A few months ago, I did a post on how I was changing the way I was tracking my spending. I had high hopes, but I’m writing today to admit that this way of tracking my spending did not help to curb my spending at all. It didn’t work for many reasons and so I scrapped it completely.
First, it was a lot of work. Trying to remember to write down every single dollar I spent added a lot of tiny tasks to the back of my mind which I just don’t have time for right now. Tying to account for every dollar my husband spent was even harder. And if I ran out of cash by the end of the week and I found I needed to buy something, like gasoline or bread, I would end up putting it on a credit card anyway.
Second, it just didn’t help me to spend less. Sure it was annoying, which may have encouraged me to spend less just so I wouldn’t have to track it, but I still needed to buy things. The “no spend days” didn’t work either because I would just spend more on other days to get everything I needed (or “needed”). I would just make bigger purchases at once.
Third, it was just kind of depressing to always see money going out, out, out. All I saw was negative numbers, in red, my money going away, away, away until it was gone. Not very good for morale, generally.
Also, the tracking didn’t help me stick to the “cash diet” at all. If I want to give myself $100 a week to spend, then that’s what I need to do. I need to be disciplined enough to ration it for only what the family needs. I need to leave my credit cards at home or freeze them or maybe even cut them up! Tracking every dollar gone will not help with that, especially as credit cards just allowed me to dip into the negative before the week was over.
I recently read a tidbit that claimed that most people who set up and advocate for budgets, don’t even keep budgets themselves. That thought jostled my whole brain. I had been reading so much on the internet for the past couple of years about the wonders of budgeting to help save money, that I thought once I got the hang of it, budgeting would be a sure-fire way to get ahead of our debt and save tons of money. But after 2 years of trying, I have to admit that budgeting is not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally a proponent of spend-less-than-you-make, but the dividing and trackers of numbers just doesn’t seem to help me accomplish that. I was best with money, surprisingly, when I was 18 years old and wanted to buy a new car. I had no budgeting system at all; I just spent very little and saved as much as I could. It’s true now that with a family there are a lot more expenses to take care of, but the “save as much as possible” strategy still holds strong.
When I wanted that new car, I was focused. I put most of the money I made into a high-yield savings account and kept about $80 or less for myself for the week, with which I could do whatever I wanted. Yes, my current situation has quite a bit more factors, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be more complicated. I just need to be focused: schedule out all recurring expenses, use $100 cash each week for necessities (plus $15 with which to do whatever I want), and save the rest for paying down debt.
Responsibility and freedom rolled together in a simple system.