Could Creating a Budget Be a Bad Thing?

A financial koan for our readers: Is it possible to practice smart money management without creating a budget?

If you’re like most people, your immediate answer is probably a resounding,No! After all, could there be a more basic money management practice than budgeting? It turns out that some financial experts are wondering if creating a budget is akin to setting yourself up for failure.

An article in The New York Times by financial columnist Tara Siegel Bernard suggests that human beings aren’t hardwired for the type of discipline that’s required to create and sustain a personal finance budget. She suggests focusing on things like specific financial goals and tracking how you spend your money instead of setting strict limits for yourself. The good feeling that comes from saving up for a dream vacation, or the power that comes knowing just how much you spend on eating out each month will likely lead to more lasting positive financial change. She also suggests having your vital expenses (e.g., whatever portion of your paycheck you stock away in an emergency fund) automatically transferred from your checking account to your savings to make saving as easy as possible.

What do you think? Are you a budgeter who can’t imagine living any other way? Or do you cut yourself some slack and focus on making sure your basic expenses are covered and allow yourself to spend the rest?

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  1. 1

    Do whatever works for you, of course, but I tend to agree that for many people a budget is like going on a crash diet. They get more and more obsessed with the budget until something unexpected comes up. Then it all goes out the window! With a family of 5 we always have unexpected things come up and I tend to do better with tracking spending and projecting our account balances and saving over the coming year. It keeps me focused on my savings goals, while also making it easier to role with random expenses.

    • 2

      Thanks for your feedback, Amy! Really great stuff there. Everyone has their own methods and it’s always interesting to see how people approach their personal finances.

  2. 3

    I personally don’t like budgetting. To me budgetting is a way to inflate certain aspects of your lifestyle to justify and fit your income. I much prefer to live in a frugal manner without being cheap, hence saving as much as possible. Then when you really need something, go buy it. That said, I think it comes down to personal discipline. If you are not discipline, then use a budget and stick to it.

    • 4

      Thanks for the comment, Michael! Everybody’s got an entirely different way of looking at it and we’re glad you found a way that works for you.

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