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Why You Might Need to Stop Trying to Get on a Budget

Have a hard time sticking to a budget? Maybe you need to ditch that word altogether in order to be successful! I love this idea!

Are you one of those people who feels like you can never stick with a budget? That you have all of these grand plans to make and follow a budget, but that every time you try, it ends in a big ole heap of failure?

It’s possible that you have a self-discipline issue or that you have misplaced priorities. But maybe the reason your budget isn’t working is because you just can’t get over the negative connotations that a budget drums up for you.

For instance: It’s possible that you grew up in a family where a budget was used as a method of control and/or punishment. Or, perhaps you had a very strained relationship with your parents and they were firm believers in a budget, so the thought of budgeting brings back bad memories for you.

You may have been in an abusive relationship where the other person was very controlling about money, so the thought of trying to stick with a budget triggers all sorts of negative emotions and anxiety for you.

If you can relate to any of this, I want to encourage you to drop the word “budget” entirely from your vocabulary.

Yes, you read that right!

Now, before you think I’m advocating that you just go on a spending spree and stop thinking about managing your money well, that’s not what I’m referring to at all.

Instead, I’m referring to a complete change in your mindset and approach to how you manage your money.

When I posted that We Need to Have an Honest Conversation About Budgeting, I got this great comment from Jennifer:

Personally, I do think of a “budget” as a constraint (also negative) so why not think of it as a “money plan” instead? -Jennifer

I loved this comment! If budgeting is a negative word for you, stop using the word altogether and start calling it a money plan. Because ultimately, it’s not what you call it that matters; it’s how you execute on it!

There are many people who will never go on a diet because the very word conjures up negative things for them. I know that one of my friends who had an eating disorder cannot diet because it causes her to become obsessive about food in a very unhealthy way.

However, this doesn’t meant that she doesn’t eat well or take care of herself. But she doesn’t go on a restrictive diet plan that tells her what she can’t eat.

It can be the same for your money. Instead of trying to force yourself to “budget” if that word makes you think of bondage and misery, create a plan for your money that gives you the freedom to know what you CAN spend.

Focus on what you GET to do as part of having a plan for your money. For example:

  • You will not have to worry about how you are going to pay your bills.
  • You will be setting aside money for retirement and life insurance.
  • You will have wiggle room to do some fun things.
  • You will have the ability to give to causes you believe in.

Do you see how just changing your mindset from a “budget that restricts your life” to a “money plan that enhances your life” can make such a difference?

I’d Love Your Feedback!

This is something I’ve been mulling over ever since I wrote this post. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and feedback on this, if you’re willing to share: Does a budget feel restrictive to you? If so, why? What are your biggest reasons for not sticking with a budget? Does the word “budget” stir up negative connotations for you?

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16 Comments

  • Alicia says:

    Well I can definitely relate to the diet section, for that exact same reason! I had an eating disorder as a teenager that lasted into my 20s, and to this day I cannot follow any type of restrictive dieting plan for this very reason.

    As far as budgeting, I personally have no trouble following a budget. But my husband! He really struggles with budgets, and that makes things very difficult! He specifically told me once, “I don’t like spending all our money before we even have it”, which is pretty much the exact definition of a budget. It’s telling your money where to go. Lol.

    If you have any tips on how to manage money when a spouse feels this way, I’d LOVE some!

  • I wouldn’t say that the word “budget” stirs up negative feelings for me, but I do find it to be such a vague and misleading term.

    I come across articles constantly that offer tips for living on a budget, budget-friendly ideas for families, etc. This can be deceiving, because we all have a budget, whether we’re making millions of dollars or barely scraping by. It’s just that the budget varies greatly. Many of the “budget tips” I see online don’t coincide with my income, but rather a much larger one.

    I certainly like the term “money plan” though, as it seems to suggest a more thought out, intentional plan for finances.

  • Sue says:

    Budget is overrated in my mind….I’m one of those people who have a hard time spending money…When I go shopping , which I dislike, I talk myself out of everything and come home with nothing…..House is owned outright ..sweat equity…don’t have creditcards or debt….just a bugaboo of mine….ironically rice and beans are a favorite of mine, not a sacifice…

  • Kristina says:

    A budget for me works like a diet does on your friend. I set the budget; exceed expectations; set a more restrictive budget; repeat; repeat; binge-spend all my hard work on something I sometimes regret. In addition, I sometimes feel like my SO isn’t willing to follow a budget with me, so I’m scrimping and saving for two…

    The boom and bust cycle is hard to beat. It’s the same cycle I watched my father repeat my whole life.

    The only thing I can do to trick myself into semi-long-term savings behavior is to have multiple accounts where the money builds up. So, it’s not really a budget as much as it’s just a false scarcity.

  • Anders says:

    Hello, Crystal!

    I love this post!

    It’s like you write, perhaps the reason people stay away from budgets is that the word sets of negative emotions in them. Money is a “loaded” subject and I believe it’s easy for words related to it, like budget, to get a negative connotation.

    I also think that that the concept of money plan can be a better concept since it can cover more things. For instance, in our budgeting spreadsheet, we have tracking of expenses as well as the budget. The sheet also has a cover page that shows a summary of spendings, savings, and expenses. So I guess it’s not a budget really, it’s a money plan.

