Rock November 12, 2007 at 11:00 pm

Dong,

A budget is often necessary to help change spending behavior, which is a key ingredient to prosperity. I would also venture we should probably have more than a rough idea, especially in the beginning, but we might just be arguing semantics there. Sounds like you are on track.

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Shauna December 11, 2007 at 11:54 am

I’m blogging about my experience creating a budget to start with! I’m fresh out of college, so I don’t have the same type of expenses to get to this point just yet.

Check out my blog to add your tidbits/advice/etc at http://shauna26.wordpress.com. After all, we need all the help we can get!

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Scott July 7, 2008 at 1:43 pm

I find with working online I also have trouble budgeting for my expenses. I seem to go months without writing down too much in the way of what I’ve spent and it comes back to bite me every year. I have plans to better budget my spending online because of the fact it seems I spend more then I should be spending. Budgeting is very important to utilize and hopefully I begin to take notice and budget wiser.

-Scott

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Glory September 9, 2008 at 4:10 am

I entirely agree with Scott. we should always make plans on spending and be sure at least on 60% that it is really worth

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