Budgets Are a Bummer

Budgets Are a Bummer

Budgets Are A BummerThe following is a post from my buddy Jefferson over at See Debt Run. Check out their site after checking out his rad post below.

Don’t let the title of this post mislead you.  Much like my friend, Jacob, I truly do heart budgets. When I had over twenty thousand dollars of consumer debt dragging me down like a millstone around my neck, there is no way that I could have understood the gravity of the situation without crunching the numbers.  More importantly, without going through the process of creating a budget, there was no way I could have clearly seen where expenses needed to be cut and how much extra income I was going to need to move from the red to the black.

With all of that said, budgets really can be a serious bummer.  To do it right, you really need to dig in and get your hands dirty, and look in all of the dark crevices where you like to hide your spending.  Those $3 coffees that you like to get in the morning at work?  Yeah, they certainly do add up.  That monthly Netflix subscription that you barely use anymore? Why are you still paying for it? Those $120 trips to the hair salon every other month?  Wow, they cost more than your electric bill!

Budgets Are A Financial Mirror

What stinks about creating a budget is that it will FORCE you to make some tough choices.  Right away, it should become crystal clear that you cannot have your cake and eat it too.  If you want to make a large purchase one month, you are going to have pay for it somewhere else.  Purchasing that new $400 breakfast room table may force you to skip eating out for a month or two.  Deciding to bank $300 each month for that big vacation, may necessitate zeroing out your entertainment budget, and taking a pass when friends invite you out.  During times like these, it would be so much easier to just put your blinders on, and use the credit card to cover these purchases.  After all, #YOLO! Isn’t that what all the kiddies would say?  We can just add “Credit Card Payoff” as a category in next month’s budget, right?

Of course, this is a mistake, and undermines the whole point of budgeting in the first place.  Just because budgets are a bummer doesn’t mean that you can spend what you don’t have.  If you put that night out or that new table on credit cards and don’t count them against your current budget, you are taking a serious gamble, and the odds are stacked against you.  For one, your budget next month will get started with one foot buried in the ground.  Next month’s budget may have some unforeseen expenses and might not have room for you to pay off your balance in full.  This means you will have to pay interest on that borrowed money, and even worse, you might be in danger of slipping into a pattern of carrying an ever-increasing balance on your credit cards each month.

How To NOT Be Depressed With Your Budget

The only way to keep budgets from being a bummer, is to stay on the correct side of the ledger.  If your budget tells you that you can’t afford to buy something this month, don’t get discouraged.  Just figure out a way to work it into next month’s budget instead.  You may just find that after a month of waiting, you don’t need that item as much as you thought you did.

If your budget shows that you spend too much on groceries (as mine did), don’t let this discourage you.  Just start expanding your shopping routine to include trips to budget grocery stores, and start looking into couponing.  If your budget shows you that when all is said and done, you just don’t make enough money, then don’t develop an inferiority complex.  Instead, use this as a wakeup call to see if you can talk to your boss about getting a raise, or find some work on the side to cover the gap until things get better.

While budgets may seem like a bummer, in reality, they are a necessity.  Learn to heart them, my friends.

Jefferson writes for the family finance site, See Debt Run.  The site began as a place to chronicle a family’s journey out of debt, but has evolved into a place to discuss everything from saving money on groceries, to how to teach your kids about money, to how to find out if your co-workers are making more than you.


  1. I struggle with this when advising people on how to start. Without a doubt, some kind of budget is an essential part of getting your finances on track. But like you say, it can be a pretty big bummer and that makes it a less than ideal place to start. If you really want to get your stuff together, I think it’s better to start with something positive that gets you excited. No, it may not be “ideal”, but will it work? That’s really the question.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Traditional vs. Roth IRA: Some Unconventional Wisdom on Which is Better for Young InvestorsMy Profile

  2. We use a zero sum budget and it works best for us because we’re forced to “spend” all of our money. We also budget monthly, which makes things easier, I think. I like to know where all of our money is going.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..A Craigslist Conundrum: What Would You Do?My Profile

    • i admit that we don’t really do the same. if there is money left over, we tend to let a buffer build up month to month, as long as your savings goals are being met.
      jefferson @SeeDebtRun recently posted..Zillow Review: How a Website Helped Us Find Our Dream HomeMy Profile

