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.