I Fell Off The Budgeting Wagon

I had this post on my mind already for a long time, but something was holding me back. Originally, it was going to be titled "Help! I Fell Off the Wagon!" because I needed help. What wagon, that is? The budgeting one. Keeping track of my income and expenses via my YNAB app. The wagon that I need to be on to make sure that my life works out properly, that I have money for what I need and don't spend money on things I don't have. And I can't say it's not still an issue. Because right now it's not a total cry for help, because I've gotten back on, but I do need advice on how to not get off it again.

You see, it started about half a year or so back. I was overwhelmed with life, and inputting all my expenses, every time I made them, just felt too overwhelming. So I'd spend. Tried not to spend too much, still stuck to my frugal lifestyle, and I made certain spluges that I perhaps shouldn't have and wouldn't have if I knew the exact state of my finances. I mean I wasn't altogether terrible- I looked at my bank account and knew where it was holding, but that by far is not the whole picture. Because my goal isn't to get down to zero each month and build my way back, because my bank account also includes my emergency fund, plus money I'm holding for different things (such as my tenant's rental deposit), and without actually looking at my budget, I am not able to see how much money I actually have available to be used without needing to dip into my emergency fund. 

Every month or so I'd reconcile my money in my budgeting app with what is actually in my accounts, and I would be stressed out! I was spending more than I should! And then every time that would happen I'd beat myself up for this. And feel bad about myself. And stress some more.

I didn't know why this was. I don't know why inputting my income and expenses into my app felt like too much to do, what about it overwhelmed me so much when I had been doing it faithfully for two years.

And so, I had planned on fessing up to you and asking for your advice on how to get back at it, and not just constantly play catch up with reconciling my accounts instead of tracking my expenses and income... But of course, I was embarrassed. Since I'm supposed to be this "paragon of frugality".

Then the other day (ok, two weeks ago) I realized something that was a big stumbling block was that caused me to give up on inputting my income and expenses into my app. It may just have been the biggest thing getting in my way, and possibly the cause of my downward spiral.

Back in April I wrote about how I discovered an app that I could use to pay for rides on public transportation that gave pretty big discounts. Since that point I've been using that app, so instead of filling up my bus pass whenever it would empty, I'd just use that. I signed up my sons for it as well. And fortunately the prices on it are great. My kids get a kid fare of 85 cents per ride (including transfers) and I get a reduced fare of $1.14 per ride (including transfers) in and to our nearby city. These small amounts are great, but they also really were the bane of my budgeting. Because each day I'd get an email, three different times, how much I was charged for that day's bus fare. One email for mine. One email for Ike's. And one email for Lee's. (And they came into two separate inboxes for some reason.) And each was such a small amount. 

Each time these emails came in, it felt like such an insignificant amount of money for it to merit my stopping what I was doing, opening my budgeting app, and inputting it. Especially since I need to convert the money to our local currency since I pay it with my American debit card but I budget with our local currency. I'd keep on saying that I'd get around to doing it later, because what difference does $1.50 make here and there, after all? I'd say that at the end of the day, or tomorrow, or in a few days, I'd open my debit card website, and input a whole bunch of these bus fares at once. Hint- I never got around to it.

On top of that, in the past, whenever I'd use my American debit card online and get an email with the amount I spent, I'd input the amount right away. Because it wasn't so frequently. (Mostly I'd use my American credit card in person, and then as I was leaving the store I'd plug that number from my receipt into my app.) However, since I was so behind in plugging in the expenses from public transportation, it felt silly to do the other expenses with the card that I get emailed about, "I'll do it all online later" and that later became never. And of course, once I was failing with that, why bother writing down the receipts I get in person either?

Have I explained this logical or rather illogical progression of thought that led to my stopping to write down my income and expenses?

I had planned on finally writing this post two weeks ago (because I needed to write it before I wrote another post that I had planned) but I felt ridiculous posting this issue without having an idea how to make it better.

Then I remembered that my friend Babs who told me about this app mentioned that you can have the expenses come off at the end of the month instead of each day, and you end up getting a further discount because they have a monthly cap of fees. A few months ago already Babs showed me how to do that with my app on my phone and I only started getting charged once a month for my rides instead of every day, which reduced the daily inbox deluge of emails of receipts (however, I'd forgotten how to do it). But I was still getting for both sons. And so then two weeks I tried ago I tried to eliminate this issue that was starting the spiral of not budgeting and attempted to change the billing period on their phones. I wasn't successful. Finally, Babs told me that it isn't anything to change on the app, I just needed to change the card from a debit card to a credit card, and then it would only come off once a month. I did that, and miracles of miracles, no more multiple emails a day telling me about "insignificant" amounts of money being spent. And because of that, when I do get an email about an expense paid for with my card, it gets written up immediately (or pretty quickly). And since that is already happening, I've gotten back to writing down my expenses that I make in person as they happen.

Amazing what one little change can do. Just changing the payment schedule on that one app and budgeting becomes so much less challenging mentally.

So yes, while this post was originally going to be "Help! I've fallen off the wagon!" now it is just "I fell off the wagon" because, at least for the past 2 weeks, I'm back on. And I hope to stay on. And would love to try to keep myself accountable here...

There is just this one thing that still is getting in my way. 

So far I talked about my American debit card and emails whenever I spend with it. My local credit card doesn't give me emails. When I use it in person I write it down immediately, but its the automated expenses that I have a hard time remembering to input into my budgeting app, since I don't get an alert each time money comes out of the account, and I'm not taking an action that would remind me that it is coming off. I only end up putting those expenses in when I open up my credit card app and bank app and go through the expense list and compare it to what I already put into my app.

If you can give me suggestions on how to make sure that that doesn't get in the way of my budgeting, that would be amazing. How do you remember to put your automated payments into your app? (Especially if they aren't the same each month. My electric bill is one of those.) 

If you also struggle to remember to put in your expenses and income into your budgeting app, what tips, techniques, and tricks do you use? Any suggestions to give to me, for someone absentminded, who is a master procrastinator? Thank you so much, help would be greatly appreciated!

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I have a credit card in your country, and get SMS messages upon spending. Can set the amounts, so I have different amounts for online and in person spending. Would SMS work as well as email for you in this case?

  2. I also use YNAB and have recurring expenses that aren't exactly the same every month. What I do is that I create them as recurring expenses, with an estimate of what the bill is going to be each month. Then, towards the end of the month, I check my CC/bank statments and correct them. Sure, it's a bit of extra work, and of course the estimate is never exactly the same as the actual bill, but at least it gives me a reasonably good picture of where I am budget-wise. It also means that I never forget to input them, I just need to tweak the amounts.

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