Monday, April 15, 2013

My Brain on Budgets

I seem to always fall into this pattern with budgeting, where I am really good about sticking to my budget for a couple of months, and then start to feel really restricted by it and begin to deviate. This has happened before, and is exactly what happened this time: I did great with my budget for February and March, but then started to get stir-crazy and and want a little more freedom with my spending. I got a big injection of financial aid at the end of March, plus I'm getting a sizeable tax refund this year (yay!) so I don't feel too bad about spending a little extra lately, but mentally it's something I struggle with. I never spend beyond my means, and I always have a reserve for emergencies or what-have-you, but it bothers me that it is such a struggle mentally for me to stick to a preordained budget for more than a couple months. Does anyone else have this problem?

Even with going out a little more, I haven't strayed from my regular bread-baking habits.

I'm aware that the budget I put myself on starting in February was very small, but needed to be at that time. But now I'm wondering if I need to just make peace with the fact that I have a hard time abiding by a strict budget for long periods of time, and maybe I need to regularly revisit my spending every couple of months and modify it to whatever my current situation is, and operate on that basis rather than some preset level of spending. Sometimes it works really well for me to live off of the bare minimum, but sometimes it makes me feel a little crazy. Lately, with a little extra income, I've been able to treat myself to a couple more expensive things that I've been waiting on for awhile, like a new camera! Until now I've been using the one Matt's dad loaned to me three years ago, and I need to give it back. I am not concerned that I have been spending irresponsibly; I am hyper-aware of my finances in general, have been making payments on my student loans even though I don't have to yet, have been making contributions to my IRA whenever possible, and keeping my utility costs very low. My student loans are the only debt I have--my credit card gets paid off every month.

Maybe part of it is that my life is in, or is approaching, a state of transition, where I'll be making the move into an actual career and ideally a full-time job with a solid income which will make things considerably easier, and I'm a little impatient to get there. This last year has been one of a part-time income, moving and moving expenses, financial aid disbursements every three months, and thus a lack of regularity to both income and spending. I'm just in a weird place where I feel a little guilty about spending extra and going out more, but am also feeling gratified by the results of that spending and I'm not totally sure how to reconcile those things.

 I'm not sure there's a moral to this post. I just wonder if this is something that all people trying to live frugally struggle with, or if this just has something to do with my general tendency to get stir-crazy and need to change things up (this would explain why I've moved so many different times and had so many different jobs). Anyone have any insights?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also have trouble sticking to a budget - often have problems making one in the first place. We are older and I no longer work, and we don't really have any debts, so mentally sticking to a budget is difficult because at this time, with hubby still working and on good money, we don't really have a reason to be careful. Except... that you never know when you might need that money that you spent on something frivolous.

I don't really have a suggestion for you, but you seem to be doing all the right things by paying off student debt and putting some aside when you can, so why not enjoy those times you do get to spend (especially on something as important as a camera) - just don't go completely off the rails!

Cheers, Judith