Budget with Discipline

Give every dollar a job.

Tell your money where to go and what to do.

Budgeting is king.

I don’t disagree.  In fact, a well thought-out and implemented budget is often key to digging out of debt and securing your financial situation.  But here’s the thing:  the mechanics of a detailed budget are worthless without self-discipline.

Want to know what our budget looks like?  Give and save first, then spend less than we make.  It’s working for us (likely due to our crazy thrifty personalities moreso than the method itself).

I know our budget is overly simplistic and certainly won’t work for everyone, but I’m going to go out on an unpopular limb here with a thought:  Line item budgets aren’t working for everyone, either. 

Without self-discipline driving budget planning, it’s much too easy to assign funds to a routine pedicure while wondering why on earth $30 a week won’t feed a family of six.

Without self-discipline, it’s pretty tempting to shift that envelope cash around for the last-minute movie with friends, all the while promising to add cash to the emergency fund next month, for the third month in a row.

Without self-discipline executing the budget, it’s easier to justify buying the best deal ever… again.


There are too many foreclosure signs staked in the lawns of high-end furnished homes.

There are too many double income families living pay check to pay check.

There are too many stressed-out people wondering why they have money troubles when they also have a budget.


I know families have been hit hard with rotten recession-related issues. I know not everyone makes poor decisions with their money. I know it could be us next week!

I also just can’t help but think budgets would be worth a lot more if everyone executed them with a healthy dose of self-discipline.

How do you make sure your budget works for you?

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  1. I wrote a post this morning about the 10 reasons I love being debt free. Hubby and I have only been debt free for 2 months, so it’s still new to us, but we are loving it!

    I completely agree about the self-discipline!

  2. We currently use a method similar to yours. We will be having a major shift in a few months, though, when baby #1 comes along. We’ll move from 2 incomes to one and I’m looking forward to figuring out what pattern/method works best for us under the new circumstances. It will most likely involve more detail than we currently have.

    • You know… we did BETTER with our budget when we moved from 2 incomes to 1. I think because we were scared to spend any money. LOL

  3. We have a strict “categorical” budget– I think it’s the only way we manage on a single moderate income in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Is it always fun? Of course not. I’m going to be blatantly honest and tell you that, as I type this, I have not one single dollar bill in my wallet for discretionary spending. We had a weekend away last weekend and spent more than we typically would in a weekend. But the church envelopes have been filled. The pantry and freezer are plenty full. And we will all most certainly survive the next couple weeks without any dinners out, specialty coffees, or new trinkets for my shelves. It’s not necessarily fun… but it’s called being a grown-up. 😉

  4. We were debt free (with the exception of student loans -graduated about nine months ago – and out house payment), and then my hubby started his own business. Now, our income has gone down (plus more unstable), but we were still spending the same (go figure). Granted, we did have our water heater go out, and we just had to replace the water pump in hubby’s car, plus get our little one school supplies and whatnot, so it’s not been all normal spending, but still. Time to revamp the budget I’m thinking.

  5. We are the WORST at this. The WORST!! *sigh* Trying again with new plan soon. Did I mention we are the WORST!

    • Oh, girl. Don’t beat yourself up. As I was typing this out, I kept thinking about how the same stinkin’ thing applies to my TIME budget. And I am the WORST with that. Must work to improve. 😉

  6. I really like the picture you posted.

  7. Great post and so true. Whether it is our money budget, time, or anything else it is more about the discipline than anything else.

  8. I have become way more responsible with money, and yet we are currently in horrible shape. We lost our business, which caused us to lose our home, and of course losing our business made us both unemployed. Not only are we living paycheck to paycheck, but we are not making it to the next paycheck. I made a realistic budget, but I am constantly having to rob Peter to pay Paul. My husband is a salesman, and is paid commission ONLY. We never know what he’s going to bring home, (but I know what I NEED him to bring home, thanks to my budget-and that doesn’t normally happen.) He is trying to look for another job, but that is very difficult while still driving all over the state trying to sell to any of his 3 daily appointments. My job is more stable, but our health insurance comes out of it. If anything happend to my husband, I could not even pay the rent, let alone pay the bills or buy food. We are the working poor. We have become highly disciplined, by necessity, but we can not survive too much longer like this.

  9. Love everything about this post–thank you, Amy!

    My husband and I are both analytical thinkers and we couldn’t make a line-item, detailed budget work for us. We tried, believe me. For us, we found we ended up spending more that way. If we had extra money at the end of the month, we didn’t add to our budget line marked savings. We spent it on our “want list”.
    And when something extra/fun came up we didn’t plan, fights would ensue whether we could do it or not. so.not.fun.
    We now have accepted we needed to be more disciplined. Like you–We give, save our allotted amount, then only buy what we need. I use my analytical talents through frugal spending rather than tracking. God has provided as a result!
    We do use mint.com to track our spending just to appease our analytical minds. but we don’t budget by it like we used to. It’s Amazing to see how much lower our line item detailed budget would be now with our new disciplined mindset!

