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?!