The 5 Emotional Stages Of Creating My Budget

I love the idea of making a budget. There really is something about it that that feels like a fresh slate — like I’m turning my life around. Who cares about that thing I just bought yesterday that I didn’t need? I have a budget now, and everything’s going to be different! Sure, last time I made a budget I didn’t stick to it, and the time before that…and the time before that.

But once I actually sit down and have to account for every single dumb, emotional purchase I’ve made…it’s not as fun as I’d imagined. Just because creating a budget is necessary doesn’t mean that coming to terms with every Postmates order you’ve made is any less painful. I like to think that I’m good with money in a very nebulous way. I save money. I pay my bills on time. But I am very much an emotional spender. I feel sad, so why not buy some sushi to cheer myself up. I worked out three times in one week, so of course I deserve to spend $80 on activewear to reward my hard work. Sure, I’ll have that second cocktail because it’s…Thursday? (Sometimes the excuses become a little thin.)

When I am forced to come to terms with all these little things that I spend money on, it hurts — but in a good way, like a kickass spin class. The road to financial freedom and responsibility isn’t easy, but it is exceptionally rewarding and fulfilling. You just have to take the first steps. These are mine.

1. Denial 

“My spending isn’t that bad. I use Mint, so I pretty much know how much money I’m spending. Honestly, I don’t even really need a budget. I mean, sure, I always have a glass of wine or two when I go out to eat once a week. Sure, I shop for shoes when I am depressed. And sure, I also shop when I’m happy or excited or nervous or hungry or anxious. There are worse habits I could have! I mean, at least I don’t spend my money on heroin! Isn’t it better that I spent money on those beautiful leopard print boots than on heroin??? Good for me for not buying heroin, I deserve a new pair of jeans for not buying heroin.”

2. Anger 

Excuse me??? I spend how much on gas each month? I spent how much on drinks with that terrible guy from Tinder who voted for Gary Johnson? I spent how much on a Lyft from that guy’s house who was a bad kisser? What is wrong with me?! I shouldn’t be trusted with any money! How could I have let it go this far?! I’m the worst! I don’t even deserve anything! Also, what even is brunch?!? Brunch is just breakfast with a mani-pedi, and honestly, I won’t even miss it!!!”

3. Bargaining

“Carry the 6…and the 2…okay, for the next month I will not go out to drinks ONCE, but maybe I’ll invite people over! Yeah, that’s what the blogs are always telling me! If I don’t get coffee one single time this week, then I can afford that new scarf I saw on Tuesday. For every $100 I save, I can spend $20 at TJ Maxx. Or, if I stay home and watch Netflix on Friday, I can afford to buy coffee with Marissa on Sunday! What if I paid less in rent? What if I just moved back in with my parents? Now, if I just return everything that I bought over the past two months…can you return a half-eaten burrito from Chipotle?”

4. Depression

“I’ll never be able to do this,” I lament as I take a sip of my favorite $5 Kroger wine. “I mean, I’ve tried before, and I just can’t. It’s too hard! I’ll never be able to change my ways! I’m stuck like this forever, so I might as well just buy those boots because nothing matters and life is meaningless and…and…and…” I take another mournful sip. “Everything just costs money and I don’t have any money! I’ll never be able to retire. I’ll never have an emergency fund. I’ll probably be homeless in three weeks. I might as well just buy heroin! I just like literally can’t even!!

5. Acceptance 

“I may not be perfect, but I am a capable and confident human being. I might not be able to completely cut out shopping, but I can learn to take more time to think about my choices. I can also make sure to look through my closet to reintroduce pieces that I haven’t worn in a while. I can learn moderation. I don’t have to quit anything cold turkey, but I also can’t continue to spend like there’s no tomorrow! Of course, I could be hit by a bus in the morning looking chic as hell wearing my fabulous new scarf, but the likelihood of that happening is very slim. I must prepare for the future that I want and deserve. Have you met someone who lives like there’s no tomorrow? They’re exhausting. Sorry, Sharon, for the fourth time I don’t want to go skydiving. Today is the first budgeted day of the rest of my life! Look, ma! I’m really doing it! I’m really becoming an adult!”

*****

I’m currently in the process of making (and sticking to!) a budget right now. I’m somewhere between steps three and four. Only time will tell if this one can stand the test of time and temptation. Godspeed to everyone making a budget at this moment. Remind yourself that even though it might hurt right now, on the other side is financial freedom, which is priceless.   

Cherith Fuller is a writer and comedian living in Atlanta, GA.

Image via Unsplash

  • Hahaha Cherith, i’m really happy you don’t spend your money on Heroin! Please keep splurging on beautioful leopard-print boots instead!! I really think penny pinching doesn’t work. It’s not sustianable, and besides, we SHOULD treat ourselves to the things we like from time to time. Forget about skimping on those Latte’s, it’s all about building multiple income streams so you can afford the things you like AND save/invest your money.

    Thanks for this write up!