One reason people hate budgets and following them is that they create an ‘ideal budget’ instead of a reality budget. An ideal budget would be a fantasy budget, a budget where nobody ever overspends a category, and categories like ‘restaurants’ and ‘amusement’ are tiny compared to money spent on necessities.
This is not the kind of budget I have, which is why I think it’s more fun and easier to ‘follow’ my plan each month.
My budget follows the money, instead of me following the budget. This won’t work for everyone, but if you have wiggle room each month but don’t want to feel guilty about spending some money on frivolous things, I think this is the way to go. Tracking expenses for a few months helps you see where your money goes, and then you create a budget based on that.
For example, if I see that my husband and I spent $75 on gas last month, and $70 the month before, and $80 the month before that, then I can easily set our gas budget at $80 or $90 and know we aren’t likely to overspend that. I’ve noted similar patterns with our eating out and fun money categories, so I’ve made each month of the budget match our actual spending habits. Then I can see what will really and truly be ‘left over’ and can be used for the debt snowball, savings, etc.
It’s this type of budget that lets me know we can pay off our debt by our goal date or even earlier. This also lets us absorb a car repair or larger medical bill without too much fuss and bother. It’s also easy to see if one category is out of proportion with another, and make me stop an analyze spending habits and change them.