The Fastest Way to Derail Your Budget (and Stay Stuck)

Do you bury your head in the sand when your finances go haywire?

Guess who’s got two thumbs and won’t be writing “five steps to a perfect budget” anytime soon?  This girl.  Do you want to know the fastest way to guarantee a budget that resembles a Shakespearean tragedy?

Ignore it.

That’s it.  Simply, turn your head away from the information in your plan and do whatever you want.  It’s actually loads of fun to spend with reckless abandoned.  In the moment.  But the fun never lasts.

For example:  Last month’s budget fiasco.

We didn’t ignore the budget at first, but the end of the month looked an awful lot like the train tumbling into the ravine at the end of Back to the Future III.


The money train derailed when we started overspending our cash envelopes.  It’s very hard to say no to an invitation to lunch with friends – even though your restaurant envelope is staring back at you vacantly.  If you’ve ever had small children, then you know how rare it is to dine with friends.  Those are the kind of excuses I told myself to justify it.

We also bought some much-needed clothes and shoes for everyone, due to our previous ones falling apart.  Our clothing budget was beefing up slowly for this purchase, but instead of only buying what we could “afford,” we took advantage of some great deals and vetoed the budget.  Significantly.  “Well, we’re here anyway…” I told myself.

Pop goes the budget.


I don’t know what your last financial upheaval looked like, but I’ve had my share.  My early twenties were spent with my head stuck in the sand.  Now my husband is my accountability partner, keeping tabs on what we’re doing and if it’s working.  After our budget jumped on a slip and slide last month, we hit the brakes, reviewed the numbers (that was when I would have stuck my head in the sand), and committed to renewing our efforts next month.

It was a lot like something that happened recently with my daughter:

Two nights ago, I was negotiating with my two-year-old at the dinner table.  She wouldn’t touch her lasagna.  Nothing I could say or do changed her mind.  Ironically, she ate her veggies.  Now she wanted strawberry freezer jam on her bread.  I don’t blame her.  That stuff is the bomb.  However, my price was one bite of lasagna.

She wouldn’t do it.  My daughter fought me through tears to obtain that delightful jam on her bread, but all she had to do was take one bit of lasagna, and she refused.  So no jam.

That’s when it hit me.  She was like my budget, begging for all the fun food and refusing to eat the preplanned meal.

Budgeting is just hard.  When flubs happen, it makes me question what I’m doing writing about personal finance and coaching people if I can’t even get my own budget right.

Then I remember that the point isn’t to have a perfect budget all the time.  I won’t.  As Dave Ramsey says, we’ve all paid “stupid tax.”  The point is to refrain from accepting your fate.  It’s to ignore the voice in your head that calls you a failure.  It’s to try again.

Try again, you must.  Your dreams are worth it.


Join the Conversation:  What was the last purchase that made your budget derail?


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6 thoughts on “The Fastest Way to Derail Your Budget (and Stay Stuck)

  1. Our last budget derail was spending $25 at DQ to take oldest daughter out for dinner. We didn’t go over budget, per se, but I really wanted to come out “super under budget” this month in the entertainment area. But oldest daughter was having one of those “teen moments” where she felt as if her world were falling apart (it wasn’t 🙂 ). So we grabbed her to run some errands and take her out to dinner, where she promptly ordered a combo meal and a medium blizzard. “I’ll pay for some of it, mom and dad” she offered. Oooh, dagger to the heart! “No, we got it” I answered. I didn’t want to be stuck feeling guilty for the rest of my life for not paying for a $5 blizzard because of a stupid budget. Sometimes it’s okay to blow it. 🙂

    • Sounds like a noble quest, Laurie. She’ll probably remember outings like that. I remember getting a Frosty with my dad after I’d lose a softball game – or some other traumatic event. We still go out for Frosties every now and then, and I’m 28.

      And now I want ice cream. 🙂

  2. I think the biggest thing that most of us do now when we blow the budget is we recognize it right away and get back on track, in years past we would let the bad momentum continue to snowball into something larger and than ignore it. Repeating the bad behavior over and over. Life happens, yu can’t have the perfect plan all the time.

  3. I am actually even more impressed now that I know you have to fight off temptations to spend. Some super frugal people strike me as having no inclination to overspend. Frugality just seems second-nature to them – hence, I say to myself, it’s easier for them. But here you are, facing the same types of temptations that I do. It’s not easier for you. And that makes your successes all the more impressive : )

    • I seriously love the way you word things, Ruth. Thank you for the very high compliment of seeing my authenticity in this post. The girl in the picture is exactly how I feel when I mess up the budget. I generally don’t go off the deep end by emptying out the shoe section at Macy’s, but it’s usually those day to day moments when I need to say no and I cave. ::sigh::