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Why I don't keep a budget

The Anti-Budget

I hate budgets.

I hate tracking my spending.

I hate counting down to the dollar or cent.

In fact, I don’t really want to think about what I spend at all.

I want to send my investments to my brokerage, auto-pay my bills, and move on with my life.

That's why I have a visceral reaction to personal finance "experts" who insist that you have to track every penny for the rest of your life to achieve any level of financial freedom.

Yes, it’s important to know where your money is going.

And yes, a one-time assessment of your spending is a critical part of getting your money on track.

But tracking every penny everyday forever? Not necessary.

Pareto’s Law: 20% of the activities are responsible for 80% of the results.

So sure, you can keep a little notepad for writing down the 37 cents you saved on budget trash bags, and hope that the bag doesn’t rip open on your way to the chute.


You can automate your investments, auto-pay your bills, and spend whatever you want on everything else.

In fact, here’s my rough “budget” from a couple of years ago.

  • Auto-deposit at my brokerage: $2,000+ / month (Thanks, Betterment!)
  • Auto-pay rent at $1,500 / month (No transportation – thanks downtown apartment that’s a 5-minute walk to work!)
  • Auto-pay phone bill at $50 / month 
  • Auto-pay miscellaneous subscriptions at $50 / month (Tidal / Apple Music, etc.)
  • Spend $200 on basic groceries: milk, pre-made salads, fruits, coffee and tea (Thanks, Trader Joe!)
  • Spend $200 to pay housekeeper, hairstylist, and nail technician
  • Keep about $1,000+ on hand to spend on whatever I want for the rest of the month without giving it anymore thought

Now, this is pretty boring.

At the time, I ate basically the same breakfast and lunch everyday (cinnamon cashew latte and strawberry-banana smoothie, Trader Joe’s salad or simple sandwich made at home), but I enjoyed that. I didn’t have to expend mental energy deciding what to eat.

I typically “splurged” on dinner: sushi or tacos another meal at the restaurant of my choice after work. Even if I ate dinner out nightly, I typically averaged ~$10/night for a grand total of $300/month.

And although the numbers are a bit different these days, I basically enjoy the same anti-budget.

  1. Automate savings / investments via retirement contributions and auto-deposits to brokerages (typically 50%+ of income)
  2. Automate bill-pay (and stack them all to fall on the same day of the month) (typically 25% or less of income)
  3. Stock home with necessities and pay for any grooming / maintenance (typically less than 1-5%)
  4. Spend what you want on the rest with guilty or worrying (typically 25%+)

Not sexy.

Not complicated.

Not even sophistic.

But simple and effective.

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