Ponder it: to budget or not to budget

Pondering the depths

Some of us need or want a budget, some of us don't. Here are some tips for deciding which category you're in.

You probably need a budget if...

...your income has suddenly dropped.

...you make "enough" money but are still living paycheck-to-paycheck.

...you spend all your money every month but you have no idea where it goes.

...you know that some aspect of your spending (like eating out or buying shoes) is out of control.

...you want to make some serious (or even drastic!) changes in how you spend your money.

...you suddenly have new financial obligations (such as caring for an aging parent).

You may want a budget if...

...your income has suddenly risen.

...you're living on very little and want to continue being able to do so.

...you want to save more than you do currently.

...you want to know where your money goes every month.

...you're saving toward a goal and want to put every penny possible there.

...you want to see if there are some changes you could make in your spending.

You don't need a budget if...

...you have enough money to pay the bills, save into retirement, have an emergency fund, and spend some on yourself.

...you don't care where every penny goes as along as you're keeping up your financial responsibilities.

...your financial situation isn't changing and isn't going to in the near future.

...you are satisfied with how you're spending your money and don't want to change it.

...you have money left over after every paycheck, so you aren't living paycheck-to-paycheck.

...you're an inherently frugal person who would just obsess needlessly over a budget.

You don't even need to think about a budget if...

...looking at the numbers won't change how you spend your money.

...you won't keep the budget up to date.

...living within your means isn't important to you.

...living paycheck-to-paycheck doesn't bother you.

...you have a photographic memory and record all your financial transactions that way.

...the aliens are coming to get you soon, so your spending doesn't matter so much.


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Andrea Karim's picture

I want to, and know I need to, make changes to my spending because I live paycheck to paycheck but I know that I won't? Do I force myself or no?

I'm intrigued by your budgeting posts, Sarah. If you don't mind me asking, do you think it's easier to budget as a married couple than as a single person?

Will Chen's picture

That's an interesting question Andrea.  Having a partner may help keep you honest about your spending habits, but I suppose having a partner can also create resentment and suspicion.

That's why I'm personally not getting married until I win the lottery.  (crosses fingers) 

Sarah Winfrey's picture

I just wrote a kick-ass response to this, only to have it be unable to connect to the server and lose it.  Sufficient to say that I don't know for sure, but my experience is that being married is both good and bad when it comes to budgeting--good because we're both less likely to overspend or spend without thinking because we know it will affect someone we love and bad because it makes it easier to feel guilty about perfectly acceptable spending.  But then again, I didn't have a budget before I got married!

Andrea Karim's picture

Thanks for addressing that, Sarah.

I often find that it's tough for me to think about budgeting since I have only myself and the ugly dogs to worry about right now. I don't know if that would change with a marriage or not. Probably worrisome.