I’m Not as Good at Budgeting as I Thought

It’s becoming clear to me that I might not be as good at budgeting and financial planning as I once thought. Or, put differently, the way I used to budget and plan my money isn’t working as well as it used to.


The Past

The way I have been operating is that I have a spreadsheet with various budget categories and at the beginning of the month (or the end of the previous month.) I plug in what numbers I know (insurance, electricity, gas, etc) and then make a plan for the variable categories. Usually I start with savings since that’s the most important category to me right now, and try to figure out how to make the rest of the categories work. I don’t include a budget for Airbnb spending, mystery shopping or our new reno spending. Airbnb gets paid from our joint account, and mystery shopping sometimes will pay before the month is up, but I will be getting that money back eventually.

Simultaneously, I have a spreadsheet where I track every transaction that goes in or out of my bank account. It’s projected through the end of the year. It gives me an idea if I am on track to having enough for the larger, irregular expenses I want to cash flow. Things like, taxes and property taxes. I know whether I have to step up my mystery shopping and cut back on spending and usually can do it.


The Problem

Until now.

My cash flow isn’t enough to pay my bills AND save the amounts I want. My bills are getting paid, though, and I haven’t had to dip into savings or put anything on a credit card. That is something. My frustration with my savings rate has been clean in my past two income reports. Even though I bring in a lot of extra every month, it’s all spoken for before it has a chance to hit my savings account.


Explanations? Or Excuses?

The Renovation

It is taking so much longer than expected. That means that it is more expensive than planned (though not prohibitively so) and that fatigue has set it. It is hard to remain motivated to do most of the frugal things I used to. Not having a kitchen means that cooking is an absolute chore and there is no option to resort to convenience foods like frozen pizza. That translates into eating out more.


California Trip

I said that visiting my family isn’t something I would do just to save money. But that doesn’t mean it’s an invitation to spend as much as I want without thinking, either. The trip should end up relatively inexpensive but I will still be spending some money.


It’s unclear whether my current ennui is because of winter, the reno, or something else completely. It does mean that when I have free time I would rather just sit and do nothing than cook for the freezer, or clean up or manage my money or any number of things I could do to help my financial situation.



What Can I Do?

I am resolving to make April a low spend month. I need to take control of my spending and April seems as good of a month as any for a “reset”

Be Aware

Even though I have been tracking my purchases, it seems like there is a disconnect between how much I think I am spending, and how much I am actually spending. I’m not sure what to do about that other than every morning think about what I will have to spend to get through the day and then stick to that plan.

Gift Cards

I have some money on gift cards that I can use towards my expenses. I struggle with gift cards because I receive them mainly as gifts. The person giving them to me wants me to spend it on something fun for myself, so I feel slightly guilty using them for bills or regular expenses. I am going to use them wisely and try to use them in the spirit they were given.



Accountability will help me keep on track. So, every Friday I will post my spending for the week.


Here goes:


April 1:

$46.54 Eating Out

$39.82 Water Bill

$29,95 Cell Phone


April 2:

Breakfast out: $37.18

Groceries: $27.50

Mystery Shop: $13.52


April 3:

Groceries $12.96 (Trash stickers)

Gas (House) $51.03


April 4:

Groceries $11.87


April 5

Groceries $19.83

Mystery Shop $20.05

Amazon Prime renewal $99 (will be reimbursed by a mystery shopping company)

HBO $14.99

Shuttle Reservation $20


April 6

Library Fees $9.75

Airbnb $32.38

Papa Johns $24.40

Cash Withdrawal (for my trip) $100

ATM Fee $3 (hangs head in shame)

Reload Starbucks card $10

Shuttle from airport $20 (paid cash)

Mystery Shop $40 (paid cash)


Week 1 Total: $632.77


There were a lot of eating out charges and I am okay with that for now. Once the kitchen is functional, I am going to commit to making our own food. I spent a little more on Papa Johns than I normally would, but if you spent $15 you got enough Papa Points for free pizza. Mr. Beach Life’s step dad will be in town this weekend helping with the kitchen and I thought that might be a good option for dinner for them if they wanted. If not, we’ll use it when I get home on Tuesday and won’t want to cook.


The library fees and ATM fee are embarrassing but they are what they are. We go grocery shopping so much because we are buying for what we want to eat that day since cooking is so difficult.

There we have it. Next week may or may not be spendy as well. There will be some vacation expenses. Here’s to better choices and a functional kitchen in the coming week!

  1. DJ @1000WaysToSave

    You’re not alone. The more I work on our budget, the more surprises I uncover. Sometimes I think tracking your expenses is less about trying to control your spending and more about teaching yourself how to be better prepared for whats coming next.

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