A budget helps us tightwads, too

photo 2Recently, my fellow YNAB blogger Alex wrote a great post about how her budget allows her to afford certain indulgences. She’s right: Even if you’re living on a shoestring, you can consciously plan for the special things that bring a little sunshine into your life, without letting them drain your bank account.

But the budget isn’t just for people who want to keep their luxury spending from getting out of hand; it can also liberate those of us who tend to avoid ever spending money on ourselves, even for necessities. (Surely I’m not the only one?)

For example: I’ve been hiking with our new dog a lot this summer. And because I am a cheapskate, I’ve been doing it wearing my only suitable outdoor shoes, a pair of 3- or 4-year-old sneakers that a couple of years ago went from being my primary indoor workout shoes to my beat-up yard work shoes. These were already nearly useless for hiking when I started in May. As of last week, my toes were poking through the mesh and the smooth-worn soles were flapping with every step. (I tripped a lot.)

But, thanks to the budget, I had been saving up for a pair of actual hiking shoes. They cost $100 ($100!) — knocked down to $80 with a coupon code. That’s pretty cheap as far as light trail shoes go, but for me it might as well be a million dollars.

Before the budget, I never would have been able to justify to myself the cost of these shoes. If I had bought them, I would have felt a guilty pang in my stomach every time I put them on. I shouldn’t have indulged myself in something I could have lived without, I would have told myself, because the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

YNAB has changed that kind of thinking for me.

Now that I have a dedicated clothing/shoe category, I can plan for more expensive purchases — even for things I don’t strictly need. I always believed I didn’t deserve Nice Things, because they cost money. I felt kind of noble going without Nice Things because that proved that I was careful with money (though somehow I was always broke).

Now, thanks to the budget, I am able to spend more on myself — plus I have more money for everything else. Go figure.

I’ll probably never get over my innate tightwad tendencies. Heck, before YNAB it took me six months to pull the $7 trigger on a new manual can opener (well, I already had one that kind of worked even though it hurt my hand, and who needs two can openers?).

But my point is this: While most people tend to think of a budget as a way to control their spending, I use mine to help me be less frugal.

When I head out on my morning hike in a few minutes, I’ll be wearing my new Merrells. And thanks to YNAB, I’ll be smiling all the way.

15 Responses to “A budget helps us tightwads, too”

  1. Bruce

    Love it! Thanks for the reminder. DW wanted a new pair of boots for “horsing around” (literally). She told me in advance, and I put it in the budget. Now it is sitting there waiting for her to spend it!

  2. Jeff

    Thanks, Jessiebird. I needed that chuckle.

    I used to have a category for dining out, and another for junk food. Then I realized they were both about enjoying life, so now I have one Enjoying Life category, which takes care of restaurants and my chocoholism.

    It seems that that type of thinking might work well for you and other tightwads like you and me.

    • Karen J

      Good for you, Jeff, for changing the way you think about (and label) your ‘indulgences’! makes all the difference, doesn’t it? :)

  3. Allison

    Huh, practical shoes would be one of the few things that I would never think twice about spending money on. Taking care of my body in the present saves money in the future.

  4. Karen J

    Hoooray for you, Jessie!
    Isn’t it fascinating how all the ‘logic’ in the world about spending money on ourselves doesn’t touch the emotional core of our issues, but some other change (using YNAB, for instance) gets to it – and blows it up! – without even trying?

  5. Maiya

    Thanks, Jessie! I’m with you on this one! Once I reeled in the overspending and debting, I found myself over on the other side of Self-deprivation, and that was depressing (and also made me want to compulsively shop again!!) YNAB has helped me learn that planning and saving for nice things feels good and doesn’t need to be a shameful act of defiant indulgence! I have a whole bunch of categories under ‘Self-Care’ now and it feels good to save for them and treat myself without guilt! I have a massage sceduled next week and just bought a lot of nice new clothes I’d been saving for (–yes, they were from an outlet mall, and it also felt good to save $ on the many ‘end of summer’ sales!! Thanks for the encouragement!!

  6. Eric

    Our bills are rather high (I take responsibility for this) so it’s not so easy to always find extra money for things.

    That said, the bills I have are like luxury items to me anyway. Spotify and Netflix (luxury). Beer on weekends (luxury). Cigs (luxury).

    So, I don’t have a lot of extra spending money on much of anything but I make sure what I like does go in the budget and if I’m saving up for something, I make sure it’s justifiable and everything else is accounted for as much as can be.

    Life isn’t too bad and can always get better.

    That’s my outlook on things. With YNAB I just know one thing: Follow the budget, make the plan mine and adjust if necessary. Over time, good things will happen including now (because I’m completely aware).

  7. Brian

    My wife and I have felt the same thing. She used to dislike going out to eat because she felt guilty for spending money on food when she can make something at home for less money. Now, with YNAB as our ally, we can see very plainly and objectively that all the “needs” categories are met, and that our planned night out won’t break the budget. The decision becomes very simple when it can be viewed without emotional bias (from either the frugal or the free spirited person). We look at the budget and ask “Is there enough money in our eating out category?” The result is quite liberating when we don’t feel guilty about eating out. The only challenge this doesn’t solve is when we disagree on whether to eat Italian or Mexican or American. . .

    • apieceofvt

      I have the same issue with eating out. It is, technically, “a waste of money” in terms of food cost. I have to remind myself that it’s the experience of sitting down and letting someone else do the work that is what I am paying for. Still, I’m never going to be the person who has to rein in their eating out costs in the budget; it’s just not my thing.

  8. fuel

    Pre-YNAB, I wasn’t much of a tightwad. Shoes $100, no problem. TV $1000, again no problem. After 3 months of YNAB, I am all “you want how much?.. No I think you can offer me a better deal.” I have switched our cell plan so that is is $40 less a month and cut the cable dropping our internet bill to half of what it was. Double play my…more like double pay.

    Now the wife and I can afford to go back to taking Yoga classes, something we stopped awhile back because we couldn’t afford it, without an increase in our pay even.

    Just today I called Amazon to get the shipping reimbursed because the package didn’t arrive on time and I got the money back. Before I would have just been, meh a day late is not that bad. Funny how having a budget changes what your priorities are.

  9. LeiraHoward

    ” it can also liberate those of us who tend to avoid ever spending money on ourselves, even for necessities. (Surely I’m not the only one?)”
    No, you’re not the only one. I now have a category for my fun money, and can splurge guilt-free – like spending $5 on a new paperback book – when previously I would feel guilty for buying myself anything while we still have debt. :)

    • diver1972

      I was just about to quote the same thing and reply similarly that she’s definitely not alone in that regard. :)

      I struggle with guilt as as well. Sometimes spending $5 feels like spending $50!

  10. David James

    “I felt kind of noble going without Nice Things because that proved that I was careful with money (though somehow I was always broke).”

    That’s me to a t.

  11. Xavier Philippe

    Haha, remember that regular use of a can opener is a strong indication that your grocery shopping (and budget) has room for optimization. :-)

  12. Hannah

    I feel the same exact way about budgets. I am a tightwad by nature, but it’s liberating to have “permission” to splurge every now and then. I’ve also found that I enjoy my purchases much more without the guilt.

Comments close automatically after 14 days.