Relying less on your budget? You’re probably getting better about life and finances

If you’re like a lot of people on their way to financial independence, you probably find a budget less and less important as time goes on.  You’ve graduated from envelope systems, allowance accounts and meticulously entering in each expense into the budget tracking software of your choice.  Don’t get me wrong, when you’re finally getting a hold of your finances like I was, I found a budget to be the ultimate finance tool.  I’d have thought you were crazy for not having one (and I would have been crazy for not having one at the time).

And yes, for those just starting out, a budget is completely necessary!  Or at least track your finances!

Forming a budget is a necessary step to determine exactly what you need, what you can live without, and where your money is going.  If you were clueless to these facts before, a budget will help you immensely in this regard.  You simply can’t determine if your values are aligning with your spending without figuring this stuff out and putting every single expense down in a system.  What’s more, once you figure out how much you’re bringing in and what needs to go out…you can determine how much you can save.

You’ll know how much you can put into your 401k without breaking the bank at home.  Then, you can determine if you can max out an IRA.  Then, you can determine how much of the leftover can go into taxable accounts.  Having a budget made this very easy for me.  Since I made mine in Excel (I’m still pretty proud of it!), I could enter in various numbers in different areas and see how it would effect things.  I then took this further, and could try to determine when my mortgage would be paid off…when I could afford certain home improvement projects…when I could retire.

I look at it now, though, and I realize that while those numbers were as correct as they could have been…stuff changes.  I learned that I wanted my money to go to other places.  I could constantly update my budget, but I could also just…you know, let it go.  It’s not healthy when you’re checking it and making changes every day.  In fact, with Betterment’s “Smart Deposit,” I don’t even care about figuring out how much to set my monthly auto-deposits for.  It just takes whatever I don’t spend, leaving me with some “walking around” money.

The only thing I need to know, is that I trust myself to not buy dumb crap and Betterment will invest what I don’t spend.  Sure, sometimes I will go ham on a few bottles of rum during the month, but there are some where I won’t drink at all.  I don’t want my budget to be yelling at me for my life choices.  I know what I’m doing – I’m messing up my budget…and I’m going to get this bottle of rum anyway.  When will I get my punishment for that?  When I have to retire slightly later.  When I write up a monthly finance report to you guys.  I promise you, I’d beat myself up more for over-spending than Mint ever would.

Typically, though, I’ve settled into a habit where it’s just natural not to spend much money.  I set my budget to just be a blanket amount of money, which is my average spending, and leave it at that.  This way, I can get one notification if I’m going a little nuts without realizing it.  Also, who can really budget out all of their expenses?  So much changes from month to month.  My driving was crazy this week because of a visiting friend.  December’s booze was high because of a party.  A blanket budget just encompasses all spending, so I can get a notification to maybe tone down something else if I want to come in average.

It feels really good to minimize my interaction with my finances.  

I have the bank auto-paying the mortgage, I have my Perk phones making me passive income, Betterment invests money for my current goals with the money that I don’t spend, the credit card companies figure out how much cash back to give me and my bank pays the credit card companies.  Paychecks are auto-deposited with my 401k and match automatically being contributed.

That’s a lot to keep on top of and lots of deadlines that could be missed.  Despite that, the computers haven’t messed up once yet.

Me?  I have one job.  Spend as little as possible.

Sounds simple, but it requires a change in mindset.  To really get down and start saving 70+% of my income, I’ve had to edit a lot of my values.  It started with a budget, but that only takes you so far.  The budget gives you a sort of “read only” view of your finances.  To turn on the “edit” mode, you’ve got some choices to make.  A lot of choices.  They’re going to be new and a little frightening.

I didn’t think I could ride my bike all winter, but it has turned out to actually be pretty enjoyable.


I couldn’t imagine saving 36% of my pre-tax income into my 401k to max it out.  I remember thinking that it’s “impossible.”  These days, I’m maxing my 401k, an IRA and am looking for more places to stash cash.

Can I really live in a duplex and be above my tenant?  Would I be a good landlord?  Ok, I’m cheating a little here.  My aging mother needed a place to stay and offered to pay rent.  So I do get a 100% guaranteed, patient tenant.  Turns out, I’m still a pretty good landlord, as I’ve been able to fix all of her issues with the apartment and grocery shop, snowblow, etc.

Once you dive into one thing and find that it’s easy, you get motivated to do more.  It’s intoxicating.

I’m getting a little off-topic here.  My point?

When people say make your money work for you, I want to do as little of their jobs after the fact as possible.  I want to work on my one job, and do it astonishingly well, so that I can have more little green workers.

If I do my one job well, the rest will happen without any more effort.

I’m doing the one thing that computers and the money can’t do, and it’s figuring out what makes me happy, how I can use money to get that the cheapest way possible, and what exactly haven’t I tried yet, that I could do, to be more efficient?  Have I not tried anything out of fear?  How can I conquer that fear?  I have a lot of work ahead of me, but at least I’ve got those money transfers taken care of.

Am I crazy for this?  Should I be watching my finances like a hawk again?  Is this just laziness?  What are your thoughts on budgets?

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