Is Your Budget Making You Bitter?

Last week, I wrote a post about the $70 night out I had with my husband. In the cheap night out post I knocked myself for spending a week’s worth of grocery money on one dinner and a movie. Luckily, Len Penzo of Len Penzo dot Com stopped by and slapped a little bit of sense into my overly restricted brain. He said:

You know what, Yolander? Unless I am missing something here, seventy bucks for two people over four hours seems like a pretty decent value to me.
That is about $8 per hour per person – that’s roughly equivalent the price of going to a movie on an hourly basis.

Don’t be so hard on yourself!

Naturally, he is right. Often when we work hard to stick to a budget and be frugal (two things that do not always go together) we take an overly negative stance toward any spending that could be considered wasteful. When I realized I spent a week’s worth of groceries on one night out—I was disappointed in myself. Len, however, saw the expense as reasonable and—dare I say it—a value.

Bitter Lemon

If your budget is making you bitter and overly hard on yourself, think about the following:

1. A budgeted, frugal life that is spent obsessing over money and spending is no better than a non-budgeted, wasteful life spent obsessing over money and spending. Your budget and frugal activities should do more to free you than to bind you. They should free up your time to do things you love, free up your mind to enjoy your life, and free up your wallet from strain.

2. Frugality is too expensive if it makes you regret every penny splurged. Everyone’s financial situation is different, and some folks really can’t afford to splurge on much—but almost everyone can afford a $5 splurge here and there. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

3. Don’t let your budget work you — you should work your budget. You are not a prisoner to your budget. If something isn’t working or isn’t making you happy, take a look and readjust. You might have to spend less money somewhere else but if that keeps you more satisfied then it’s worth it.

4. Have a goal. When you have a generalized, “Spend less and save more” goal, you may find it more difficult to happily stick to your budget and you may find temptation harder to ignore. If you have a well-defined goal for your budgeting and frugality you will have a sense of purpose that makes your efforts less stressful.

5. Reward yourself. No, not every day and not for doing nothing, but when you have achieved an interim goal—reward yourself in a cost-efficient but fulfilling way.

6. Value yourself over your money. Like it or not, your money is really just another possession. Sure it’s a tool to reach your goals and keep your standard of living, but it is a thing. You should value all the people, experiences and relationships more than you do your money… even if it costs you $70 once in a while to do so.

Photo credit: sparetomato

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Author Info

This post was written by Yolander Prinzel. Yolander is a financial writer as well as a series 7, 66 and 2-15 licensed representative. During her decade of financial industry experience she has been an insurance agency director of marketing and director of operations, a life insurance underwriter, and a trading service specialist for Raymond James Financial Services. She was a featured speaker at the 2006 Hartford National Sales Conference and the 2006 Brookstreet Securities Annual Conference. Check out her portfolio at

2 Responses to “Is Your Budget Making You Bitter?”

  1. Simple in France |  Mar 17, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    I have to say, I agree with you here. I just wrote a post on my own blog not long ago about how I budget: at the end of the month, just to make ‘observations.’ When I realized that over the month I’ve spent $100 on coffee out–the equivalent to a yearly plane ticket to Europe–I felt highly motivated to change. It was easy because I knew why I was doing it and because I had decided that coffee out wasn’t THAT good!

    But I like the way you describe beating yourself up over sticking to the budget as being ‘too expensive.’ The point is not just to save up all that money–the point is to get the money under control so you can live as you want.

  2. 2 Cents @ Balance Junkie |  Mar 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Len was right. You were being too hard on yourself. The purpose of a budget is to know where you’re money is going so that when you want to do something fun, you know you can afford it and you can enjoy it guilt-free!

    You offer some good suggestions here. It’s easy for all of us to get a little out of control with budgeting, but that’s no reason not to do it. I think #3 is the key. Thanks!