I'm Done Budgeting. I Quit.

I Quit BudgetingI’m tired of it. Sick about it. Through with it. Finished. Fertig. Done.

I can’t stand knowing exactly what my money is doing at all times. It’s so obedient! My money just sits there, looking up at me like some dependent, too-young-too-realize-how-things-work puppy just out of obedience school waiting for me to give it some type of command — just so it can march off and execute my plan to a level of perfection found only in military brigades and the Von Trapp family.

Oh sure, I can tell you how much I spent on groceries during 2004, 2005, 2– anyway, I can tell you those things. Easily. But what do I have to show for it? A keen sense of how my life plays out financially? An uncanny ability to forecast (to within ten dollars) what we’ll spend in any given category during virtually any given month? (On average, we all know there are no perfectly normal months).

Really. What do I have to show for it? Instead of filling my head with this useless information (wow, housing costs are how much in relation to the rest of our spending, is this a problem we should talk about?) I could have been really getting to know the new people on Survivor. Now I can’t even name them!

Oh, it gets worse. My wife and I we…we talk about things like what kind of financial goals we have. She actually openly shares her feelings about things like retirement goals, aspirations, kids’ college etc. And you know what? It gets much worse. She spends money and doesn’t feel guilty about it.

How am I supposed to handle that? Huh? So yeah, when we were budgeting we would sit down at the beginning of the month and plan where to spend our money, and then yeah–uh–I guess she felt fine about buying the stuff we had planned to buy. Okay, when I write it out like this it doesn’t seem that hard to handle, but — eh — you get my point right? I mean, spending = guilt. We learn that as soon as we get our free t-shirt from those Visa people on campus.

Budgeting’s making me lose my edge. That’s one of the big problems. I used to be able to tell you exactly how much money I had in my checking account.

$10.12. Boom.

$18.45. Bam!

($25.40). Zing! (Yeah, it was overdrafted a few times. I didn’t think they’d cash the check. It had been three weeks!)

Now though. Seriously, if I want to know my bank balance I have to login to my bank and check. It’s in the thousands, I know that. But beyond that I’m not sure. Wait — yeah, it’s something like $6,000 (well, $1.5k is for property takes, which are due in six weeks, $200 of that is for groceries for the rest of this month, and we’re saving for Christmas so we can pay cash — that’s $800 of it, with a goal of hitting $1,000 before The Season rolls around–UGAHHHHHH! YOU SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING? WHAT KIND OF PSYCHO AM I? WHO DOES THAT?)

Whew! Anyway, that six grand, that’s a ballpark figure. And that’s what’s killing me! Every morning, first thing, I used to check my bank balance. And then again when I got to work because I had just bought some stuff on the way and wanted to be sure there was still enough to be able to buy lunch that day and — OH NO I TOTALLY FORGOT I NEEDED TO BE ABLE TO PUT IN AT LEAST 2 GALLONS OF GAS TO GET HOME.

Where was I?

Right. So I miss that daily “interaction” with my bank balance. It’s like it doesn’t even know I’m there anymore. It just “does its own thing” making me feel all secure and confident — as if money could make me feel confident. Everyone knows confidence comes from looks–the main contributors being well built-out delts and rippling pecs.

So I quit. I’m through. It’s done. We are OVER.

When I first started, it felt okay, you know? I would still enter transactions daily and look at my bank balance a lot and all that stuff. But then this totally weird thing started happening:

I think we started spending less money. I couldn’t tell you for sure because before we started budgeting I have no idea how much we were spending… but I noticed that I didn’t need to enter as many transactions after several months. Maybe each transaction was just a larger amount? No… OH! That’s probably where the 6 Gs came from that are in my checking account! That’s like “old spending” that I haven’t gotten around to spending yet!

Yeah, this budgeting thing, it’s just completely changed my life. I’ve got to stop. I think there’s a 12-step program out there somewhere for people like me, you know, people that are reaching their financial goals, don’t feel guilty about spending money, have great communication with their spouse, etc.

Hi. My name is Jesse and I’m a budgeter.

“Hi Jesse…”

The One Secret to Money in Marriage

I don’t have an answer for the wife of a husband that won’t listen to your worries when it comes to paying the bills, buying the necessities, etc. It boggles my mind that people can be married and live together but still be living (or at least attempting to live) completely separate financial lives. I’m not talking about how you actually manage the day-to-day funds — which accounts you use, who pays bills out of what, etc. — I’m talking about mentally leading separate financial lives. How is that possible while still being productive?

I don’t understand why money is such a touchy subject for a couple. Why do you take offense when your spouse asks about XYZ expense? Why do you assume you’re being attacked? Is it because you feel guilty? Is it because you immediately mentally turn the question around and start holding your spouse up to the same scrutiny, spouting off that they spend on XYZx2?

What do you hear when your spouse tells you “money is tight.” Do you hear blame or shared concern?

What do you hear when your spouse mentions that “this could be a bad month.” Do you hear an accusation that you aren’t earning enough or a message from a trusted friend to ‘hang in there’?

Why do you attempt to exercise control over your spouse through your finances? Do you not trust them? Why?

Why do you hide spending from your spouse? Is it because they’re so controlling? Why?

Why do you make your spouse do all of the financial paperwork? Why do you stick your head in the sand when there’s a financial crisis? Why do you have such a hard time facing the reality that your spouse has been trying to tell you about for the past six months?

Why can’t you talk about money openly with your spouse? How is it that you can talk about your childhood, raising kids, religion, fears, sex, aspirations… but can’t manage to throw together one productive conversation about money without taking offense, or going on the offensive?

Why is money the number one cause of divorce? Why do we tie everything else in life back to money? What makes money such an emotionally-charged topic? Do you feel that money is a reflection on you?

Why?

Talk.

About.

Money.

Openly.

Take off the gloves, step out of the ring, (remove the mouthguard), towel off, and talk. Better yet, simply ask very open-ended questions and listen. Don’t respond to answers, just listen. Don’t begin formulating your next question, just listen to the answer being given. Don’t think of the past wrongdoings (yours or theirs), just listen. Understand what it is that your spouse is telling you. If they aren’t talking a lot, listen to that. And listen hard because it’s a lot tougher to listen to someone that doesn’t (want to) say much.

Confess.

Confess that you take offense too quickly because you’re insecure about money (but don’t, for the life of you, know why!). Confess that you offend too quickly. Confess that you question your spouse’s spending too harshly. Confess that, in your feeling frustrated about money, you’ve carelessly shifted the blame completely to your spouse.

Apologize.

Apologize for not doing more to help with the financial stuff. Apologize for not wanting to talk earlier. Apologize for being a jerk about spending money (apologize for being a hypocrite about spending money). Apologize for always blaming and never taking some of the blame for yourself.

I am not a marriage counselor. Trained as an accountant, I learned to read financial statements, not women (oh that there were a major for that). I do not understand all of the intricacies that make up a relationship as complex as the one you’re currently in.

I do understand budgeting. I have a handle on it. I’ve seen what it can do for marriages. No, I can’t tell you what behavior you’re exhibiting when you do A and your spouse does B and together you get C… but I can tell you what behavior will put your finances back on track.

Sit down every month and give every dollar a job together.

Maybe one person does most of the actual day-to-day entry of expenses, that’s fine. We’re starting small here. But make sure that both of you sit down every month and give every dollar a job. Face reality together.

Your communication will improve. Your guilt will go away. Your finances will recover. Your anger will subside. Soon your goals will begin to be realized.

You’ll be dealing with the same bills, the same income, the same crises…but you’ll be dealing with them together. And there is the secret!