What Happened When We Didn’t Keep a Budget

What Happened When We Didn't Budget

Without meaning to, Johnny and I performed a bit of a financial experiment on ourselves in December and January. FYI, “experiment” is a cool way of saying “slacked off,” but regardless, we thought the results were worth sharing.

We’ve been sorta consumed by our side project-turned-business which has been great and crazy and made for a pretty hectic life the past two months. And during that time, while we had our very best intentions of tracking our spending, it just didn’t happen. In December, aside from keeping track of what I’d spent on Christmas gifts, I fell off the budgeting horse just a few days in. And in January, zero tracking happened. Like none. Both months, we regrouped at the end of the month and sat down together to see what kind of damage we’d done to our bank account.

But as we both stared into the soul of our Mint account and reviewed our spending, we were met with a pleasant surprise. Despite our negligence, we had not completely thrown fiscal responsibility to the wind. In fact, we’d actually done a pretty good job. Aside from spending $100 more on food each month, we’d stayed completely within the parameters of our budget. We were surprised and very relieved. And then we realized something else.

This was no coincidence.

Nope, no sirree. We’ve been budgeting religiously for so long that apparently it’s become second nature. Keep in mind that this year six of our budgeting ways. And in those six years, we’ve learned what we can afford and how that translates in our spending. We know what we can and can’t buy. There’s very little impulse shopping that happens in this house (and the *little* only comes when I go to Target by myself).

For instance, last month, I came to grips with the fact that our barely-turned-three-year-old fits into zero of her 3T hand-me-downs, so I had to buy her an all-new 4- and 5-T wardrobe. And even though it didn’t get tracked in our budgeting app, I still made sure all her new clothes cost us under $100. It took a few hours of shopping deals and debating online what she really needed in order to keep those costs down. Here’s the thing though. I didn’t do all of that because I was up against a certain number in our budget. (Remember, we weren’t keeping a budget the last couple months.) I did it because it’s a habit.

And so it was with other categories of our budget. Not tracking didn’t equal reckless spending. It just meant our spending switched to auto-pilot, which happens to mirror our budget. We’ve become so trained and conditioned that it’s almost a sixth sense. We sort of talked about those mental boundaries in this post from a few years ago, but I don’t think either of us expected it to be as comprehensive as it has become.

So does that mean we’ll stop keeping a budget? Never! Especially not while we’re still in the financially precarious beginnings of starting a business. We may be only three days into February, but I’m happy to say those three days have been tracked perfectly so far. And we plan to keep it that way. Even though we may have trained ourselves to not overspend, budgeting is that safety rail we’ll always need. One thing this experience did teach us is that it’s really not about saving twenty cents here or there or making sure you track every dollar perfectly. It’s about your mindset. Once you’ve quit resisting and resenting your budget and you begin to embrace it for what it is, budgeting becomes easy (well, easier). And having control over your finances goes from a chore to part of who you are.

So to be clear, we plan to continue to stick to a budget and track our spending forever and always, and we think everybody else on the planet should, too (not to paint a broad brush or anything). But we also learned that having the right mindset goes a long, long way in keeping your finances in check.

Budgeting = Good. Budgeting mindset = Really ridiculously good (looking).

How Our Budget Will Change in 2016

2016 Budget Changes

We’re 28 days into 2016, and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind in the OFB household. Our side business has taken us by surprise and is becoming more of a front-and-center business. It’s exciting, busy, and new. I feel like we learn something new each day. One aspect of 2016 that’s definitely going to have a learning curve is our budget. Yes. You see, we now have a second budget. Our original budget had a baby, and that baby is becoming a bigger monstrosity than its creator.

Our second budget has arisen from our business. We made an upfront investment from our personal savings into our business, and that investment evolves as we sell products and then reinvest in our business again. On top of that, we’ve acquired several extra expenses throughout the month. Some are recurring, while some are just one-time purchases. But keeping all of those separate from our personal budget has been tricky. We have an accountant helping us, and we have designated “business” credit cards. Despite that, it’s not nearly as cut and dry as it used to be with knowing where our finances stand.

So, as always, our personal budget will be very important this year. We hope to be able to stick to it and even cut back where we can. In some areas, we may be a little less uptight, simply to accommodate our current hectic state of affairs. We’ve outlined some of our 2016 budget changes below.

Rent: Same

Utilities: Our utilities will remain the same currently, but we hope to lower our cell phone bill once our current contract is up. We’ve lowered it as much as we can with our current carrier, and in the fall, we hope to look into some of the much lower-priced carriers out there.

Food: We may loosen the purse strings on our food budget some in 2016. Not a ton, mind you. Our overall food budget might increase $1,000–$1,200 over the course of the entire year.

For groceries, Johnny and I both want to eat healthier. We’ve been doing green smoothies for both our and the girls’ benefits in the mornings to make sure we’re all getting at least some nutrition each day.

For eating out, we plan to use it when needed. Currently, we need to eat out quite often since we’re lacking the time to meal plan. And when we eat out, we spend a few extra dollars to get a salad instead of a burger. While it’s not ideal to eat out more, it’s where we’re at right now, so we’re trying to do our best with it. both want to eat healthier and grab something when we’re strapped for time with our side business and not feel guilty about it.

Non-Discretionary: Our non-discretionary spending will mostly stay the same, but we may spend less on gas this year. For one, gas is jaw-droppingly cheap right now. But also, neither of us is commuting daily anymore. The closest thing we have to a routine is going to the post office to mail packages. We’re going to play it by ear these first couple of months and then set a new (hopefully lower) gas budget if needed.

Also, like most Americans, our health insurance plans went up for our daughters this year. We already had one minor emergency involving Sally and one of her front teeth, but fingers crossed our healthcare costs should be lower than having a baby was last year.

Everything Else: We’re planning to keep our Everything Else category the same, and maybe even cut back some if we can. We’re trying not to spend much extra on ourselves or our home right now since we’re spending a lot on our business. The girls still need their clothes and other supplies, so as long as we don’t go over our 2015 monthly Everything Else limit, we’ll be happy.

Child Care: The girls are continuing to be watched a little over 10 hours/week, and we’ll continue to need that time in 2016 so that we can work.

Gifts: Same

Vacation: We plan to spend less than usual on vacations this year. We have one big vacation in mind. And by “big,” I just mean an actual vacation that’s more than a weekend trip, which is a big deal for us. We also hope to go on weekend mini vacay’s every other month with the girls. Aside from gas and a one- or two-night stay in a hotel, we plan to keep the costs of those trips very minimal.

So that’s what our 2016 budget is looking like! Like I said before, with a business, budgeting becomes a whole new beast. And I have a feeling our business budget is going to feel a bit untamable all year long. So I’m hoping if we can just stick closely to our personal budget, we’ll feel some financial control this year!

How are your 2016 budgeting plans/goals/hopes/dreams shaping up so far? We hope to share detailed numbers of our monthly budget soon!


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