I had the covers pulled up to my neck, like always. It was pitch black, and I’d just told Johnny “Goodnight!” But then I rolled back over. “Hey Johnny, guess what?” “Hmm?” he replied, sleepily. He’s notorious for taking mere seconds to fall asleep. “Tomorrow starts a new month, which means a new chance for a clean slate!” “Oh… yeah… cool. Goodnight.” For some reason he wasn’t feeling my excitement. Well, understandably so, I guess. It was just the first of September, after all. There’s nothing momentous about that. Unless you’re me, of course. I love the start of a new month because it’s another chance to change, be better. And it can be anything: waking up earlier to exercise, going to bed by 11:00 (this is quite a feat in this household), starting a new craft project, starting a……. BUDGET!
On August 1st, after the craziness of moving, our budget was admittedly suffering. August 1st brought with it a determination from Johnny and me to track every single cent of spending, whether good or bad. And there was some (planned) badness that occurred, folks. We spent more than usual on groceries because we had to stock a completely barren kitchen. And due to less storage at this new place, we had to purchase some storage solutions for our bedroom and office. We budgeted an amount to spend on those items, and we stayed within it. But it was still more than we usually spend in a given month. But we tracked every cent of it. And it felt great.
And so if you’re on the cusp, thinking it’d be nice to start a budget, but wondering whether you should, or whether it’s worth your time, or whether you even need one at all (the excuses are endless), let me help you out. Here are five signs you need a budget.
Five Signs You Need a Budget
- You don’t want to log into Mint and/or your bank account. If you’re afraid to see what you’ve spent as of late, this is a telltale sign of needing a budget pronto. Let me help you out — the longer you wait, the worse it is. So get on into Mint and see the damage that’s been done. And be better.
- Your savings projection is “Whatever’s left.” You could argue this is the exact opposite of how a monthly budget works. You should first calculate how much you need to save or how much you need for debt pay off and then go from there. Make your budget work for you. After the fixed expenses for the month are calculated, you’re in charge of everything else. So decide what you’re gonna save or pay off each month and then do it.
- You’re hiding purchases from your SO. Confession: I’ve done this on a small scale. I knew we were cuttin’ it close with our budget one month, but I really wanted the cutest outfit in the whole wide world for our baby girl. So I decided to ask forgiveness, rather than permission, and went for it. If you know your spouse will say it’s irresponsible to buy something and so you do it secretly, this one’s for you. The big asterisk is a gift, of course. Secret gifts are the best gifts.
- You’ve decided to use the credit card, just in case. If you’re worried about over-drafting, and you therefore pull out the ol’ credit card, you need a budget. The nice thing about a budget and tracking your spending is that you know how much money you have in each account. Using your credit card for budgeted purchases that you’ll pay in full at month’s end (for rewards like free airline flights… woo!) is another story.
- “We’ll be better next month.” No, no, no. You know you’re not doing well if you say this. It’s just a way of covering up your spending sins for the month. And it’s a way of convincing yourself that next month it won’t matter what you did this month. On more than one occassion, Johnny and I have fallen into this pit. We’ve been about to purchase something that we both know we shouldn’t, but we still buy it. And then the guilt sets in. And then we say to each other, “We’ll do better next month.” This doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but it happens. We no perfect.
And so, if you need a budget, don’t fret. It’s a new month! And you can start now. And guess what? Next week’s a new week! And tomorrow’s a new day! And all that good stuff. So now’s as good a time as any to start (or restart) that budget.