      • Or…put the extra funds into your savings on top of your normal amount. Do you object to retiring early? I suspect not. Or would you resent having a little extra for a splurge activity on the trip you were already saving for?
        Personally I find the sooner I get the excess out of our account and moved to our retirement savings or make an extra mortgage payment, the better. Money sitting in my chequing account after all the week’s bills are paid does far less good than getting it working for me. I’m not the sort to be tempted to spend it just because it’s there, but it the sooner I make an extra mortgage pmt the lower my interest will be over the life of the mortgage, and the sooner I get my money invested the longer it has to grow before retirement. The only time I allow it to sit an accumulate is if we’re planning a trip or it’s time for a vehicle replacement (every 10yrs) and in that case I’d let the 45% of our income we don’t “need” to cover the basics pile up for the required number of weeks/months and then pay for the trip or pay cash for the vehicle. When you have essentially one whole income that’s used for savings it only takes a few paydays to cover a very nice trip and a few months to pay cash for a car.

  3. I absolutely love the phrase, “Budgets are a financial Mirror.” So very true…the first time Vonnie and I really sat down and did our first budget, we were severely bummed at how little we had left over after paying off our bills….on the other hand it showed us just how much we were overspending each month. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror….it’s time to change!
    Travis @debtchronicles recently posted..Before You Start To Pay Off Debt….Do THISMy Profile

  4. I like budgets! (I know–I’m an oddball.) Sort of like following a healthy diet by eating mostly whole foods prepared at home, there’s quite a lot of work involved, but the results are very motivating! The trick to staying motivated budgeting is to set goals and then use your budget to help you reach your goals. That’ll feel good!
    Kurt @ Money Counselor recently posted..Summit Meeting 2014 PreparationMy Profile

    • This is true, Kurt. When you have turned the corner and your budget is showing green instead of red, it is very rewarding in and of itself.
      jefferson @SeeDebtRun recently posted..Blog Goals For 2014My Profile

    • I totally agree. Most people at least initially see a budget as something that restricts them, but in fact it can be very freeing. You clearly see what’s coming in and how you have chosen in the past where to send it back out. That’s when the magic can happen. Once you see were you can cut back on things you don’t need or don’t really value then you have the opportunity to direct the funds to what is truly important in your life. There’s no right or wrong way to allocate your resources, but you’ll never be happy with your situation if you haven’t done the analysis to make your goals a priority.

  5. I think of my budget as a stepping stone to my big dreams- vacation, retirement, a new computer . When I think about it like that, it’s a lot more exciting.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted..Automate to SaveMy Profile

  6. I never stuck with a budget because I hated the work involved in tracking my expenses since I used multiple accounts. Then Mint came along and rendered that excuse obsolete. Now I can look back and see numbers staring me in the face. Those small and stupid expenses are always there to remind me why I need to think about purchases before they are made. It also helps me visualize how much can be saved over the year by setting a spending limit on everything.
    Micro recently posted..2013 spending in review and 2014 budgetMy Profile

    • Years ago we overhauled our spending and decided on a bit of an unusual approach. We do not budget a single cent for clothing, haircuts, coffee, etc. We only layout our annual spending plan with the things we are committed to (mortgage, insurance, property taxes, internet, phone etc) and a set amount for weekly gas and groceries and that’s it. Period. This means there is a massive amount of income left over every week that’s not allocated for anything. Most of the time we don’t need new clothes, or a haircut so the full amount of the excess goes to the mortgage or our retirement savings. If someone got a hari cut that week, we just have a few dollars less for the weekly transfer. Initially we tried setting budget amounts for coffee, haircuts, clothing etc but we spend so little on it and it happens so infrequently that I was wasting a lot of time pushing those items into the next week or month on my spreadsheet. Eventually I decided that since we have nearly an entire income not being used to cover the essentials, then why make work planning for items that show up once in a while. Now I just deal with them as they happen. I also find that by not budgetting $X a week for coffee or whatever, I no longer feel like I’m preapproved to spend it without pausing to think. Now everytime we spend on anything beyond the essentials we have to add a line to the spending plan and as a result there is slightly less excess for the weekly trasfer. The impact of even the smallest nonessential purchase is plainly obious.

