Budgets Are for Weenies

That’s right. I said it. Maybe it’s because I had a discussion earlier with a Twitter user who thinks budgets are “sexy” (yes, really), but I just had to come out and say it. I hate budgets. Everybody hates budgets. Nobody in the world actually thinks budgets are sexy.

You know what people do think is sexy? Directing your life toward your goals. (Your whole life, actually, not just your finances, but what do you think this is? An “everything in your whole life” blog?).

Wait a minute, I hear you thinking (thought-hearing is a blogger super power–did we not tell you?). You’re just going to advocate a “budget” by some other sneaky name.

But you’re wrong. I mean it. I think budgets suck.

Here’s what I do instead. We’re all about turning financial wisdom on its head over here, right? So let’s get started. Rather than looking at what I plan to spend, I look at what I did spend. It’s that easy. And maybe a little bass-ackward. But it works.

At the end of the month, I pull up my Mint account (paranoia is for the birds; if cyber criminals wanted your information, they’d have it already) and make sure everything is in the right categories. Then I look at each one. “Holy bananas. I spent $1,364* on fast food?” Then I ask myself one question, over and over, for each category:

Was it worth it?

Did I get $1,364* worth of enjoyment out of that fast food? In this case, heck no. All I got was some bad gas and a few extra hours on a stationary bike. Why would I trade that many of my dollars for crap? So you know what happens the next time I’m driving by McDonald’s? Well, first I have to consider whether it’s worth getting out of the car and going inside because I spent so much on fast food the month before that I still haven’t had the money to replace the motor in my driver’s side window and it’s really embarrassing to have to open the door, but THEN I remember, “Oh yeah. When I spend money here, it isn’t worth it.”

Bam. Priorities directed. The next month, sure enough, less spending on fast food. Eventually, right around the time it hits $8, I think, “Yeah, you know what, those three times I needed a Dollar Menu meal in a pinch were worth it. It’s hard to be prepared 100% of the time. I’m cool with 90%.”

No “See? I’ll never live up to my budget.” No “I always fail at my plans.” Just “Ugh. Fast food isn’t worth it.”

And you know what that is? Way sexier than budgeting.

*I put an asterisk so you’d think I didn’t really spend that much on fast food. Who’d want to admit that?

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