Budgets are for businesses, not people

Jenny Whichello, Bliss + Wealth
6 min readApr 13, 2024


This was once my happy place: spreadsheets galore, color-coded charts singing sweet symphonies of efficiency, every dollar accounted for with precision that would make a drill sergeant weep tears of joy. As a CFO, I reveled in crafting corporate budgets, wielding them like financial Excaliburs, slaying the beast of departmental overspending. But here’s the twist: when it came to my own money, that budget magic mysteriously vanished. My bank account? More like a leaky boat, dreams and dollars swirling out at an alarming rate.

Confused? You bet. After all, I knew the numbers, the strategies, the “responsible adult” financial mantras inside and out. So why was I, the budget whisperer, drowning in a sea of my own spending?

The answer hit me like a rogue wave: budgets aren’t built for humans. Not the emotional, impulsive, experience-craving creatures we truly are. Budgets are rigid, restrictive, cold showers for your financial soul. They might work for a corporation, but for your personal life? They’re a recipe for guilt, frustration, and ultimately, failure.

But fear not, fellow financial flounderer! There’s a better way, a path I discovered after ditching the budget and embracing a new financial philosophy: mindful spending and a personalized financial plan. Let me tell you, it’s like trading in your rusty budget shackles for wings of financial freedom.

Why Budgets Suck the Joy Out of Your Wallet:

Remember that spreadsheet symphony? Yeah, in real life, your finances are more like a rock concert — loud, unpredictable, and full of emotional encores. Budgets try to force this rock concert into a lullaby, which, let’s be honest, is just plain boring (and unsustainable). Here’s why:

  • They kill spontaneity: Remember that impromptu weekend getaway you craved? Budget says no. It prioritizes numbers over experiences, leaving you feeling deprived and resentful.
  • They trigger guilt: Did you splurge on that cute top? Budget guilt monster attacks! This emotional rollercoaster makes managing money stressful, not empowering.
  • They’re inflexible: Life throws curveballs. Budgets crumble under the pressure, leaving you feeling defeated and off track.

The Budget Trap: Scarcity Mindset and Decision Fatigue

Remember that “aha!” moment when I realized budgets weren’t working for me? It triggered a deep dive into the science behind financial behavior. And guess what I found? Turns out, my intuition was spot on. Studies suggest that budgets, while seemingly logical, can actually fuel a scarcity mindset, which can have detrimental effects on your financial well-being.

Here’s the science breakdown:

Scarcity mindset vs. Abundance mindset: Research by Mullainathan and Shafir (2013) highlights how poverty and economic hardship can induce a scarcity mindset, where limited resources constantly occupy your mental space. This can lead to tunnel vision, focusing solely on immediate needs at the expense of long-term planning and goal setting. Budgets, with their rigid restrictions, can unintentionally mimic this scarcity mindset, leading to similar negative effects.

Decision fatigue and impulsive spending: A study by Baumeister et al. (2010) explored the concept of decision fatigue, where our ability to make rational choices depletes with each decision we make. Budgeting, with its constant tracking and restrictions, can create decision overload, leading to mental exhaustion and impulsive spending as a way to escape the mental drain.

So, what’s the alternative? Instead of battling scarcity with restrictive budgets, let’s cultivate an abundance mindset through mindful spending and a personalized financial plan. This approach:

  • Focuses on values and goals: You’re not just tracking numbers, you’re aligning your spending with your dreams and aspirations. This shift in perspective fosters motivation and empowers you to make conscious choices.
  • Promotes flexibility: Your financial plan adapts to your life, not the other way around. It accommodates unexpected expenses and allows for occasional splurges (mindfully chosen, of course!), preventing feelings of deprivation and frustration.
  • Reduces decision fatigue: By setting clear guidelines and automating your finances where possible, you free up your mental energy for bigger decisions. This not only reduces stress but also empowers you to focus on things that truly matter.

