My Husband Wants Me to Make a Budget But I Don’t Want to Make a Budget

TO: Logan
FROM: DeeDee
SUBJECT: BUDGET “ADVICE”

I’ve never budgeted. But I’ve also never carried any debt (credit card or otherwise). Even when I was making $28,000/year and living in NYC, I didn’t budget…but I also never lived beyond my means. Actually, I probably proportionally saved more of my earnings back then compared to now (I now make twice that amount). I was basically in I-AM-POOR-I-CAN’T-BUY-ANYTHING mode and lived in tiny shoeboxes in undesirable neighborhoods with piles of roommates and somehow still put money in my Roth IRA without actually keeping track of how I spent the rest.

Anyway, my husband is horrified by how I don’t budget.

But I’m actually very financially-minded. I have a full emergency fund, I invest regularly in my retirement accounts and I have $10K+ saved up in a savings account for…I don’t even know what for. I just have it. And I add to it each month, after the retirement stuff. But it’s not like I make tons of money, so he still says I should create a budget.

My response is always, “Do I haaaaaaaaave to?” in that whiny-kid kind of way. I mean, I’m responsible! And I’ve gotten this far, haven’t I? I generally know I spend most of my money on eating out…do I really have to know that *exact* numerical total? I honestly don’t really want to know because I’m sure I would be horrified. Also, not having to budget is a real luxury. I think I’m pretty hard on myself already when it comes to deciding whether I can afford something or not (I almost always say no, even when the technical answer is yes), so I don’t want this additional burden on me. But I also know that creating a budget is the first step—nay, it’s like, the PRE-first step—to being financially responsible. What to do?

TO: DeeDee
FROM: Logan
SUBJECT: RE: Budget “Advice”

DeeDee. You are already financially responsible! Do you know this about yourself? You save and you monitor your spending and you are planning for retirement and you are super financially responsible. Beautiful. Golden. Own that. Look in the mirror everyday and say, “I am a financially responsible person. I do money really really well.” IAAFRP. IDMRRW.

So of course you do not have to make a budget. Of course you do not have to! Look in the mirror again and say, “Budgeting isn’t for me.” BI4M. Then go find your husband and say, “Husband, thank you for your concern about my money that I earn myself, I would like you to know I have decided at this point not to budget. I will let you know if that changes. Thank you and goodbye.” I mean I guess you don’t have say goodbye, you guys can sit down and eat some ice cream, watch some Netflix original series, whatever.

The main thing that needs to happen really is you need to accept that you’re doing just fine without a budget and that you don’t have to make one. Your husband isn’t right about this. Budgets are great for some people. You are not one of them. Maybe he is, in which case: He can make his own budget. Maybe you should tell him that. “Honey, make your own budget.” HMYOB.

 

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27 Comments / Post A Comment

Mike Dang (#2)

Being able to save and live within you means is budgeting—it’s mental budgeting. It’s a step above budgeting because you know you’re spending only what you need to be spending without having to think about it. “You should create a budget” is what people say when someone isn’t able to live within her/his means. The husband in this situation should be awed, not horrified.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@Mike Dang Seriously — she is on some next-level money management.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@Mike Dang I think there’s a lot which the writer has explained. In the absence of this information, it’s premature to say that her husband is wrong.

We don’t know -why- her husband is asking for her to start budgeting. Suppose, for example, they’d like to buy a house or have a child. One of the first questions to ask is whether they can afford it. To answer that question, they’ll need to know how much they’re saving, how much money they’ll need, how they can save more if they’re not saving that amount now. Without a budget, it’s difficult to do serious planning or analysis.

We also don’t know how much she’s saving. She says that she puts money into her retirement, but she doesn’t say how much. There’s an obvious difference between putting in two thousand a month and five dollars a month. She has a $10k saving account, which is good, but maybe they need a lot more than that for a deposit. If they can’t identify their savings trends, then it’s going to be difficult to plan.

I don’t want to sound overly critical. She’s spending less than she makes, which is great. She’s deliberately saving for her retirement, which is also great. On a day to day basis, she’s doing very well.

