We had the best of intentions, honestly.
Our day of budgeting is usually the evening of the first Sunday of every month. If it falls on the 5th or 6th or whatever, I don’t sweat it. We’ll get it done.
Except Sunday, April 1st, where we didn’t.
I’m not sure what happened. It just slipped through the cracks of what was probably an abnormally-busy Sunday. The next Sunday was busier than normal because we had family come in to town for a few days. Then the kids’ spring break happened and we took off for the week. And then the county convention happened that Saturday (I’m a delegate)…and Sunday felt like we were just playing catchup. No time to budget then. The next week I was out of town, which meant Sunday was—again—fairly busy.
And honestly, at that point I’m kind of thinking, “Well heck, we’re halfway through…”
So, one thing led to another, I was out of town again over a weekend and April escaped without having any dollars assigned their jobs (Rule One, folks).
We did out May budget last night. I feel a LOT better.
I think this is the second time in over nine years where a month has escaped our budgeting wrath.
Some lessons learned:
- It wasn’t the end of the world. The most important part about missing April? Making sure we got May. We’re 109 out of 111 months. That’s not too shabby. Especially if this were baseball instead of budgeting.
- Your spending can slide in an instant. Some stuff’s predictable. For instance, our food budget, even though we fed family that came into town, was actually six percent less than the prior month. That’s a normal variation for us, and not something I worry about. But our slushy, put-random-stuff-here category? That was up 108% from the prior month, and up 75% from the 2012 average.
Lesson #3 is important. We have the slushy “miscellaneous” category for things that 1) we didn’t anticipate or 2) don’t care to track too closely. Think about that for a second. As soon as we don’t have a budget to work from, spending increases in the area where we haven’t cared to “track too closely.” Out of habit we stuck to the norms in most of our categories, and out of habit we didn’t really care what was in the miscellaneous category, so it naturally grew.
If we let our budget be shelved for a few months, the following would have happened:
- More and more categories would have been sucked into that black hole of thinking where we don’t care to track it.
- The category (misc. in our case) where we already stuck stuff we “didn’t care about” would have metastasized.
- The categories from #1 would have slowly begun to increase in spending, just as the miscellaneous category did.
If you want to make sure your spending is aligned with your values, plan it, and track it. If you want your spending to take on a life independent of your values, don’t.
If you missed a month, start again. We did!
Your Next Step
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?