5 Signs That You're Too Obsessed With Your Budget

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There is no doubt that budgeting can get you out of a financial hole. It can also lead you to employ better financial habits — a wonderful thing! But can you actually overdo it? Well, like with anything else, you can go overboard if you aren’t careful. And you can inadvertently end up having a software product or budgeting tool rule your life.

Here are five ways to find out if you are getting too obsessed with your monthly budget.

1. You consult your budget before spending money on the small things. While the little things count, it may not be necessary to have your budget govern your decision to make a purchase at the dollar store. We all know that taking care of the small change will make the dollars add up faster when it comes to saving money. But we can certainly go too far with this. Provided you stick to your budget most of the time, it won’t make a difference if you spend a few extra cents here and there on occasion.

2. You cannot spend anything — not even a red cent — without panicking that you’ll blow your budget. But we all need to have some fun in our lives! If you've gotten to the stage where you're budgeting every single cent and still panicking about every unprepared eventuality, then you need to take a step back.

3. You don’t allow yourself to have any fun money. Remember fun money? Yes we all need a bit of this every now and again. Work out what your budget will allow you and make sure you get a few dollars for yourself every week. How's this for a compromise: Set up a specific category in your budget planner that addresses this play money, then keep to its limits. This is the best way to make sure you have some cash to spend without worrying about whether or not you can afford things.

4. You are saving as much as you can without knowing what you're saving for. Does this sound familiar? Saving is a good thing, especially if you have specific goals you're aiming for. For example, are you planning to save three months' worth of your salary so you can have a cushion to fall back on? Certainly, saving for a rainy day is highly recommended, provided you've got a strategy that involves addressing your longer term goals as well.

5. Thinking about your budget keeps you awake at night. Unfortunately, there are people who may find themselves tossing and turning at night, worrying about their spending. When you get to this point, it's time to take a chill pill. Everything should be done in moderation, even helpful activities such as keeping an eye on your expenditures. If you're having trouble reconciling your budget with your spending, then determine if your plans are too restrictive or whether you're truly under the clutches of a spending problem. Seek support where you need it (especially if you realize you've got a debt problem) and work out small successes before tackling bigger challenges.

Nobody wants to be a miser. Or a tightwad. Instead, aim to be frugal as someone who knows how to find good value for their money, or as someone who knows how to make those dollars stretch without going overboard. If you recognize any of the above signs in yourself, it's time to think about dialing things back. Just like everything else in personal finance, moderation is key! Make sure you don’t fall into the habit of letting your budget get the better of you.

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Guest's picture

Your sane sensibility is the viewpoint shared by Elizabeth Warren (and her daughter) in the book, "All Your Worth," which is, IMHO, the most practical, nonpreachy book on personal finance on the market.

Guest's picture

Who writes these articles? Why on earth would "saving without a goal" be a problem? I don't know what country these people live in, but in the U.S. there is no such thing as having too much savings. In fact, habitual saving is an excellent practice. Having money in the bank (under the mattress, in a safe, etc.) means the difference between having security and not having security. I hear so-called financial advisors who tell people to save 3 to six months or even a years worth of living expenses. Why not save as much as possible so that when you need a car, a furnace, a roof or some other expensive item you have more than enough money on hand? Why not save enough money so that if you're ever fired or laid off you can literally stay out of work for more than a year if need be?

Guest's picture

I agree with you on that point. But even in the case of an emergency fund, you actually do have a goal - to avoid going into debt when a financial crisis comes. So maybe (I can't pretend to speak for the author) their point was more about people who refuse to enjoy anything in life because they are always "saving".

Some people will have a HUGE emergency fund, maxed out retirement and educational savings and still refuse to deviate from their saving even for a simple purchase. That can lead to hoarding money, and stop people from enjoying life.

Guest's picture

Good points. While I do think it's important to track and monitor all spending, it is possible to go overboard! We have to be sure that our money is serving us and not the other way around!

Guest's picture

I disagree. There's no limit to saving, and "saving without a reason" is by default, saving for an emergency. What if my first nest's egg runs out? I need to save for another. And another!

Also, you don't need _any_ money to have fun! Learn an art, like sculpture or sketching, or to play an instrument (I play three) or learn a new human language (I know 5) or study for expertise in some field. Go for a weekend-long camping or rock-climbing or trekking trip with friends. Cook at home. Or improve physical fitness by practicing to run for a marathon. There are a ton of ways to have fun without spending!

Guest's picture

IMO point 3 cleans up both points 1 and 2 -- if you give yourself "fun" money, you can spend money on the "little things" without pulling your hair out over it. That is what the "fun" money is for!

With respect to point 4, I think that *any* saving has some point to it. If you aim to save 3-6 months of expenses, fine. If you throw more in just in case the roof goes bad, fine. If you have 3-6 months saved...and just feel comfortable with more, fine. If anything, "extra" saving could be for peace of mind...and I think that is a perfectly good reason.

Guest's picture

This is all well and good, and yes, saving and keeping a budget can be depressing and, yes, you can go overboard, but, really... I see so many of these blogs written by people who DON'T take into account the VAST number of us who are currently UNEMPLOYED (been laid off, lost our jobs through whatever means) and are living on our savings.

It is all well and good to say "you need fun money" and "don't stay up night worrying about your budget" until you are FORCED to figure out whether you can afford your medications this month or not.

Guest's picture

I think I might be too obsessed with my budget since I have all those symptoms you mentioned. I'm adding to the list, I even collect small penny which any of my siblings borrowed from me and won't stop until they pay me.