Budgeting: Why I Don’t Need to Do It

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In High School, I was a C student. I didn’t work hard, I didn’t study, and quite frankly, I really just didn’t care. It wasn’t until I entered college that I made a conscious decision to “shape up” and get good grades. This was not easy! The process of converting myself from a C student to an A student required a lot of time and effort. In a sense, it was like trying to re-wire the brain.

Learning to Budget

Bad habits die hard. My first attempts at getting good grades were unsuccessful. Since I didn’t know what it took to be an A student, I had to learn through trial and error. During the first semester of college, I decided that I should try and use my time more wisely. To help enforce this idea, I budgeted out sections of my day to take on specific tasks. For example, 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM was when I would study for Pre-Calculus. After dinner, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM I would finish my reading assignments. This is how things went along, for awhile. The budgeting of my time helped me get acclimated to a new type of routine. Once the report cards came in, I used the results to fine-tune the feedback mechanism. If I got a B on a midterm, I would re-work my schedule to allocate more study time to that particular subject. Maybe instead of studying just once a day, I would break up the assignments into two separate partitions.

On and on this went. The first few corrections were major, since I had no precedent to fall back on. After a year, I was in the swing of things. I was now getting A’s in most of my classes, and had become pretty good with my study habits. By the third and fourth year, I simply stopped trying to follow a block schedule. This stuff was becoming second nature, and I no longer needed any guidance.

Long story short, the hard work paid off. I not only graduated college from a top university, I even went on to complete my graduate degree in an entirely different field of study. All of this was made possible thanks in large part to “learning how to budget” my time in Year 1. However, after Year 1, I never worked on this skill again. By Year 2 and onward, I already knew what to do. Budgeting was no longer necessary…

When It Comes to Finances…

Most personal finance gurus/bloggers will preach to you on why you need to budget your expenses. They will go on and on about the benefits of keeping track of every last expense. Budgeting will hold you accountable, they reason. Otherwise, you might fall off the horse and end up back in debt!

If you look around you (and across the internet), everyone is telling you to budget… so how can it possibly be unnecessary… or a waste of time? Perhaps, these experts are catering to the masses? Budgeting is most necessary and applicable for the following two types of people:

  • Those carrying lots of debt who are trying to get out of it.
  • Those who are finally debt free and want to start saving money.

Quite frankly, most people you run into will fall into of these two groups… But what if you don’t belong in either category?

After a Certain Point

If you’ve been saving your income, investing it, and re-investing it, I’m guessing you’ve gotten pretty comfortable (and good) with this routine. In fact, I would argue that it has become second nature to you. Sort of like brushing your teeth twice a day. Those who have been on the journey to early financial independence for some time do not lack discipline or motivation. You can’t get very far to financial freedom if you aren’t fully committed.

After a certain point, like with studying for school, budgeting just becomes unnecessary. This is Year 2 of the journey to early financial independence for me, and I believe I have reached this point. I’m right around the half-way point now, making my way up the mountain. This year, I’ve even stopped tracking my monthly expenses, since the results were starting to look the same each and every month! Whether I try or not, I’m saving 70% to 80% of my earned income each and every month. Not doing so would probably feel like going to sleep at night and not brushing my teeth. At this point in time, it would be a complete system shock, and totally unfathomable.

Point blank, falling off that horse is just not going to happen.

So, rather than having to exhaust myself, filling in each row of a spreadsheet with each transaction from each one of my ten credit cards… I simply stopped counting. What’s the point? I’m not new at this game… I know what I’m doing now.

How I Spend my Time

It’s not that I believe budgeting is a bad thing, it’s just no longer necessary for me. But keep in mind, I’m speaking from a perspective that’s far removed from someone just getting out of consumer debt. I’m an investor… and I do believe my time would be much better served focusing on more important things:

  • Where’s the next good deal?
  • How do I get through underwriting the next time around?
  • How can I generate more passive income?
  • How can I claim more deductions come tax season?
  • Managing properties and property managers.
  • This blog! 🙂

Bottom Line

The reality is, going slightly over or under a budget each month will not make or break my financial goals. I’m focused on generating more offensive firepower, because that’s the most important thing to do right now. It’s all about the cash flow, and I’m working hard trying to get it over the $2000/month mark.

I’m well past the days of cutting out lattes… I could drink one everyday and it would make ZERO difference. When you’re talking about closing deals on real estate properties that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (and require tens of thousands in downpayment funds), an extra $100 or $200 saved is just a drop in the bucket.

At this stage as an investor, when the snowball is starting to roll, you’re better served focusing on the big picture items. This past year, I closed on three properties. Each time, after closing was complete, I went out and celebrated! I indulged a little and ate out at nice restaurants. In 2014, my goal is to purchase an additional three rental properties. If I can accomplish this, it will be a most successful year of investing. Everything else will just get lost in the details…

Ultimately, if you are getting straight A’s each year (hitting your financial goals), then you’re obviously doing something right! Budget or no budget…

 

Do you still budget? Even if you like to budget, or do so only to have a reference, do you feel like you NEED to do it? Without a budget, would you fall off the horse? Would your spending habits drastically change?

