Want to Give Up Budgeting? Don't Give Up Yet!

This is written to those people that are getting discouraged and wanting to throw in the towel.

Julie and I have been budgeting with the YNAB Methodology since April of 2003. We were married in February of 2003. So as of today, it’s been 64 months. We’ve done 64 budget meetings. We’ve probably overspent in 200 categories. I don’t even want to guess how much spending has been tracked through there, thousands and thousands of dollars–I’ll just leave it at a lot.

How Has Budgeting Helped Us?

We’ve bought four cars with YNAB (four cars in 64 months sound like a lot to you? Me too. Neither of us owned a car before we married (1) and then when we were moving to Texas it was totaled, so we bought a van (2) and a Civic (3) once we arrived — though the plan had been just to buy the Civic — then about three weeks later the van was totaled and we purchased another van (4). We’ve never purchased a car with less than 89,000 miles on it, the average has been more like 98,000). We just bought a house. We’ve had three kids (still have ‘em all). We haven’t gone into debt (except for the home). That’s because of the budgeting!

What Budgeting Looks like After 64 Months

Julie does most of the updating with the budget. She likes to go off the receipts. Every two weeks or so I’ll import our transactions, match them up with what she’s entered, and make sure the accounts balance with what the bank says. I’m opening a budget to do betatesting, demo it, etc. but how often do I open our actual budget? Probably twice per month.

There are two reasons why it’s very comfortable for me to not look at the budget more than twice per month:

  1. I don’t spend nearly as much of our money. It’s not because Julie spends a lot. It’s just because she handles most of the check writing, envelope stuffing, stamp-adhering things. I handle bills that one can put on autopayment 🙂
  2. I already know how we’re doing.

We’re done with the days of guessing how much money we’re going to make in a given month. I have a set draw and it’s taken out twice per month (14th and 28th).

Also, I’m done with the days of knowing everything that’s being spent. When we were in crunch mode, stress mode, fight-for-every-dollar mode, we would discuss literally every single purchase. Grocery shopping was exhausting. I’ve now been spending the past few months convincing Julie not to tell me about every single purchase:

“Our oldest son needs some new clothes because his shirts are all 3T and they’ll need to be short-sleeved for next year, but they’ll have to be 4T — oh, wait — maybe even 5T. Gosh, he’s getting so big. He’ll be in school next year, can you believe it? So the 5Ts for summer will definitely go on sale when it starts getting colder and I’m thinking of buying a bunch. Remember to take out the trash. I may buy some 4Ts as well just in case and if he doesn’t use them, I’m sure we could put them in the basement and our second son could wear them in a few years. Of course he’s a bit thicker than our oldest was at his age, so maybe he won’t need those at all.”

Did you make it through all of that? I rarely do. And is it any wonder I forgot to take out the trash?

No, the fact of the matter is that after 64 months of budgeting, I’m very comfortable with the spending. I don’t see that changing any time soon. If it started to change, we’d both notice.

The beauty of budgeting over a long period of time? Everything seems to be clicking. Communication between husband and wife over money issues is as close to perfect as you’ll get it. Goals are being reached and progress is being made.

The budget has ingrained in us some habits that are extremely hard to break. We decided we needed to go on weekly dates (we’ve decided that a half dozen times in our marriage) and I told Julie we could get a babysitter. It’s worth it. I had to really put my foot down with Julie and tell her we could afford the babysitter every weekend. She started having some idea that we’d go on a date at home after the kids were asleep. What would that date have turned into? Probably cleaning.

You can see now why I put my foot down.

Another habit that’s been tough for us to break is not buying furniture. We’re in our beautiful new home and it has an echo. As of this writing, I’m sitting in one of two pieces of furniture that allow sitting.

It’s not so much the habit of not buying furniture as it is the fact that we don’t have a problem putting off purchases until we’re really ready for them. This is a function of the budget meeting. Every month we sit down and decide what priorities our money is going to have. Furniture has just not been that high of a priority.

Budgeting long-term has meant better communication and more control (with higher satisfaction!) over our money. Don’t give up!