The Mindful Spending/No Budget Revolution:

Instead of fighting against the current of your life, let’s flow with it! Mindful spending is about consciously choosing where your money goes, aligning it with your values and goals. It’s about asking yourself, “Does this purchase bring me joy, contribute to my future, or reflect my priorities?” before saying “swipe.”

But mindfulness without a plan is like sailing without a compass. That’s where your personalized financial plan comes in. Think of it as your financial GPS, guiding you towards your dreams. This plan shouldn’t be a rigid rulebook, but a flexible roadmap that considers your income, expenses, goals, and, yes, even your emotional spending triggers.

Practical Steps to Trade Budgeting for Mindful Spending

Ditching the budgeting mindset might feel daunting, but fear not! Here’s a roadmap to navigate the transition towards mindful spending and a personalized financial plan:

Step 1: Uncover Your Scarcity Triggers

Start by reflecting on your past financial experiences. Have you ever felt restricted by budgets, leading to frustration or guilt? Do certain situations, like unexpected bills or peer pressure, trigger impulsive spending? Identifying these triggers is crucial for developing mindful spending habits.

Step 2: Define Your Values and Goals

What truly matters to you in life? Do you yearn for financial security, early retirement, or the freedom to travel the world? Defining your values and goals becomes the compass guiding your financial decisions.

Step 3: Automate for Effortless Money Management

Set up automatic transfers to savings and debt repayment accounts. This removes the decision-making fatigue and ensures you’re staying on track with your financial goals.

Step 4: Track Your Spending (Mindfully)

Track your spending, but with a mindful twist. Instead of focusing on guilt, use this information to understand your spending patterns and identify areas for improvement. Explore tools like my favorite Empower or simply jot down your purchases in a journal.

Step 5: Embrace the “Mindful Pause”:

Before buying something, ask yourself:

  • What do I want more than this?
  • Does it align with my values and goals?
  • Will it bring me lasting joy and value?
  • Can I wait and save for it (aka “prepay”)?

This “mindful pause” cultivates conscious spending, empowering you to make choices that truly reflect your desires and priorities.

Step 6: Celebrate Your Wins (Big and Small):

Acknowledge your progress, no matter how small. Did you reach a savings goal, resist an impulsive purchase, or stick to your mindful spending habits? Celebrate these wins to reinforce positive financial behaviors and maintain motivation.

Remember, like any journey, there will be bumps along the road, moments of doubt, and maybe even the occasional financial misstep. Embrace the learning process, forgive yourself, and keep moving forward on your path to mindful spending and financial freedom.

Ready to Move Beyond the Budget? Join the Mindful Spending Revolution!

A personalized financial plan goes beyond just tracking expenses. It’s a dynamic roadmap that reflects your unique circumstances, aspirations, and risk tolerance. Consider seeking professional guidance from a money coach to create a plan tailored to your individual needs.

You deserve a financial life that reflects your true self, fuels your dreams, and sings with the symphony of abundance. Ditch the budget blues and embrace the power of mindful spending and a personalized financial plan. Together, let’s rewrite the narrative and create a world where financial freedom empowers us to live our best lives.

In summary, it is absolutely possible to say “see ya” to your budget. But you must prime yourself for success first by following these steps:

  1. Track your spending: Awareness is key. Know where your money goes without judgment. Use apps, notebooks, or even color-coded highlighters (hey, no judgment here!).
  2. Identify your values and goals: What truly matters to you? Financial freedom, travel, early retirement? Define your “why” to guide your spending choices.
  3. Embrace mindful moments: Before buying, ask yourself: “What do I want more than this? Does it align with my goals? Will it bring me lasting joy?” This pause creates conscious spending, not impulsive reactions.
  4. Create your financial plan: Set realistic savings goals, factor in irregular expenses, and leave room for flexibility. Remember, it’s your plan, not a straitjacket.
  5. Celebrate your wins!: Acknowledge your progress, big or small. Treat yourself (mindfully, of course!) to celebrate milestones and stay motivated.



Jenny Whichello, Bliss + Wealth

On a mission to help the next generation of unstoppable women have blissful relationships with money while building wealth! Free resources @ blissandwealth.com