Divorce to Financial Freedom asked if she was the only one who doesn’t budget and I’m here to answer “no, she’s not the only one”. I don’t budget either.

I do find reading budgets interesting (because they spark ideas of ways to save) and I DID make a monthly spending plan which is still pretty darn accurate, but I’ve got to confess that I don’t use it to limit my spending. Instead, it was made BASED on my actual spending over an average year, not on some ideal of what I think I OUGHT to be spending.

Another confession: I didn’t make the first, early version of the monthly spending plan at all. My son did, after he heard me say “I don’t get it, what IS a budget anyway?” one day not all that many months ago. Once he got done saying, “MOM! You don’t know what a BUDGET is?!” he sat down with me at the coffee table and drew squares on a piece of paper. He asked me about my income, each of my expenses, and how much I wanted to spend on various things, and began plopping the answers into the appropriate squares.

The reason that I don’t “budget” is because that word sounds like “diet” to me, and I don’t do diets. Lifestyle changes, sure, but diets, no. Diets are too temporary, and they’re all about what you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” do. Likewise, budgets seem so restrictive, full of can’ts and “oh no I blew its”. For me it’s better to just make sure everything I need to pay is paid before the due date, to save enough for irregular expenses like insurance & taxes, and to put the rest toward savings and our mortgage. (The only thing I mentally limit money-wise is my eating out, but I try to look at that as a goal instead of a limit. The whole eating out thing is a topic for another post though…)

I find tracking to be much more beneficial. I use a combination of Quicken and spreadsheets (which is how I got the numbers for the spending plan in the first place.) I keep a wall chart with my monthly income & out-go on it, and watch the graph go up and down. I look at that chart each morning and visualize future expenses as waaaaay down at the bottom and future income as waaaaay up at the top. This helps me think about where I want to be and what I really want to use my money for: lots of passive income. And vacations.