    • No doubt, dude.. Mint takes away a lot of the pain out of budgeting and really does make it quite easy. I think it’s been a great gateway for many people.
      jefferson @SeeDebtRun recently posted..Niche Site Update – Step Two: Building LinksMy Profile

  7. One challenge I have had with budgeting is my wife gets a lot of cash at her work (tips) and we used to rely on Mint.com quite a bit, but cash doesn’t auto load… tried to convince da’ wife to just deposit it all, but I pick my battles… : )
    Chuck@Tortoise Banker recently posted..How Do I Get Rich?My Profile

  8. As I review my expenses I found out that I spend too much on groceries. But I don’t want to lessen my budget when it comes to this so I just cut off my other expenses like gym membership and cable subscription.
    Teffany @ Critical Financial recently posted..It Pays To Pimp PorkMy Profile

  9. We budget, although we’re not crazy intense with it. We’ve automated most of our life and budgeted long enough to have a sixth sense of our monthly spending amounts. That being said, we do a check up from time to time – at least once a quarter. So yeah… we’re bad budgeters. But we have checks and balances to keep us from veering too far off track.
    Nick @ Step Away from the Mall recently posted..Don’t quit your day job… Yet!My Profile

  10. We started to really take a seriously look at our budget and spending last year and I’m so glad we did. We found many areas where we could save. Our budget is so much healthier now.
    Raquel@Practical Cents recently posted..Looking Ahead to 2014My Profile

  11. No word seems to make people cringe more than “budget”. It always makes me laugh since I happen to love budgets. 🙂 I absolutely agree budgets are a financial mirror, which in my opinion is why people dislike them so much. Not because they are complicated or restrictive but because lots of people really don’t want to take a closer look at their financial lives. Ignorance is bliss is their minds. I always tell people budgets represent freedom. The freedom to spend my money on the things that matter most to me without creating debt and getting that awful feeling when you know you spent money you shouldn’t have.
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..4 Smart Financial Moves to Start the New YearMy Profile

  12. For years my husband was after me to get on a budget. I resisted, saying that I saved as much by couponing and watching for sales as I could. Desperate, one month he handed me cash and told me that he wanted us to try to not use our debit or credit cards at all for anything that month – even if using a store card saved us money. Knowing that small pile of cash was all I had for an entire month completely changed the way I thought about money. There was no way for me to get through the month without figuring out some type of budget, even if it was in my head. That was a huge turning point for us and we’ve budgeted ever since.
    Tracie Shroyer recently posted..When Money Lessons Are HardMy Profile

  13. The word budget just bums me out, but I think that is just a stigma. It is just like prepaid. You hear it and you think “ewww…”.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Discover it Card Review – Earn 5% Cash BackMy Profile

  14. LOVE this, Jefferson!! We are now working our way out of a mess that resulted in years of not budgeting, and although it’s not fun to know that our spending will be limited for quite a while, it IS fun to know that we’ll have a good $2400 extra a month to spend when all of the debt is gone.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Work From Home or Stay at Home: How to Balance the TasksMy Profile

  15. I don’t really like budgeting instead I automate everything and take out all our investments first. We can hit our savings goals and control our spending.
    charles@gettingarichlife.com recently posted..Why Do You Choose Material Items Over Your Loved Ones?My Profile

  16. Budgets go against everything that is now America. We are a credit card debt country, with all our media geared toward instant gratification and debt. Bombarding with this crap every single day. Budgets are the smart way to go and once you get rid of debt budgets allow you to build capital and investments. After a couple decades you can see some really impressive results. But that’s no fun, is it?


  1. […] from See Debt Run had a wonderful guest post on why Budgets Are a Bummer at I Heart Budgets. Jefferson notes that budgets are financial mirrors and I wholeheartedly agree. […]

  2. […] Budgets Are a Bummer from I Heart Budgets […]

  3. […] Jefferson from See Debt Run had a great guest post over at I Heart Budgets called Budgets are a Bummer.  Check it out and see if you agree with […]

  4. […] iHeartBudgets, there was a guest post about how budgeting is a bummer, which is absolutely true. I keep a budget but I am very.. “relaxed” about […]

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