Budgeting as a tool for self control

Warning: Here be rambling nonsense about an experiment I’m trying with Beeminder.

I mentioned back in How do you beemind your finances? that I’m trying a new thing, which is that I have a category of things that I label “fun spending” and a do less goal attached to them.

This is roughly intended to be a “curb amount of spending on luxuries like eating or drinking out”, but has been super effective at getting me to think about how much I value various things relative to each other, so I’m going to be experimenting with expanding it to other things that I’d like to do less of.

Specifically, I’m now reclassifying meat and dairy products into fun spending even if I just buy them in the supermarket. These are things I’ve historically tried to reduce my consumption of with various elaborate tracking schemes, but they haven’t really worked very well, so I’m hopeful that this will.

The reasons I’m hoping this will help is a) It’s a much simpler tracking scheme than what I’ve previously done and b) It lets me frame things in real terms so I can have internal negotiations like “Ooh steak. I want steak. Hmm. Do I want steak more than I want a book? Maybe not”.

Notably, one of the things that I originally considered sortof a bug in this scheme now is starting to look like a feature: The ability to go “I have $$$ left in the budget. I’m allowed to buy this luxury” where I previously would have gone “Hmm… Maybe? I probably shouldn’t”. The freedom to do this is actually really nice to have, and seems to act as a really nice carrot to go along with the stick.

Anyway, rambling over. I will report back on how this is working. I have a history of experimental ideas for using Beeminder that don’t work entirely well, so we’ll see. :smile:

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Go for it! Although I am curious at what point YNAB becomes the better tool than Beeminder for tracking this kind of stuff. :slight_smile:

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I am using YNAB “for tracking this kind of stuff” :slight_smile: Definitely because it is a more specified tool, allowing to see more relevant information at one moment (not just one category).
But I am using Beeminder not to “forget” to keep my YNAB updated :smile:
However, there is one aspect in which beeminder is a greater tool for finances as well - ensuring day-to-day compliance, of course. I generally don’t care about staying exactly within my budget in YNAB now, so it is rather a tool for “being aware of all my finances”. However, there were points in my life when I was interested in keeping within a specific sum, and in that case I didn’t appreciate the fact that YNAB only considers monthly periods - so I had to think something up like only moving sums between categories once a week (so that I feel the sorrow of having overspend - or the joying of not having - every week). It was in my pre-beeminder epoch. Now I would definitely use beeminder on top of YNAB for a specific case like that.

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I had some complications using YNAB which made me not want to bother with it, but I’m also not that interested in detailed tracking of finance - I’m interested in spending less, but I don’t actually care that much about the specific numbers. I will probably give it another go at some point though.

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This is one of my favourite use cases for Beeminder — to keep on top of other systems.

(Keep them current, remember to look at them, regularly review & prune, etc.)

Before Beeminder, I had a strong history of investing in write-only ‘productivity’ schemes.

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I think the most important part is planning ahead. You only have so many dollars and you know how many there are. You can’t feign ignorance!