Spend every dollar

I don’t know about you, but this has never worked for me. It doesn’t leave any room for finding a great deal on groceries and stocking up, or those days when you just really need a new pair of shoes because yours have fallen apart, or a car breaking down. Plus, it feels way too confining. I always want to spend when I’ve been told I can’t – it’s just my perverse nature I guess. Whenever we get short on money, I always want to go shopping. It never fails. Even if I don’t need anything. Budgeting that detailed makes me itchy to spend.

No, I prefer giving us an allowance for the pay period and, from that allowance comes everything we need to spend on – groceries, entertainment, gas, whatever. That allows more flexibility. I have estimated about how much I want to spend in each category and that’s how I came up with the allowance number, but if I go over in one place, that just means I can’t eat out or order pizza like I had budgeted for. I pay the bills (because power and natural gas and such vary), give us our allowance, and always have some left over to save (or send to debt). If I don’t have any left over, I can cut down on our allowance, or suck it up and do the budget out for the next couple of paychecks, juggling everything until I am sure that I have money somewhere to send to debt or savings. I generally plan out 2 – 3 paychecks at a time. That way I can see how the money is going to fall and plan ahead for paying bills early when I have the money, or waiting until they are due if that’s what needs to happen. If I can stay ahead on the bills, paying them when they are issued rather than when they are due, I give myself a cushion for times when we are snug for a paycheck and need to wait to pay something.

All of this happens, of course, after I have my $1000 bumper fund. So far I haven’t needed to dip into it – summer is less expensive for us – but it’s there should I need it. I put it in a different bank just to make it harder for us to get to and use. Otherwise I would tend to dip into it for those one or two little things that I can’t quite afford right now but will in a week when we get paid. Then I have to pay it back and it screws up my budget. Better to have it less accessible and be a fund for actual emergencies rather than just overdraft protection. Those little things that I want but can’t quite afford are generally things I don’t need. And, if I do need them, I can just eat the expense and spend less for the rest of the period. It won’t kill me.

So no, I don’t like budgeting things out tot he last penny. I want the flexibility to deal with unexpected expenses and take advantage of great deals on things that I need. We recently bought my husband a new wedding ring because his old one had gotten really beat up and bent out of shape and was too small after he’d gained 30 pounds of muscle. That was money we hadn’t expected to spend right then, but we had it and there was a sale, so we were able to buy it. We are just spending less and it’s worked out fine.

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