  10. Self-discipline is key, but there is something else too…Contentment. Be happy with what you have makes self-discipline that much easier. Not to mention we need to teach our kids about money too.

    Have you seen Dad Cents yet? My friend, Shane Barkley wrote this book and it is an excellent tool to use to teach yourself and your kids about money. Here is the website: http://www.dadcents.com/

    • Yes. Always the contentment! So important! I set up a giveaway at Money Saving Mom for that Dad Cents book, but haven’t read it myself. Looks good!

  11. I completely agree. Budgeting is hard but sticking to it is even harder! My husband and I work together to hold each other accountable. We have set goals (being debt free!) and want to achieve those goals in a timely manner. In order to do that, we need to stick to our budget. We are expecting our first baby in January and know budgeting will become even more challenging and even more important. The key for us is staying on the same page, holding each other accountable, and focusing on our goals. We started with $116,000 in debt (ALL student loans!) when we got married and we’re down to $40,000 with the hope of being debt free by next July/August!

    • “Budgeting is hard but sticking to it is even harder!” So true. And wowza! Kudos to you for smashing through that student debt. You’re doing great!

  12. For us the key is give first! God has blessed our finances, we’ve had times when we didn’t know if it was going to work that month but we would always have enough!

    And self discipline is another biggie for us! Like when you’re expecting a baby you just want to ‘nest’ and buy things for that little bundle but it’s unnecessary (those little purchases here and there add up big time)!

    We also have a budget we both agree on and have agreed to stick to it…money disagreements don’t exist in our home!

  13. love this! we tend to stumble with any unexpected money, it’s so easy to splurge on a meal out when we should be saving some of it!

  14. We tried the Dave Ramsey type of budget, but it had way, way too many line items for us. We came up with a workable one for us, and have used it for almost a year. So far we’ve only had to raise the amount budgeted a couple of times – gas got higher, food got higher, electric bill got higher. I saw someone had mentioned something called mint.com, so I may look that up and see if it works for us. Thanks for this post – love reading your stuff!!

  15. Amen, sister! I completely agree. We live in a society where wants out way needs. Everyone wants that instant gratification. I need it NOW! When the reality is you probably don’t need it at all or you can wait a couple weeks/months until you save enough money to buy said want. No one seems to save anymore or no one knows how to save anymore.

  16. I use a line item budget with BIG line items like “utilities” and “shopping” and “groceries”, then we only reconcile our budget after the fact. The purpose of the budget for me is to know in general how much we are spending each month and where it is going and to make adjustments before things get out of hand. For the most part I think we are pretty disciplined spenders, and we both have per month dollar targets in the back of our heads to keep us in line.

    We tried the strict tracking but it was a lot of work, and in the end so many things tend to cancel each other out (ex. spending more on groceries this week for a party might be balanced out by skipping the weekly dinner out because we have friends over) that we couldn’t really accurately track in real time. We learned some really valuable lessons from the strict tracking method, but over the long haul it didn’t work for us.

  17. This is a really great thought. This is just about how my husband and I handle our money too, of course we both come from thrifty parents and have gotten even thriftier over time. If you are attempting to give and save and avoid any unnecessary spending, there really isn’t a whole lot else you can do.

  18. We work on a strict zero based budget. By the grace of God, I have been an at home mom for 19 1/2 years. We are, God willing, hoping to pay off our home in December. We have four cars paid and are getting our oldest through college. He wants to earn a PhD in Physics. So needless to say it’s a long road ahead. The younger son is on target for an engineering degree. If I hadn’t been deliberate with my husband’s earnings we would easily have lost the home etc. Intentionality and prayer is the key.

    • “If I hadn’t been deliberate with my husband’s earnings we would easily have lost the home etc. Intentionality and prayer is the key.” Yes!

  19. My husband and I are both students in Australia living on a very minimal amount, I am a finance major so know a thing or two about managing finances and I am of the opinion that even if you don’t adhere strictly to your budget the very act of creating it is the first step. Just by doing that simple act you can easily tell if your spendings need an overhaul or if occasional monitoring is possible.

    We are working towards saving for our first home and I am paying off a large credit card debt I foolishly got when I was 18. It has taken a while but we are learning that if you don’t have the money to buy it you shouldn’t be buying it.

    Ultimately embracing the creativity that comes with struggling financially has been the thing that keeps me sane

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