To budget or not to budget …

that is the question.

I get into many heated discussions over budgets. I maintain they are stressful and accomplish nothing. Others feel a detailed budget is essential.

My view is that once taxes, perhaps payroll deductions and saving – yes, saving always first – are taken from gross pay your ability to spend, your defacto budget is set for you, there is nothing more to spend … unless you go into debt.

If you get to the end of a pay period and money has run out, you look at your spending and see what must change. Do that for a few pay periods and you are back on track. You may not be happy with what you can’t spend, but that’s your reality.

Or, you seek a way to generate more income.

What you put on a spreadsheet for a budget, must be dictated by the net income supporting it, so does each detailed item matter? Chances are you know what you spend on the basics like housing, transportation, utilities, insurance, food. Just about everything else is mostly discretionary, so why budget? If you don’t have the cash, you can’t spend it.

We are assuming here that there is no unpaid credit card balance at the end of the month. If there is you are living beyond your means. Unplanned car repairs throw you for a loop? That’s why there is an emergency account to tap if necessary.

To help with the allocation of funds, try the ABC strategy with various bank accounts assigned for specific purposed – a less stressful, automatic way to manage spending.

Yes, this will work at just about any income level.


  1. I have never used a budget, or had an emergency fund until retirement, lol. When you make less than $35 K, average $12K per year there is not much left over to budget. In years past I just did not spend, what I did not have to spend.
    I now use a free on line tool called clear checkbook. It is not connected to my banking accounts. But I do believe you can if you want to. There is a paid premium edition that has more financial tools. I use the register function to keep a running balance of Savings, Checking, PayPal, Emergency Fund and Cash. You can add credit card or any other accounts you may want. I have all my deposits and known spending out to Dec 2023. You Jive the register as transactions happen. It gives me running totals as money is spent and saved. Once set up it is very easy to update. It helps me ensure bills are paid on time, before any interest can be charged on credit cards, I have earned over $500 in cash back this year, with zero interest charges paid. if I see my monthly spending on say food has increased, I can adjust my spending on food or other discretionary spending. I now pay my car insurance in full every 6 months. $9 cash back almost covered the $11 increase on renewal this Dec.


  2. Don’t you realize that your A to F multiple bank accounts system is your budget? Instead of a spreadsheet that you need to update, your budget categories are just automatically updated based on your actual spending. Your budget format may differ from the typically discussed budget, but it is a budget.


  3. I know the amount we can spend each month after paying all the “set bills” including savings, taxes, insurance, etc. Then I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of spending where I subtract what was spent from the allotted amount. That way, we know if we are spending too much and can slow down. I do have a third spreadsheet where I track if we were over/under each month with a cumulative total of how we are doing through the year(s). It sounds like more work than it actually is. I like knowing exactly where we are. This helps us decide if it is the right time for a larger discretionary purchase.


  4. I like your envelope system that you have been using for over 40 years.  I do something very similar, but it is in two accounts and I keep them separated in a spreadsheet since 1987…


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