How Kate Overcame Budgeting Guilt and Found Peace in the Process

"I can be 'good' at this and I can build my own peace of my mind, and that’s more valuable than anything else."

Written by Janelle Whitaker  |  on


Kate, a reporter and host for Michigan Public Radio, is no stranger to budgeting. After all, her mother, Sherri, is one of YNAB’s fantastic workshop teachers. But that doesn’t mean good budgeting habits came easily. If ever there were someone who embodied the spirit of the phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again,” (in budgeting terms) it’s Kate.

As she left college life behind, Kate knew she needed a budget. Her mom and stepdad had been using YNAB to build the lives and peace of mind they wanted, and the family talked openly about money with no fear of judgment or criticism. But, when it came to following through with her own budgeting method, she found herself floundering.

With a wedding soon approaching, Kate and her now-husband, Mark, had many heated discussions around money. Mark is an engineer who loves diving into spending data and finding ways to be frugal. While he found comfort in knowing where their money was going, Kate felt the budget was her fun-killing arch-nemesis. Their arguments surrounding the topic and their different approaches left them frustrated and exhausted. She recalls, “I felt like a petulant, irresponsible child and he felt like the put-upon adult in the relationship. Super fun for everyone!”

After a few unsuccessful rounds with spreadsheets and envelopes, Kate was feeling desperate. She said, “It was pretty dark and there was a lot of guilt and judgment over all the times I’d tried and failed, and I think that doesn’t go away overnight by any means.” Eventually, she gave YNAB a try. Although those old thought patterns threatened to sabotage her efforts, she pressed forward with determination. She recalls, “I think it just took several tries and starting to let go of my perfectionism and judgement about what I saw when I’d sit down with my budget. I just remember so much anxiety about those first few years. But gradually I built in more ‘wins’ for myself.”

At first the wins were simple: Write down where the money is going. Keep budgeting. Keep using the system. Then, she moved on to paying down debt. Then, saving. Little by little, Kate began taking control of her money. She said, “The more I set goals that I could do, the more I was just realistic about what I’ll actually spend even if it’s not what I think I should be spending, the more it went from a horrible process to an ongoing conversation with my budget.”

Those conversations got better over time. Kate realized she could build her own peace of mind — that she could be good at budgeting. But, it’s also a process involving lots of ongoing discussions about money (both with the budget and with her family), sometimes failing, and sometimes even giving up. The key to Kate’s success, however, was always pressing on, even if it meant starting over.

Today, Kate’s budget is a beautiful work in progress. She claims, “My budgeting process is far from ‘perfect’, and it will never look the same as my husband’s. For example, we’ve spent months and months trying to get our grocery bills down, and if it was up to him, we’d be eating beans and rice that we bought from the back of a truck or a warehouse somewhere. Meanwhile, tonight I’m making blackened shrimp tacos. But I got the recipe from Budget Bytes and it’s part of a week-long meal plan that keeps me out of the grocery store and restaurants, and now I just enjoy the meal prep each weekend.” The two have found areas for compromise, building peace and open communication where once there were blow-out fights.

“It’s really true what they say,” she said. “The most important financial decision you’ll ever make is who you marry. I’m so deeply fortunate that I met and married this guy, who not only values building a strong financial foundation for us, but is also kind and loving about it. Now it feels like much more of a partnership than an adversarial, child/adult relationships financially.”

Though the journey hasn’t always been easy, Kate’s gratitude for her supportive husband and mom shines through. She loves calling Sherri to talk about even the smallest budgeting wins, and sharing in the excitement together. She said, “I can’t overstate enough how much it helps to have a mom who naturally falls into the same money ‘identity’ and pitfalls that I do but has figured out how to make this process work for her and talks about all of it — the good, the bad, and the ugly — totally openly and without judgement. I’m very much an over-sharer, so if I was in a family where we didn’t talk about YNAB and budgeting constantly and openly the same way we talk about, like, what we’re watching on TV, I’d never have gotten this far.”


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Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?