  • Aimee Hadden says:

    “Money plan” does sounds so much better than “budget.” Ironically I don’t mind using the word budget if we actually have money to spend. A few years ago I realized we truly had an income problem (vs. a spending problem) and (thankfully) my husband and I have since that time been able to supplement our income. Whatever we call it: knowing where your money is going feels good.

  • Laura Choy says:

    Budget is not negative to me. I grew up in a very frugal family. My parents were wise with money however I don’t think they really had a budget. I learned living frugally from them, however since there wasn’t a budget in place there wasn’t a plan for spending if that makes sense. My husband and I have a budget and since having one I’ve learned of the freedom that comes with having one. I know that it is okay to spend money on taking my kids for a treat for example if that is in the budget. Whereas before my mindset was we can’t spend it…ever. I do like the idea of changing the term to having a money plan. It seems to communicate more completely what it is!!

  • Jennifer says:

    Money Plan is a great way to describe the “budget” my husband and I have. When we first got married and were paying off debt we had a very strict budget and it was great for that season of life. Now a few years later we are not as strict because our only debt is our mortgage (and that will be paid off early). We know how much we spend on each category in our budget or how much cash to take out for things like groceries. Quarterly or as needed reviews of spending save us a ton of stress. Not analyzing every line in our budget monthly is great. Staying in maintenance mode has allowed us to save, give and best of all travel!

  • I remember the above comment from Jennifer. It’s an eye opening for me as well. Some people might find Budgeting too technical. Money Plan is simple, yet means the same.

    We budget every category of our spending and it helps us plan our future in a better way.

  • Hey Crystal 🙂 I am a budgeting nerd, so I’ve thought so much about this topic. I have started using the word budget for the part of our money that is specifically designated to bills and non-negotiables each month. This would be all the household bills, utilities, insurance, debt, etc. Those never change and therefore, I have budgeted specific money to pay them each month.
    However, here’s where I’ve dropped the budget word – the category of Spending. I don’t categorize it. I have a specific amount that we can spend on pets, eating out, gas, food, clothes, hair and anything else that pops up (have an emergency fund for big items). Having a non-catergorized spending amount gives me that freedom from detailing myself (and my family) to death! As long as we stay within the allotted amount each month, we have freedom to spend. I think, in general, people don’t mind having budgets for those non-negotiable categories. It’s when you start nitpicking every little dollar that they get defeated. At least this is how it works for me. So, I take my total monthly spending amount and divide it by weeks and get my weekly amount. This is so simple and gives you a guideline and freedom, all in the same motion.

    • Nichole says:

      Hi Debbie, I just wanted to comment that I really like this idea/outlook. My husband and I do a decent job at knowing what all of the fixed bills are for the month (ie mortgage, gas/electric, cable, etc), but we really struggle with the spending or “leftover” money after the bills have been paid. Almost like we are afraid to put to savings or retirement as something always comes up that we need to cover (ie my car was stolen this year, everyday little things that I never remember to budget for, school expenses, changing bills, etc). I don’t think that we have an issue with the word budget so much as lack of knowledge for budget and how to get it to work for us. I cant say oh I want to spend $200 on clothes for the year and all of the sudden my child has a 3 inch growth spurt and needs new everything right now because its -20 degrees out (we live in Midwest). I think the how to for planning/budgeting is my roadblock. All the I don’t knows make me the most frustrated and I feel like I cant get the right amounts for the categories under the budget and then the whole thing does not work. We have not been able to find anything that works so I think that is where our frustration is and not with the word budget. I really think the lack of resources/knowledge also make people like me “scared” of the word.

      • Nichole, let me just encourage you to keep working! Budgeting isn’t a one-time thing. It’s ever changing and moving, according to seasons, jobs, expenses, etc.
        However, to address the part of your comment dealing with the categories and amounts – that’s exactly why we stopped doing the very detailed spending plan. Budget out all the MUSTS and take your spending amount, divide it up into weeks and just stay within those guidelines. Each week you should be able to see most of what’s going to go on for the next 6 days. Have your emergency fund for surprises, but normal life will have to fit into your weekly fund.
        Let me also add that when I read Crystal’s The Money Saving Mom’s Budget book, it spoke to me like no other budgeting book I had read up to that point!

  • S says:

    I am really unable to budget at the current time.
    Had a relative move in last year, absolutely did not work out. Only place I felt relative was safe enough in was assisted living which takes relatives income and currently my whole paycheck for rent. Spouse is being very gracious in picking up expenses I used to pay for. Have savings, feel bad about using it, but no real other options at the moment.

  • Archie Davis Jr says:

    I like your insight. I personally believe do have to do what is best for you and your family. For me the area I live in things keep going up and I put in for jobs that pay more and lately been rejected for jobs. For me I have to stay on Budget and that is how I paid a 40,000 student loan off recently. Also for me planning is important and I do that I buy groceries online and set my limit spending. What I see is some spend to much over their head and than over drafting fees hurt them. I trying to buy a house and I know what I need to do and it is different than others but with Gods help it will be achieve. I want to see someone write about what to do when you are saving and saving and the price of things keep going up. I read from a lot of people on Money and I take from each what works best for me.

  • I agree with this 100%. It is easy for people to cringe when they think about a budget. But all that means is making a plan for your money and finding a motivating way to stick to your plan. We love the freedom a budget gives us, but calling it a “money plan” seems much more positive when speaking to others. And way less restrictive.

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