However, it’s possible that her husband is looking at whether they can afford to make a major purchase or lifestyle change or have a baby. If this is the reason why he wants them to each have a budget, then I think that it’s reasonable. If you don’t know how much you’re spending and saving, then it’s difficult to make financial plans.

Mike Dang (#2)

@WayDownSouth Right, we don’t know any personal details about this couple, so I’m not going to go into hypotheticals and just answer based on what we do know. The question here is: Can you be a financially responsible person without sitting down and having a formal budget? The answer to that question is yes—everyone’s different, different things work for different people. I’m a mental budgeter and I’m doing just fine.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@Mike Dang I think there are two separate questions.

Can you be financially responsible without making a budget? Of course. We agree on this question. I’m financially responsible and I don’t have a budget either. However, we had a budget when we were paying off our house. We’ll probably have one again once we start paying significant school fees for our daughter.

Why does her husband want her to make a budget? Without that information, it’s difficult to decide whether a budget is called for. I think it’s difficult to forecast costs and evaluate a financial position over the next 5-10 years without a budget.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@WayDownSouth the original poster provided more details below. Her post supersedes my comments above. In fact, based on her comments, I agree with her decision not to start a budget :)

kellyography (#250)

I am also a mental budgeter. I have never had to create a budget on paper, nor do I ever want to, because I am so lazy about spreadsheets. you do your fiscally responsible you, DeeDee. Way to be, girl.

whizz_dumb (#151)

@kellyography Me three. But I have intuitively stayed just barely within my means, no matter how much I make. Something in my brain goes, “Dude, what are you gonna need $2,500 in savings for? You could die tomorrow so buy a bunch of booze and eat out with friends, knock that stockpile down to $1,200 in no time.” And it always does.

Homestar Runner (#3,732)

I wonder if the husband’s concern is actually about something other than DeeDee’s budget. Maybe he feels anxious about his own spending or he wants to see whether they can afford a significant expense on their current salaries.

olivia (#1,618)

@Homestar Runner Maybe, but then shouldn’t he just say that instead of hassling her to make a budget for no reason?

messica (#2,810)

@Homestar Runner That could be likely. She is definitely already just non-paper budgeting. He should be proud. But maybe a compromise, if she suggests that to him, would be to make a little “shared expenses” budget, like literally a 4 line spreadsheet or whatever, with bill amounts and maybe a savings for a big expense they might have together or something. And it’s his job to be in charge of it.

planforamiracle (#4,034)

@Homestar Runner I agree. This sounds like the “gentle beginning to some real talk” approach. The letter writer didn’t say much about how the conversations are going, but many people find money difficult to talk about, even with a long-term partner, so maybe he wants to talk about some other money-related thing and is opening the subject with talk about budgets.

faustbanana (#2,376)

@Homestar Runner Maybe her husband rigged her computer to do something funny when she opens Excel and he’s just trying to get her to do that in a non-outlandish way.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@olivia perhaps he did say that to her. In the original post, she didn’t say why he asked her to make a budget. She only said that he wants her to and she doesn’t want to. We’re missing the larger context of why he’s suggested that she do this.

sarahsayssoo (#4,237)

But if they’re in a joint household with shared expenses and shared money maybe the husband needs to see the numbers to feel comfortable. I feel like asking to write down shared expenses and what each person is contributing is not an awful request.

Stefanie (#2,012)

@sarahsayssoo I agree. If they’re pooling income and/or expenses, it seems fair to be as transparent as possible.

garli (#4,150)

@sarahsayssoo Exactly. I was a mental budgeted until I got married and so was my husband, but when we wanted to buy a house and have savings goals – and have shared expenses and accounts, it got too complicated to not keep track of.

sony_b (#225)

@garli Yep. Maybe there just needs to be a shift in vocabulary here for DeeDee to be comfortable – call it “tracking expenses” and do it in a shared spreadsheet on google docs or dropbox.

There could also be a mine/yours problem that is so common in relationships. My husband thinks I am insane when I drop $150 on a mudbath and massage at a fancy spa once or twice a year. I think he is insane when he spends $100 per month on a jeep that doesn’t run so he can store it 3000 miles away from where we live until he saves enough money to fix it and drive it back across the country.