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Fast Weekly
Guest

Nice school analogy FI. We still keep a loose budget, because it works better for my wife and I……as we have different styles. At some point though it’s just so ingrained in your daily life it doesn’t matter. Here’s to living the life!
-Bryan

FI Pilgrim
Guest

In some ways I agree with you, like maintaining focus on the big picture is more profitable for some, instead of getting bogged down with the details. But there are other things I think are subject to the situation, like having a spouse. Having a budget keeps financial frustration and miscommunication at bay, and it’s well worth the effort for me even if it doesn’t actually “save” us money.

Good post, though. Just like climbing the ladder in a corporate setting, sometimes the details NEED to be delegated if you’re going to be more valuable to your company.

theFIREstarter
Guest

FI pilgrim that was a very tactful way of saying “Mrs Pilgrim needs to be kept in check”. 😉 All joking aside though having a significant other really does make it worth keeping up with a budget and is probably the only reason why I still do one. It’s not so much a matter of trust but if you are not quite on the same page with your financial goals then you must come to an agreement on what spending levels you are both ok with and keeping the budget keeps you both accountable, so it should never be an… Read more »

Brad @ RichmondSavers.com
Guest

I’m with you — I do not use a budget and I’ve never needed one in the past. I have great respect for people who do use/need one, but it isn’t for me.

To me a budget always reminded me of a “diet”; it’s something you adhere to for a short period of time and you inevitably stop at some point because it isn’t a real lifestyle change.

Once a savings-oriented lifestyle becomes second nature to you, the need for a budget is dramatically lessened in my opinion.

Elroy
Guest

I’ve moved away from it. It’s a PITA. I’ve realized: 1) I am meeting my goals, 2) I have more money to spend than I plan on and 3) I rarely want to spend the money anyway.

Sure, I may be able to shave a couple hundred bucks off my budget each month, but it isn’t worth my time.

Leigh
Guest

This is funny because I’ve had a post titled “What’s the point of budgeting?” in the back of my mind for a while. My conclusion is that the budgeting I do is still valuable even though I mostly don’t pay attention to it. I don’t feel like I need a budget. I do, however, like having a schedule of fixed expenses and knowing approximately how much I will probably spend in variable expenses. It makes it easy to know how much I can save each month without scrimping. I don’t think my habits would change without it, but it definitely… Read more »

Done by Forty
Guest

I like your take on the budget issue, though in full disclosure I still do it. I mostly use the tool because, while we save a good percentage, I rarely ever hit our savings goal for the month. (As we have zero ‘wiggle’ in the budget…every dollar is assigned somewhere so even a slight deviation on spending kills any chance of hitting the savings goal.) In my case, I think Zig Ziglar is right: if I aim at nothing, I’ll hit it every time. The budget gives me something to aim for…even if I just keep barely missing…

Resman
Guest

Hey FI,

Budget are a good tool to start out with and if the margins are very slim. They are a good motivation tool for those who like to see increases and save in absolute figures…

I just about finished a post on the same topic : http://resilientman.com/happy-without-money/

Your comments are more than welcome 🙂
Resman

Janine @ MoneySmartGuides
Guest

Nice to see someone saying this! Sometimes I feel like I’m doing something wrong by not keeping track of every last expense. I do need to start doing that in the near future to accomplish some goals that I have, but I like the fact that you are reinforcing what I believe that you don’t always have to be living according to a budget. If you are already in the habit of living a certain way, that’s just the way it is!

JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit
Guest

The further along I get the less I feel compelled to budget. Now I do it more just out of curiosity and to compile data. The second half of this year I’ve done a horrible job keeping track of my expenses as they come in and they’ve increased probably 2-4% so I’m not in bad shape. However for those that are in the early stages of their journey, especially those that are in debt, I think a budget or spending plan or whatever you want to call it is a necessity. If it wasn’t you wouldn’t have gotten into debt… Read more »

Financial Samurai
Guest

Impressive you got to where you are as a C student!

I have a set range for credit card spending a month. Everything else is not tracked because I spend whatever is allocated to me after making a budget.

Retire Before Dad
Guest

FIF,
I started using Mint almost 2 years ago and I am over it. Especially the investments part of it. I still use the budgeting tool, but mostly to keep track of our family spending which is difficult with my wife going to Target and buying groceries and diapers, which are on different budget lines. If I don’t keep track, she’ll spend too much on groceries without meaning to. But I don’t care too much if things aren’t precise. Tougher with a family. I never budgeted before I was married.
Just saw the guest post on RB40. Nice!
-RBD

The First Million is the Hardest
Guest

I agree to an extent. I don’t have a hard and fast budget, but I track where all my money is going and make sure I’m not wasting too much money on things I don’t place a lot of importance on.

Pauline
Guest

I hate budgeting and never do it. I do a monthly review to make sure my NW is growing and that is it. If it is not and there is no good reason, I slow down on spending but I don’t remember the last time that happened.

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