The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Budgeting Day

The Terrible No Good Budgeting Day

I recently made a financial mistake when looking over our budget. Yes I make mistakes sometimes when budgeting. More than one even! Things weren’t going the way I had planned them several months ago. I looked everything over several times and couldn’t see anything I did wrong. My wife came and looked it all over as well. She found a big payment I had missed because I made things more complicated than they needed to be. 

Now the question was, how do we recover? We were staring at a spreadsheet full of red. For several months into the future we weren’t going to have enough to cover different bills. It looked horrible. I felt awful for missing one thing and causing so much to go wrong.

Little by little we started making changes to correct things. We would pull in some money from a small savings account. See how much or how little it would help. Check what would happen if we stopped putting money into savings for a while. Check the results. Lower our weekly budget. Check to see how much it would help. See if there were any fixed costs we could cancel quickly. Check to see what that would do.

Finally we came up with a plan that would work. We would be living on less than we are used to for the next 2 months, but it would work. At the end of those 2 months I could revisit the spreadsheet and it looked like we would be through the worst of it. We could start bringing back some of the things we had cut out.

How this applies to you

I was quickly reminded of how stressful money can be. Some people live like this every day. Each time they look at their bank account it almost causes a panic attack. Some people have no budget at all. Some people have a basic budget they try to live by. Either way, there are a lot of moving pieces. How do you make sure you’re catching and planning for everything?

There is also a lot of shame around making a financial mistake. I have a lot of experience and look at our finances closer than most people. It wasn’t easy to tell my wife that things didn’t look right and I didn’t know why. Some people live with that feeling every day because they know they are making mistakes and they don’t know how to fix them.

I remember going to college and doing a master’s degree in corporate finances while my personal finances were a mess! I was reminded of that daily stress, worry, and shame. It’s hard. Really hard.

To make it worse, most people don’t see a way out. Most people can’t put the time and attention they want into budgeting. They aren’t finance people. It doesn’t come easy to them. They are busy living a life outside of spreadsheets and tracking receipts. Budgeting is a necessary evil and they don’t have the skills or the tools to make it any better.

(One of my receipts I got recently said, “Keep for your records.” Who is keeping every receipt in a special record book? This wasn’t for anything special or significant. I think it was $1.07 for a drink. Is that what budgeting is supposed to be like? Having a record book full of tiny receipts? I apologize if you have a significant collection of prized receipts. You do you. But that’s not for everyone.) 

For many people, if they had the same problem I did, they would have had to go back through months worth of credit card and bank statements. They would have had to look at each line item and decide which category it was supposed to go to and then check some kind of budgeting history to see if it was actually recorded there. It would have been tedious and easy to miss something important.

I know there are people out there who live in a constant state of bouncing back and forth between ignorant hopefulness and utter financial despair. I know it’s really hard to admit that you don’t know what you are doing. You are trying your best and every move seems to dig you in deeper. You feel embarrassed that you are an adult and everyone else seems to have this figured out but you.

There’s Hope!

The truth is, you are not alone. Most of the people around you don’t have it figured out either. It’s hard to talk about. Even though every person who makes any money at all needs to learn how to budget, you probably weren’t taught HOW to do it. It isn’t your fault. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. You are doing the best you can.

I hope you can get past your fears and admit it when you need help. Admit it when you make mistakes. Even people like me, who are really good at budgeting, make financial mistakes. 

You don’t have to live in daily fear of your budget. We’ve been living on The Happy Giraffe Budget for over 10 years now. The other thing this experience helped me remember is how amazing it is to NOT have that burden! Unless I make a big mistake, that shame and guilt are completely gone. We spend money every day, on whatever we choose to, with no worrying at all. 

There’s hope! There’s a tool here that is free, easy to use, and easy to live. This is something that can turn things around for you and for your family. You don’t need to be a financial expert. You don’t need to spend a lot of time to use it well. You don’t need to keep receipts for $1.07 and save them in a record book.

On top of being easy to use, our system will also help you out when you do something dumb like I did. My wife and I were able to work together and see exactly what we needed to do in order to fix it. We could talk about each possibility and try it out in the spreadsheet to see how it would look. It was an embarrassing experience to start with, but it was powerful to work together and know how to get out of it. 

I don’t know of any other app or system that would have helped us pivot and course correct so quickly, easily, and confidently. Being able to look 2 years into the future and see, day by day, how things are going to turn out. It’s really incredible.

Surprise Ending!

I mentioned at the beginning that I made more than one mistake. Later that day the mail came. There was a paycheck in the mail that I had also missed. Due to some changes, my paychecks were not coming on the same schedule I was used to. I had completely missed budgeting for and including an entire 2 weeks of pay! That’s just as embarrassing as missing a big payment, but somehow, less shame!

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