He is more insane than me. (Could you hear my eyes rolling?) It is for this reason we each have our own money and criticisms of how we choose to spend it are not permitted. And we have joint money that we spend on joint things like house, cars, insurance, groceries, savings, etc.

cjm (#3,397)

I used to think I could “mentally budget” back when I was in college. And then I overdrafted so far that the ATM confiscated my card. Now I actually budget. Just be sure that your mental budget gets a reality check now and then.

Kristin (#3,766)

Are their finances shared at all? Because if they are, I don’t see why it’s totally unreasonable for him to ask her to budget, or for her to at least give it a try for a month or two.

EDaily (#4,396)

The fact of the matter is, budgeting doesn’t work for some people, and forcing someone to do it isn’t going to help. If the husband’s budgeting comment is really about shared expenses, and DeeDee is not spending more than she should be, it really doesn’t matter what she’s spending her money on. What really matters is the big picture. My partner and I set goals together: How much we want to save; what we want to save for. As long as we’re doing what we need to be doing to reach those goals, all the small details don’t matter.

Beaks (#3,488)

As the number-budgeting partner of a mental-budgeting person, here’s how we worked things out. We’ve fully combined finances, so our circumstances are probably different.

My partner is super good with money but talking about/ planning about it makes him really anxious. Whereas I like to know the whole picture of what we have/ where it’s going or I get anxious. So the deal is, we sit down at major life changes (moves, major salary changes, whatever) and I propose a budget. He proposes changes. Then I manage the budget until the next check-in and he ignores it entirely. He only has one day of anxiety every year or so and I get my security blanket. We tend to stay within budgets just through our general spending habits, and most shared budget items are fixed costs.

Part of the budget includes discretionary spending money that each get to spend however we want, and that is up to each of us to manage individually. In exchange for my long-range planning work(I also deal with our investments/ retirement/ etc) he does all of the routine bill paying.

So I guess I’m on team “If he wants a budget he should make it.”

deedee (#4,436)

Hi all–OP here. Reading these comments I see that I should have shared some more info! My husband and I budget separately and split shared expenses in half (rent and stuff). We don’t have any plans for any large future expenditures at the moment. We don’t have kids and are not planning on having any. And by saving for retirement, I mean I max out my Roth IRA contribution each year (I also get money taken out of my paycheck automatically for a separate employer-sponsored retirement plan).

So…listing all of these things out, I know that I’m doing most of what I’m “supposed” to be doing…everything except knowing what I spend my money on, that is! I also can’t save predictably or say how much money I will be able to contribute to my Roth at the end of each month…it just somehow works out that I’m able to put in 5k each year. I think that uncertainty is what really bothers the husband, in the end. Also, I stress about money, and he is probably tired of my complaining. Like, “If you just kept track of what you spent, you’d know how much you’ll be able to save this month!” Which is true. I guess the lesson is to stop stressing!

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

@deedee This sounds like a common married couple discussion. You are stressed about money and express your concerns to him. He tries to provide a solution. You weren’t seeking a solution and aren’t happy about the solution he suggested. My wife and I have had variations of this discussion a few times…

I suppose a different way to look at it is how much trouble you want to go to in order to stop stressing about money. Making a budget and tracking your spending is a hassle. If it’s not something that you want to do, then you are simply creating another hassle for yourself and will probably stress about that too. In this case, I think you’re right not to start one.

However, that still leaves you stressing about money. I’ve stressed about money in the past (and probably will in the future) and it can be very wearing.

Beaks (#3,488)

@deedee You don’t necessarily have to budget your spending- you can budget your savings instead. Figure out how much you want to save each month, auto-deposit that into a separate account, pay your fixed costs, and spend the rest however you want. It doesn’t actually matter if you’re buying clothes or coffee or whatever. Spend it all on candy bars if you want- you’ll know that you’ve covered your financial bases already.

facepalm (#4,409)

Actually if she wants to get really nerdy on her husband she could say “honey, I’m a ‘reverse’ budgeter.” Yes, there is a name for it! You decide what CAN’T be spent i.e. your retirement and emergency fund savings, regular bills, etc. Then everything else is fair game because you’ve already taken care of the essentials and savings. BOOM. Carry on Deedee. Carry on!

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