Do you budget?

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.'”
 Matthew 25:23 

It’s common knowledge that in social situations, we all ought to avoid talking about politics, religion and money. So here I am wondering: does that same rule apply to blogging?

Last week, I shared a crazy experiment I tried with my cell phone and it seemed to strike a chord. We are a generation enamored with feeling connected, so purposefully disconnecting felt radical, and radically freeing. So, maybe I should also share my next experiment.  Maybe it will strike chord again.

When Patrick and I got married, we decided off the bat to use mint.com.  It’s a great resource that tracks your spending and shows you (with cool info graphic-type stuff) how and where you’re spending your money.  But every few months, when we’d get together and talk about it — I would get overwhelmed with guilt over what I’d spent here and there, and I’d feel powerless to change any of it, since we were just looking over what we’d already spent, and not what we were planning on spending. It wasn’t working.

This month, we’re trying something new.

Question:
Is it possible to look at our spending once a week?
Is it possible to really commit to a budget?

Background research:
Patrick and I have been married for two years, and we’ve never had a budget. Yikes. I said it. That’s embarrassing. I’m afraid of admitting that for two reasons. One, it goes to show that we’ve been so blessed, we can live without putting much thought into where we’re spending our money. Two, it goes to show how irresponsible we are.
But I don’t think we’re alone. I’d venture to say that most people our age don’t budget. We’re a swiping generation. We rarely touch cash, we rarely ask for receipts.  If a restaurant wanted to screw me and charge me double – they probably could, and I’d never realize it. And I’d venture to say neither would you.
A primary reason for being so out-of-tune with our finances is laziness. I simply don’t want to take the time to look at the numbers because I’m not very good with math and I know what I’m going to see. I spend a lot of money. But listening to Dave Ramsey every now and then on my ride home from work made me realize that while our finances might be flexible right now, they aren’t always guaranteed to be.  Shouldn’t we be able to look at our finances honestly? Shouldn’t we be more responsible with what we’ve been given? Instead, every time we tried to talk about money — I would shut down.
Experiment:
Starting this month, Patrick and I will meet every Monday and look back over what we’ve spent that week. While he looks at Mint, I will put the week’s numbers in a budget spreadsheet. Simple.
Results:
Last night was our first time to try it.  
At first it was a little scary, because any other time Patrick and I had tried to talk about money, it hadn’t been the best night of our lives.  But this time, something was different. We weren’t looking at months and months of transactions—we were only looking at a week—and it felt manageable. It was information I could process and do something with
And it felt awesome.
Looking at our little working spreadsheet, I was able to see that I really shouldn’t do anymore shopping this month. (Because I already bought these.) We also talked about where we’re giving our money, how much we want to save for our next vacation, and where we have room to give more. In a word, it was freeing.
We have a few more weeks to go, but I already feel so empowered, that I wanted to share the experiment with you. 
Would you be willing to weigh in on this?  Is it crazy that Patrick and I are just now trying to do this? Do you have a budgeting system? Have you avoided budgeting like us? Do you think it’s a generational thing or just a lazy thing? 

Would you be willing to try the experiment?
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Author: Claire

Hi I'm Claire. I am a freelance writer, Vizlsa lover, and avid runner who lives in Nashville, TN. Nice to meet you.

4 thoughts

  1. Yes, exactly! I know that someday our finances won't look like this anymore – we'll have kids or another car payment or something – so it's best to learn now while the stakes are low. So glad to hear that things are well. We need to come to Knoxville!

  2. Good! I'm really enjoying being a student again (and actually getting my money's worth this time around). And yea, in the spirit of openness and relating to you guys – we felt the same sense of embarrassment knowing that because we have been so blessed, it wasn't CRUCIAL that we strictly stick to a budget in the first years of our marriage. Ironically, now that I'm in school and not working, it kinda is. So we feel like we're still learning a lot even after 2 1/2 years….

  3. Umm, that is almost exactly the boat Audrey and I are in. We spent the first two years using mint VERY sparingly and basically not following our "budget" at all. Since moving, though, we have been putting all our transactions in once a week into an excel spreadsheet that we made and we're having a much easier time. It's not easy when you realize you spent your whole month's alcohol budget in the first weekend, but hey, you gotta start somewhere…. I like how you said it is freeing, too. Because it is, even though that seems counter-intuitive.

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