Never Angry at Your Budget? You’re Probably Doing it Wrong

I occasionally loathe my budget. Surprisingly, that’s a good thing.

My parents spent the last three days visiting from Colorado, which of course means my Dad and I spent most of the visit tearing sod out of my back yard to create a home for raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry plants.

(My Dad works circles around me and gets a strange joy from sod removal.)

Tuesday morning we broke from the misery of tearing grass out of the ground, packed the family in the car, and headed for a nearby nursery to pick up a few veggie starts.

On our way to the checkout, my wife reminded me we’ve been planning to buy three elm trees for the back yard.

Sounds great, I said.

Then I looked at the prices.

$50 to $75 per tree. We wanted three. Total: $175.

Break out the iPhone, check the “Household Needs” category. Hm. Already overspent there, and it’s only the 22nd of the month. Check the “Home Repairs and Improvement” category. $150, but the dishwasher needs to be repaired – possibly replaced. Check the “Unpredictables” category. $35 – no help there.

Stupid budget.

I want those trees.

I have plenty in savings.

But those dollars are spoken for.

Stupid budget.

No trees for us. I cursed the budget as we left the Nursery with the Sissy-sounding Name.

My anger didn’t last (of course). The trees’ time will come; the budget saved me from an ill-timed purchase. But my brief budgetary tantrum indicates a healthy budget – and budgeter.


Because positive change requires tension – tension between the old habit and the new. Tension occasionally erupts into anger.

Ask yourself which budgetary anger level fits you best:

I never rage against my budget. I’d guess you either a) don’t use your budget to stretch yourself and create new habits, or b) have achieved perfect budgeting zen (congrats!).

I occasionally feel the urge to print out my budget so I can crumple it up, throw it away, then donkey kick the trash can. Sounds like you and the budget are doing great things.

My budget stresses and discourages me constantly. This means a) you’re budgeting too restrictively, or b) your needs exceed your income. If its ‘b’, I feel for you. If it’s  ‘a’, throw the current budget away and start one that acknowledges reality.

It’s not easy to develop the budgeting habit. You’ll find it occasionally annoying, frustrating, and infuriating. In moderate doses, those emotions prove you’re succeeding. Embrace them.

12 Responses to “Never Angry at Your Budget? You’re Probably Doing it Wrong”

  1. Ken Clay

    I enjoyed your article.. Yes it is sometimes frustrating, such as it’s is frustrating to have speed limits. But both are put into place to protect us.

    One thing that I do to make my budget “realistic” is that I use the average outflows to determine my budget number for a given category. Another way this is useful to me is that I know that my average outflow for electricity is $122 (for the year)… so every month I budget $122 which makes a surplus to cover those summer months.

    • mark

      Classic Rule 2, Ken! Thanks for the comment.

  2. Texacali Living

    This came at the perfect time. With all of these Memorial Day sales going on I’m really struggling to not purchase outside of my budget or from next month’s budget by using the excuse of “saving money.” le sigh.

    • mark

      Haha – spending to save. A classic strategy. Way to stay strong.

  3. mrsf15e

    Glad to know that’s normal :) I LOVE my budget, 98% of the time, it’s my buddy. But, it did save me the other day from buying 150 sq.ft. of rubber playground bark that was ON SALE and I NEEDED for the kids. Sorry, not enough in Landscaping or Furnishings, and I can’t steal from the Carpet savings, that’s for the indoor type.

    • mark

      Another round won by the budget. Nice work.

  4. Kenny

    I just started ( only using it for 2 weeks ) , so i’m constantly doubting : did I budget enough/too much for this category ?

    My main annoyance is that occasionally there is some ‘rainy day’ thing that I didn’t budget yet, which means I have to redo the budget with less in the other categories. I guess it’s just a matter of time though before I have everything covered.

    • mark

      Kenny, I’d be surprised if anyone got it “right” their first time through the software and the method. Rather than worrying about whether you’re doing it perfectly, just focus on raising your awareness about spending and categorization. As time passes your budget will evolve, and you’ll probably start over from scratch a few times – which is completely normal!

  5. Brenda

    It feels like I’m constantly mad at our budget right now. I have had to do a fresh start twice, but this last one seems to be working well. We recently made a long distance move, so some things I don’t have averages to know how much to budget in categories yet. In a month or so, hopefully that will change and I’ll be in love with our budget again.

  6. Tim B

    I was grateful for my budget just this weekend. It was a friends birthday, and we were all out. We decided to treat my friend by hiring the VIP area in a local club. This was on the spur of the moment, and partially induced by alcohol. However, the budget kept me on track.

    Pre-YNAB, I would have just splurged £110 on the VIP area, plus another £40 on a bottle of champagne. Instead, I had a word with the manager. The VIP area wasn’t in use that night, so he agreed to waive the hire fee if we bought a bottle of champagne.

    Later in the evening, my friend wanted more champagne. The budget wouldn’t allow it, so I simply said that I couldn’t afford to buy more. She ended up buying her own champagne anyway, but my budget was (more or less) stuck to.

    Given that it was payday weekend, I would have blown around £200 in that club pre-YNAB. Instead, I spent £40.

  7. Mary

    Elm trees? Not my favorite, but they do provide good shade. I prefer trees with more uses (like maple!). Elms are very messy. They drop branches all the time and millions of seeds in the spring that you can’t ever seem to get rid of. Plus little elm trees are always popping up. We probably have about 15 on our half acre lot.

    • Mary

      So what I’m saying is maybe your budget saved you in more ways than one. ;) They grow pretty quickly if your sure you want them. I bet you could get some for free. I’d give you some!

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