Mindful Budgeting Might Be The Easiest Budgeting Ever

How is it the end of October already? Seriously, I’m calling a do-over. There’s no way it’s almost the end of the month.

With Thanksgiving family travels taking me far away from my regular routine, plus a week of staycation right smack dab in the middle of the month, this month was a blur. I haven’t even picked up Halloween candy yet, and Halloween is this Saturday.

Based on this, I’ll be totally upfront with you guys and say that I feel like I didn’t put as much effort into the Mindful Budgeting Program as I could have this month.

Don’t get me wrong! I did my worksheets diligently every week, on top of continuing to track all my spending in a Google spreadsheet. I read through Cait’s wonderful introduction and guidebook as to how to use the templates, and honestly, that alone was worth the cost of the program. Someone give that girl a book deal already.

I think there are two reasons I feel like I didn’t do all that much this month to work through the program.

  • One is that tracking all my spending has become just another part of my routine. I’m really into knowing this level of detail, and after the first month, I didn’t even have (much of) an urge to bury my head in the sand as unexpected expenses came up!
  • Secondly, the parts of the challenge that did go beyond just tracking my spending were so much fun. I’ve been closing out my new weekly updates (Editor’s Note: discontinued!) with my answer to one of Cait’s wonderful questions: The best money I spent this week was…

Answering that question, along with

“I’m proud of myself for…”

and

“Next week, I want to…”

were really the only additions to my routine, alongside a Sunday check-in to review my weekly spending.

But it made a huge difference.

If you’ve read Cait’s blog, Blonde on a Budget (now called Cait Flanders), you won’t be surprised to hear that this program takes a wonderfully positive approach to budgeting and spending and money in general. There wasn’t a single point in the month where I was sad or ashamed about a purchase, and even in the cases where OK, I could probably have handled something better – there was always next week.

In the course of those three simple questions, the Mindful Budgeting Program can seriously shift how you look at your money.

The Best Money I Spent

Identifying what the best money you spent in a week was is a quick way to gut check your spending against your values. As you look down the list of what you spent, you’ll start to see which purchases brought you a lot of happiness – and which ones didn’t.

Some of my “best money spent” included…

I’m Most Proud Of…

Then, you take a look at what you’re proud of. That’s not a question that gets asked often enough, and one of the reasons I think J$’s recent “National Be Proud of Your Money” day resonated so well. I think everyone might feel a bit better about their money management if they took time to pat themselves on the back about the smart money moves they are making – and not just focusing on what’s not quite there yet.

Some of my proudest money moments this month included…

 

What Can I Improve?

And lastly, because improving is important in any circumstance, you get to take a look at what you can do better. I think I’m just in a happy glow-y place about money right now, but this month was pretty great overall.

I was doing some digging into my old savings rates and spending patterns for a guest post I wrote (to be announced later!) and it hit me: I’m so much more mindful about my spending than I used to be. Seriously, the improvement is pretty drastic. In an average month, according to my old Mint accounts, I was spending just about every single dollar I had coming in.

How was I spending so much money? I have no idea. Genuinely, I couldn’t tell you a single thing I bought in those months. The only real expenses I remember – and would pay for again – are vet bills and training classes for The Dog. Everything else was just… unremarkable.

Which brings me to The Thing I’m working on improving: my savings rate. Unsurprising, given its the central topic of my blog, right?

This month, here’s what I spent and saved.

  • Spending: 52.8%
  • Saving: 43.5%

 

Yes, there’s a bit of a gap – 3.7% percent, to be accurate – and that’s to account for the fact that the month doesn’t really end until Saturday. With some expenses coming up between now and then – Halloween candy! – I’ll have a few additions to take into account before I wrap up the month and get a final percentage.

So next month, as with this month, I’ll be working on getting that savings rate up to my target of 50%. That said, it’s moving in the right direction. Last month it was around 36%, so I’m inching my way closer to saving a full 50%!

My Final Word on Mindful Budgeting?

As I’ve been writing this post and really reflecting on my time working through Cait’s Mindful Budgeting Program, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I felt like I didn’t put enough effort into completing the program.

Maybe saying a budgeting program felt too fun and too joyful to count as “effort” is the best thing you can ask of a new way to look at your budget.

Maybe this isn’t supposed to be that hard?

That’s a question I’m going to mull over a lot more in the coming months, but one thing is for sure: the Mindful Budgeting Program has given me a wonderful new way to look at and to track my money from week to week. I’d recommend it to anyone – even if you’ve never been into budgets before.

Because I think we can all agree that being “into budgets” isn’t something most people outside of the personal finance world would own up to.

Going forward, I’m going to follow some of the program’s advice to use a few months’ worth of tracked expenses to draw up a sample monthly budget, but with only two months of accurate tracking under my belt, that’ll be a 2016 kind of activity.

Cait, if you read this – thank you for such a wonderful product and for the shift in thinking it inspired.

Everyone else – I would absolutely love to hear what the best money you spent this month was, or what you’re most proud of this month! I promise it’ll make you feel pretty great about your budgets, and I can’t wait to celebrate it with you.