Why It’s OK That I’m Re-Starting My Budget in September

published Sep 19, 2019
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Credit: Mackenzie Schieck

To me, the cornerstone of an effective budgeting system is that it directs my spending and saving behavior. Theoretically that’s done by examining where my spent money has already gone, but I find that it’s even more powerful to look forward, and decide what exactly I’ll do with the unspent money I have right now.

This kind of budget is often called a “forward-facing budget” and it involves telling your money where to go and what to do. I personally prefer this type of budget because it puts me squarely in the driver’s seat of my finances. (I love and use YNAB to help me do it.)

But even a budgeting tool that does exactly what I want it to do is only as good as my level of involvement with it. When I become slack in checking how on-track I am with the financial limits and goals I’ve set, I lose touch with what my budget is designed to do. Even if I’m not spending beyond my total means, the parameters I’ve set go out the window. My spending has gone off the rails and pretty soon I don’t even want to look at my budget because it’s far from an accurate depiction of what’s going on.

This is the point I got to by the end of the summer and why I decided to re-start my budget in September. If a budget is only as good as the amount that I interact with it and I’m not even looking at it because I’m afraid of how far “behind” I am in approving transactions, funding my categories, etc., my budget has become useless.

So I allowed myself to have a do-over this month.

In September, I gave myself and my budget a clean slate and started it all over again, forgiving any prior months’ spending that went un-tracked, and clearing my queue of un-checked transactions.

Starting fresh allows me to take stock of exactly where I am right now and to move forward with purpose. What money do I have in my accounts now, what bills and payments am I responsible for in this next month and in the coming months, and what do I intend to save for? I can make plans to take care of my obligations and desires, both present and future, with a handle on my actual money situation.

Why September is a Good Month for a Financial Reset

Although in an ideal world I wouldn’t have fallen behind with my budget, I do think this last quarter of the year is an ideal time for a refresh. It’s a great opportunity to adjust savings goals and also offers an informed picture of financial health before the spending that tends to happen toward the end of the year. A re-assessment of finances, followed by a restrained rather than un-reined holiday season sets the stage for a new year that doesn’t begin with catching up.

Starting over on a budget feels like giving up so much information about my past spending behavior, and it is. But although looking back does give me information about my spending tendencies and can offer insight about where and how to cut back, a forward-facing budget provides a super accurate picture of exactly where I am so I can decide where I’m headed rather than end up somewhere I don’t want to be. Having this kind of agency over my financial health makes starting fresh and “losing data” worth it.

I’m so glad to be budgeting again.