When my former husband and I first got married, I knew that managing money was important. It was only logical to make up a list of all of our expenses and see if we had enough money to pay them.
I knew that there was only x amount of money available for each item, etc., so I wrote things up and evaluated. And on paper it always worked out, just barely.
But no matter how hard I tried, it never actually worked out in reality.
It got very frustrating, and I gave up. In fact, I’ve never really had a official “budget” since. (Instead, I have a spending plan, which is a much more palatable way of handling things that works for me.)
One of the big reasons that my budget never worked out was that I was doing it backwards. I listed out all of our expenses, and then tried to see if we had enough money to pay for them, or tried to get enough money if we didn’t. My then-husband was also not involved. I was the designated “money person”, and so I made the budget up and presented it to him.
That just doesn’t work. What would have been more likely to have worked (at least a little better) would have been for us to come up with the list together, and agree to it.
Another problem was that I never sat down and figured out what it was that was actually causing the problems. It wasn’t that “well but we weren’t expecting that expense, next month will be better”. It was that I wasn’t facing reality. I wasn’t expecting the unexpected, or taking into account things I regularly forgot about and spreading them over the entire year (like car insurance or Christmas). I also didn’t realize that we were spending way too much money on transportation expenses as a percentage of our income.
The thing is, it’s normal to have a few problems with a spending plan (especially if you make very little money) when you’re just getting started. It takes time to adjust things to where they work. Instead of getting upset or giving up, step back and analyze. Try something different. Make small adjustments. Get what’s really important to you in there. If you’re going to go out to eat once a week, actually put it in the plan instead of telling yourself that you won’t and then doing it anyway.
The key is to make a spending plan/budget work for you instead of the reverse. Make it something that helps you get to where you want to be, instead of this dreadful thing that you “have” to follow.