Ever beat yourself up for a minor mistake in your perfect monthly budget?
When it comes to budgeting our personal finances I have a habit of going a little overboard.
Ask my wife. She’s a big fan of how budgeting helps us hit big goals, but when it makes small purchases into big headaches – not so much.
Pizza Fundraisers Should Be Easy
We had only been married a few months – newly married and newly budgeting, when a high school girl living across the street walked over and asked us to purchase pizza coupons. She was raising money for a trip with her youth group.
To make the point of sale smooth and fast I pulled cash out of my pocket, purchased the coupons, and she went on her way happy to have made a sale.
That’s when my wife and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, “How is this going to work in the budget?” LOL…oh the woes of budgeting!
It took a good twenty minutes for us to figure out how to tell our newly discovered budgeting software to understand the transaction. We got it, but my wife was right when she said, “Buying pizza from the neighbor girl should not be this difficult.”
Perfection is the Enemy of Budgeting
Perfection. Freedom from fault. Flawless.
At the beginning of each month our family budget is beautiful. Every dollar has a job, every category is funded, and every sinking fund is on pace.
I lean back in my La-Z-Boy and grin with satisfaction.
Then…the reality of the month begins.
I’ve been budgeting since 2012 and it has taken a lot of work to settle on the best budget categories for ME. This is always subject to change.
Now, I’m all for sitting down with your spouse (if you’re married) and making a beautiful monthly budget. I recommend it. What I don’t recommend is stressing when you’re two weeks in and you need to rearrange the numbers.
The budget is never going to be perfect thirty days later. You should accept that reality the moment you finish making it.
Revisit. Revisit. Revisit.
I’d liken it to washing your car. Wouldn’t it be great if you could wash your car on September 1st and it still shined on September 30th? Unless you’re leaving it in the garage all month, that won’t be happening.
Instead, what happens? On your very first drive to town it rains. It feels like it was all for nothing.
It wasn’t though, was it? Washing the car is like resetting the standard. Going back to the best. Striving for perfection while knowing you’ll be washing the car again in a couple weeks or at least next month.
A budget is a projection. It’s a spending plan you put in place to help you hit the goals that matter. That’s done by not allowing small expenses to slowly pile up and overtake the big expenses.
When one category goes over because your kids got sick and you had more co-pays than you planned for, it’s okay. You planned the best you could, but you didn’t know the future. Deep breath. Budget in some grace.
Roll with the Punches
How do you deal with those type of mistakes? You Need A Budget (YNAB) calls this rolling with the punches.
In your budget it simply means that when one category goes over by a few bucks you move it from a category that came in a few bucks under. It’s easy. No harm. No foul. No guilt. Just budgeting to take care of you family.
Before budgeting you were already doing that. Now you just happen to see it on paper…or digitally.
Budget in Some Grace
Trust me, I need to hear this as much as you.
Let’s give ourselves some grace. There is no such thing as a perfect monthly budget.
Make a plan for your budget and do the best you can.
One of my new favorite words is fungible.
Money is fungible.
Fungible means it is readily changeable to adapt to new situations.
Budget for perfection, but when perfection doesn’t happen, roll with the punches.