The rocky road to good budgeting

...Incomes and outgoes.
…Incomes and outgoes.

I found yesterday that I had forgotten to stuff any folding money in my pocket when I left for work in the morning. My kids both regard cash with disdain. They have completely transitioned to the digital age and use their debit cards almost exclusively. But, being old school (and old), I am still uncomfortable if I don’t have a few bucks in my jeans for emergencies.

Anyway, after work I popped into the local grocery store to pick up something for dinner and, at the checkout, used my debit card to not only make my purchase but to draw down some funds from my checking account. As the clerk handed me my cash, I commented to the elderly gentleman who was bagging my groceries that I felt really uncomfortable with no money. He said he could relate to that.

Budgeting is closely coupled with the art of rationalization for those of us fortunate enough to be considered middle class. Let’s say, for example, that a typical, digitized young woman is browsing the aisles of the grocery store in search of low cal, low cholesterol, low cost, sustenance for her family. This young lady is using her smart-phone bar code reader to assure that she is getting the best deal with every product selection, opting, for example, for the recycled paper towels rather than the Scott brand (save $0.008 per sheet). She is also simultaneously keeping a running total of the cost of the products in her cart, also with the use of an app on her phone, as she painstakingly navigates her squeaky cart through the store. Then, just as she is about to leave the last aisle (that would be the freezer section) she abruptly tosses the Weight Watchers lasagna package back into the freezer, grabs a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Rocky Road and heads for the checkout lane. Mission accomplished. One can only imagine what is going on in her head at that point.

Speaking of Rocky Road, budgeting is also akin to dieting. Everybody secretly knows how to lose weight (don’t eat so much). But by subscribing to the latest dieting fad, we allow ourselves to believe that we can just keep right on eating and magically lose weight. And, similarly, of course, all we really have to do in order to save money is to not spend so much of it. But let’s face it, there are some things that we just need more than others. So, let’s just drop that 401k contribution from 4% to 2% for awhile. We’ll catch up later.

So, we find that budgeting is simply one of the hazards associated with not being independently wealthy. And we will always have the proverbial duo of the little angel and the little devil on opposite shoulders as we wrestle with our daily financial decisions. And, push come to shove, we can certainly have leftovers at least one night during the week in order to settle in front of the TV with our Rocky Road.

Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/

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