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!