A Happy Dose of Money Planning Reality

June 15, 2020

Has anyone else’s groceries spending during the quarantines of 2020 been a brave new world? Holy smokes.

Quick runs to the grocery store to restock on fresh produce result in me returning with such delicacies as Velveeta bricks, Poptarts, cakes of yeast, and another 5 lbs of sugar. And another couple cans of beans. Just in case. 

Sound familiar to anyone else? As my buying and spending habits went all over the place, I made a few adjustments to my Groceries category. But I had to cover several aforementioned supply runs from other categories, as I was estimating way too conservatively.

The problem?

I hadn’t taken an honest look at what exactly was different about my consuming habits in the past couple months. Or why and just how much I might need to adjust.

And so I relearned the truth that, if month after month you’re overspending in specific categories, your plan is not working and you need to figure out another plan. 

I’ve only been touting “Deal With Real” for a few years now; guess I just needed to hear a taste of my own preaching from the guys in my budgeting class at the prison. 

Budget review

So, tired of covering my overspending from other categories, this weekend I sat myself down and did a budget review. Said budget review looked a little like follows:

Look at trends.

I looked at how much on average I’ve been spending each month in the range of September-May. 

Compare trends to forecasts.

I compared these to how much I’ve been planning to spend on these categories. To find this number I had to go back to my magic spreadsheet, since in YNAB my budgeting amount always matches my spent amount (otherwise I would’ve had overspending). 

Here’s a sample of what my spreadsheet looks like. The numbers are entirely made up but I think you can see what I’m doing here. I’m forecasting. This is not actual budgeting; it’s me looking down the road and planning how I want to budget the money that I’m projecting to receive. 

The good news?

Some of my spending was right on par with what I’d planned for. 

The bad news? 

Trick question. There is no bad news. Only information for me to work with. 

The information.

I discovered that there were 3-4 categories in which I was consistently underestimating my spending. A few Giving categories, and—lest you think I’m a perfect budgeter with no shopping vices—Clothing & Luxuries, along with a few others. 

The results.

I created a new version of my spreadsheet where I weighed my actual spending and assessed if I was okay with spending the higher amount. And in nearly every case I was. I realized that I’d been practicing some wishful but not realistic thinking and paying the price. Literally and figuratively.

The takeaway

Be willing to dig in and acknowledge what’s not working. You can see from the above how it works with money, but it is helpful with more than money. 

If, day after day and week after week, your schedule is out of whack, it’s time to see what the problem is. We often make it mean something bigger, like “I just can’t manage money” or “I’m so bad with time management.” But, could it be that you simply have a budgeting problem or a planning problem? Yes, it is more likely that.

And problems can be solved.

You only have the ability to choose, if and once you recognize that you are getting results you don’t want. Be brave enough to conduct a frank assessment and then ask yourself questions. 

Your questions might include:

  • Do I intend to do the thing that you have recurring on your calendar but never get to?
  • Do I need to split this spending category into more meaningful categories?
  • Am I budgeting enough for this category in my new normal?
  • What are the “small rocks” filling up my days and preventing me from working on or spending time on my “big rocks”?

It’s a lovely relief to accept your current reality. And a powerful place to then choose what to do about the reality created by your thoughts and actions.

Whether it’s in your scheduling or your budgeting or meal planning or goodness knows what else, I am excited for what you’re going to find and what you’ll then be able to do with your reality! 

And another thing I'd also be really excited about? Receiving any tips for what a person might actually do with a whole brick of Velveeta cheese. Thank you.

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