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Why Not Budgeting is More Frightening than Budgeting

I have a confession. Between June and August, I didn’t really track my freelance income. Not properly, anyway. In August, I sat down with my earnings spreadsheet and spent a couple hours bringing it up to date.

Despite not formally budgeting or tracking my income in those months, we had always had enough to pay the bills. I did keep an eye on our bank balances. Everything else I did in my head, in a fuzzy sort of way that involved decent estimates more than precise numbers.

This was stupid of me, but I did it because I felt afraid. I was afraid that money would be too tight. I was afraid that we would have to dip into our short-term savings. I was so afraid of what I’d see that I didn’t look.

Since we always did have enough, it would have worked out splendidly except that not knowing is even more frightening than knowing. When you have facts, numbers, you can deal with them. You can plan how you’ll spend differently. You know how much more income you’ll need (if you’re short).

Ironically, the numbers weren’t bad at all. I denied myself the comfort of knowing that we were doing fine. I denied myself the satisfaction of seeing how we had money left over. I denied myself the opportunity of snowflaking even more of it.

I also let myself spend so much time being even more afraid than I would have been even if the numbers had been bad. Fortunately, our vacation was a great time to reset and after I got back I started taking more control of things that had scared me. Otherwise, I could have spent several more months doing well and feeling miserable because I had no idea.

Now I feel more confident, more creative, happier, and much more in control.

Even if your financial situation is frightening at times (for instance if you’re a freelancer like I am), not budgeting is not the way to peace of mind. Not knowing is more frightening than knowing unless you’d never even anticipated the problem to begin with. So whether it’s tracking your income, tracking your spending, or both, I encourage you to do it for your own mental health!

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Miranda September 15, 2008 at 10:50 am

Great post! I like the idea of a budget, since it helps you see exactly where some of your money ought to be going.

Cath Lawson September 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Hi Mrs M – I must admit, I did exactly the same as you during the summer. When we were on vacation I checked my balance and I had far less than we thought.

Luckily enough, we had plenty to get by – but it leaves you feeling really uncomfortable when you realise you’ve totally lost track of what you have.

Connie Brooks September 15, 2008 at 5:14 pm

I have said this same thing to my husband for a while now. He has trouble wanting to make a budget, and, in particular, adjusting a budget.

It really is better to know. Even if it’s a worst case scenario then knowing helps you come up with a plan of action to deal with it.
Excellent thoughts, thanks for sharing.

Dawn September 16, 2008 at 1:25 pm

I know that “if I just look everything will be fine” panicked feeling very well. You are right, when we have the information we can at least deal with it – and sometimes it might not be as bad as we thought!

My Daily Dollars September 16, 2008 at 1:39 pm

I’ve certainly felt that way as well. You’re right, not taking the time to do my budget properly always leaves me anxious. I’m much more productive if I just keep on top of it and don’t have to worry!

John September 16, 2008 at 11:10 pm

One good way to keep track of income is to track your time using a web-based service. Check out Intervals, a service especially helpful to freelancers.

Matt Keegan October 10, 2008 at 7:03 am

Sometimes are fears get a hold of us, making us think that something will turn out a certain way when it won’t.

By budgeting, we can have the knowledge we need to succeed, thereby averting challenging surprises if we do not.

Nico May 30, 2011 at 3:26 am

Great point! This is the main reason why most of the people don’t start budgeting in the first place!

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