Breaking Your Bad Budget

Breaking Bad Budgets

Johnny and I have been glued to the final episodes of Breaking Bad. It’s like witnessing something terrible that you just can’t look away from. We put our girl down at 7:00 each night, which is also when the show starts. And so each Sunday night we don’t get to watch the show until after we’ve gotten our girl to sleep. Right at 7:00 Johnny says, “Our social media fast begins now!” to avoid accidentally seeing any spoilers on Twitter or Facebook. And apparently, Breaking Bad is seeping into other areas of our life, like our nightmares — and this post title.

A few nights ago I was thinking about how Johnny and I have finally gotten to a point where we have a good relationship with our (freaking) budget — well, as good as a freaking budget can be anyway. But we weren’t always on such good terms with it. And I imagine there are others like us who have perhaps not quite reached a state of zen with their budgets either. And so today I thought I’d share a few speed bumps Johnny and I have encountered on our budgeting journey and how we’ve solved them.

Complaint: “I can never stay on track.”

Real Problem: If things aren’t going perfectly, you give up. I know because I have a propensity for doing exactly this. I’ve learned not to go on strict diets because if I splurge and have one cookie, I think, Well, I just ruined everything. Might as well eat the whole box. Expenses are bound to be somewhat unpredictable each month, so expecting perfection is a setup for failure.

Solution: Be more flexible. Some days Johnny and I forget to enter items into our budget. Or we splurge on something we shouldn’t. Or our car needs a repair we weren’t expecting. The important thing is that we just keep on chugging. Sometimes we’ll go days without entering any expenses in our budget. It’s tempting to just think, Welp, this month is shot. Might as well buy myself those $200 boots. Instead, we sit down, get back on track and begin again. Accept the mistakes and quit trying to be so perfect!

Complaint: “There’s nowhere else to save.”

Real Problem: Bet your bottom dollar you aren’t itemizing every expenditure. And I mean every expenditure. It’s easy for me to put a Target grocery trip into our grocery budget and claim I was simply buying food for our survival. What isn’t stated in that purchase is that I picked up some $5.00 headbands for our baby girl, a $12.00 rug for the bathroom, and $6.00 worth of chocolate and candy to have around the house. In the moment, these little extras seem like no big deal. But when our budget has suffered in the past, it’s been because of little things such as these.

Solution: If you’re trying to save more, and you truly, truly believe you can’t save another dime, try the envelope system for a month. Not clear on how it works? Take cash out for all of your expenditures and break each category up into envelopes filled with said cash. When the envelope for a category has no mo’ dough, no mo’ spending in that category! Got it? Johnny and I did the envelope system when we first started budgeting, and it really helped us comprehend what was a “need” and what was a “wantprettyprettyplease.” I suddenly didn’t care whether most of my grocery items were generic brand. And I wasn’t putting little odds and ends in the grocery cart that looked enticing. I stuck to my list. And I wasn’t ordering this or that $15.00 item on Amazon just because. And we weren’t having a $50 meal out because it’d been a long week. Anyway, give the envelope system a try, and it will help you see where you’re spending in excess.

Complaint: “I have no money left for fun.”

Real Problem: You think you have no money left for fun. I thought this, and I’ve continued to think this during different periods of our budgeting journey. I work hard, and I deserve to spend my money on what I want! I mentally yell from time to time, wanting to throw a tantrum like a three-year-old. But I mostly don’t do this, and I eventually come to my senses.

Solution: Rearrange a few dollars, and it will make a huge difference. I’m talking about giving yourself an extra $20 in a given month. But, Joanna, I can’t buy anything with $20! Oh, stop your whining. A small amount of money can go a long way in appeasing the need for more fun. I’m not about to give you a “having fun doesn’t have to cost a penny” speech because you already know this. But an extra $20 a month will allow for some little luxuries and pampering that make the whole budgeting thing feel a bit less stiff. With that amount of money, I can buy myself an e-book, some chocolate, some nail polish, and so on. Johnny and I have our Personal category that gives us each $25/month for such moments.

Lastly, one of our best tools in combatting our bad budgeting moments has been our Everything Else category. If you don’t know much about how it works, we did a post on it here. So break your bad budgeting and make Heisenberg proud.

So I’m curious. Have you experienced any of these bad budgeting moments? Do you have any others you’d add to this list? Are you scared to death of the Breaking Bad finale, too?!

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  • Reply Travis @DebtChronicles September 24, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Sometimes there really is NO money left for fun….and you simply have to be OK with that. Sometimes you have to come to the realization that you just paid all your bills, struggled to get food in your cupboards and look forward to the next time you do have some extra money. There seems to be an expectation that there always HAS TO be money for fun….and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. It WILL be ok if you don’t go to the movies this week, or go out for drinks with friends. Their will always be next week. 🙂

    • Reply Tabitha September 24, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Exactly right – some months I’ve looked at our budget added up the bills I know are coming – Rent, electric, phone/net, gas for at least one fill up, and 100 for food – which equals X amount and then my husband’s paycheck comes in and it equals exactly X amount (I’m not kidding, it’s done this a few times where it’s exactly the amount needed).
      I double check numbers, and with tithe and the bills the paycheck covers exactly what we “need”. Just no extra “wants” or fun stuff that budget. And it’s okay, God always provides, and he always provides exactly what we need. Can I get an amen? 🙂

      • Reply Travis @Debtchronicles September 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

        AMEN indeed, Tabitha! I was recently furloughed for a week where I didn’t get paid my normal salary for that week (I work as a software engineer). But as luck would have it, I received some bonus pay for some patent activity I was involved in on the same check that was reduced due to the furlough. The net was that my paycheck was almost exactly the same as it normally is. It is amazing how things like that happen, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

      • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 1:59 am

        That’s incredible, Tabitha! We’ve had similar experiences during our marriage. You put the important stuff first, and then somehow the money stuff works itself out.

    • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 1:56 am

      That’s right, Travis. That is the case sometimes, and in those moments, you just gotta hunker down.

  • Reply Emily-Jane @ Not A House, But A Home September 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

    “But, Joanna, I can’t buy anything with $20! Oh, stop your whining. ” LOL!!

    Seriously though, when you’re saving and tracking every nickel (like I am!) $20 to spend on fun stuff can go a long way! I wouldn’t just blow that on one item.

    • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 2:00 am

      Agreed, Emily-Jane. It’s all about having that feeling of having just a bit of freedom to spend how you please. This month I got myself two e-books, and I’m one happy (albeit, nerdy) girl!

  • Reply Insourcelife September 24, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Breaking Bad is probably the best show on TV, by a long shot… Too bad it is ending – what a roller coaster! I don’t watch much TV but this one got me hooked!

    • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 2:01 am

      Yup. I tried to quit a few times, but it just kept reeling me back in. I’m kind of glad it will be over!

  • Reply Jake @ Ca$h Funny September 24, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Awesome article. My wife and I have encountered all of these same problems. The key is to realize that you’re always going to have a bad month at some point. It’s crucial that you don’t lose sight of your overall goal during these months and get back on the budgeting bandwagon the very next month (or day).

    • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 2:02 am

      Great, points, Jake. Keeping your eye on the big picture is key!

    • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 2:02 am

      Great points, Jake. Keeping your eye on the big picture is key!

  • Reply Emory September 24, 2013 at 11:30 am

    At our house we have struggled with all of these issues. And it seems to be more of a discipline thing. Once you learn to be disciplined with your money and not let your money control you then budgeting becomes so much simpler. One other sneaky area that has caused us trouble is the ATM. My husband has a habit of pulling $20-$40 out of the ATM from time to time in case we need cash and don’t have it on us. This is fine as long as you pay attention to where that money is going and how often you pull. This month my husband pulled out his cash stash (all of the extra change or single bills that he collects over time) and found more than $100 worth. This may not sound like a problem since that is basically free money we didn’t account for right? But it has all come out of our account within the last two months which is kind of scary. So we are working on not impulse pulling from the ATM. Probably will be re-instituting the cash system for next months budget.

    • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 2:07 am

      Good one, Emory! We can totally relate to that. It’s so easy to pull cash out and then not pay attention to where it’s being spent! It was especially tough when we lived in cities like NYC and Boston where there were ATMs everywhere, tempting us!

  • Reply Tarynkay September 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I have stopped going to Target for that very reason! There just aren’t as many temptations at the Kroger, somehow. That is a good idea, to itemize everything. We include everything that you can buy at the grocery store in the grocery budget b.c we are lazy, but I can see how it would be helpful to separate out the non-food items.

    I agree with the above commenters- sometimes there just isn’t any money for fun. Sometimes there really isn’t a spare $20. When I start to feel whiny about that, I pull out my Laura Ingalls Wilder books. You know the one where they spend the entire winter twisting hay into sticks to burn and grinding wheat in the coffee mill? Reading that always makes me feel like I live in the lap of luxury.

    • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 2:10 am

      You’re right! I have to keep my Target trips to a minimum! 🙂

      And I love how you keep a perspective during months when the money’s tighter. Such a clever idea! When Johnny got laid off and we’d frozen any and all extra spending, I definitely should have read from one of those books!

  • Reply Rob September 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    “Have you experienced any of these bad budgeting moments?”

    Yep Joanna, I guess we all have at one time or another. I don’t sweat it though, just take note of the overspending (and the reason-s for it), then make damn sure that the variance is fully addressed in the following month or two. Over the year it usually all works out ok. Sometimes spending gets a bit excessive, other times it’s because the budget may not be realistic in some category. Adjustments are made accordingly.

    Now then, back to painting my 10 “happy faces”! Done yours yet for Baby Girl? 🙂

    • Reply Joanna September 25, 2013 at 2:12 am

      Good points, Rob. It’s true that sometimes the reason for going over budget is that the budget needs to be adjusted. We’ve had to adjust ours more than a few times since getting married!

      And sorry to disappoint on the happy faces — ain’t gonna happen! 🙂

  • Reply Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo September 25, 2013 at 5:32 am

    “The important thing is that we just keep on chugging.” Nothing could be truer. It’s super easy to say I’ll start over again next month. But you can’t. Otherwise it’s a vicious cycle. Keep going baby!

  • Reply Jim September 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Great Job Joanna, I need more discipline when it comes to budgeting. I track all my expenses and I guess I just figure that if I am watching where I spend my hard-earned dollars then I would be less inclined to spend frivolously. It has worked well, that said, I am a failure when it comes to budgeting.

  • Reply Simon @ Modest Money September 26, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Well, you could have just given us the fun doesn’t cost a dime speech, coz thats exactly the budget problem I would imagine am battling with, I do like splurging on some fun and it ends up breaking my budget, Bad.
    Some form of consistency is what am aiming to achieve with my budget right now.

  • Reply Kirby @ TheSimpleMoneyBlog September 28, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    “There’s nowhere else to save…Bet your bottom dollar you aren’t itemizing every expenditure”

    Well said! Amazing the additional things you can find when you just pay a little more attention to the details, so you are able to spend your money more wisely!

  • Reply Daisy @ Young Finances September 30, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    I’ve thought before that I didn’t have anywhere else to cut, but sure enough, there was some other expense that I could either get rid of or cut. Sometimes, there really is no room left for fun. In that case, I propose getting a second job or side hustle. Your life will improve!

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