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No. Budgets are Not Sexy.

Budgets are Sexy?


You may or may not be aware of a little website called Budgets are $exy. It started in 2008 when an anonymous twenty-something started budgeting and began his march to financial independence. Ten years and three boys later, this thirty-something’s website is still going strong.

By strong, I mean much, much stronger than this fledgling site. Like Magnús Ver Magnússon versus Jack McBrayer stronger. He also had this other page called Rockstar Finance. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Rockstar Finance is also much stronger than Physician on FIRE.

In fact, when my site was quite new, the three busiest days on this site were not coincidentally the three days a post of mine was featured by J. Money and his partner in crime, Cait Flanders @ Rockstar Finance.

The right thing to do would be to give a heartfelt thank you and affirm the good man’s message. You know, that budgets are sexy. That’s just not how I roll. Much like I wrote Why I didn’t Retire by 40 for Joe @ Retireby40, I would like to take this opportunity to pay homage to Budgets are Sexy by refuting the entire premise of his site.


So… Budgets are Sexy?


Budgets are sexy like Huggies Pull-Ups are sexy.

Budgets are sexy like training wheels and tassels on the handlebars are sexy.

Budgets are sexy like last call is sexy.

Budgets are sexy like a half beard is sexy.


J. Money looks half ridiculous.


No. Budgets are not sexy.


Don’t get me wrong. A budget is a perfectly good, useful, and not sexy thing. A budget serves as a great reminder not to spend unnecessarily. A budget can help you set aside an adequate aliquot of money each month. A budget can force a silly spender to become a savvy saver. All of this is good; none of this is sexy.



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What is sexy?


Confidence is sexy. Be confident in your ability to handle your own money. Knowing that you have mastered money without reliance on the artificial barriers created by a budget is sexy.


Intelligence is sexy. A smart person is aware of every dollar spent. Knowing what sort of spending will truly boost your happiness or improve your life is sexy.


Power is sexy. Learning the Power of No and exercising it to your own betterment is sexy.


Mohawks are sexy. I believe this has been scientifically proven.




Understand that I’m not opposed to anyone using a budget. If you need to hit the brakes and get a handle on your finances, by all means create a budget. If you want to pay down debt, start saving for a big purchase, or pave your own path to financial independence, budget away. And welcome to junior varsity!

Some of us will never move beyond JV, and that’s OK. If you’re meeting your goals, and the budget makes it possible, more power to you.

However, many of us will be promoted to the varsity level. Lettermen no longer need a budget. Months, years, or possibly decades of living on a budget will teach us all we need to know about spending money. Spending purposefully. Spending mindfully.

At this next level, there are no categories. There are no soft or hard stops. Green numbers don’t become red when you consciously choose to use money as a tool to improve your life.


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas


Having moved beyond budget reliance, we know when we are spending money. We choose to spend, or we choose to pass. There is no mindless credit card swiping. We don’t need envelopes of cash or pretend buckets. A purchase is a purchase, and we see it as such.

You are confident in your future. You’ve intelligently studied evidence-based articles on happiness and spending. You are relatively frugal. You have the power to control your spending without fancy apps and visual aids. You have pointy, spiky hair running down the center of your scalp.

You are budget free.

You are sexy.



Can budgets be harmful?


Actually, yes. In addition to being about as sexy as granny panties, budgets can lead us to spend unnecessarily. “Look dear, we’ve got $80 left in the monthly entertainment budget. Let’s pound some real ale at Churchkey!”


Surly Abrasive Double IPA



When you’re a born spender, seeing a gap between your allowed spending and actual spending could be an incentive to spend. While it may be justified by the budget, if you’re spending money simply because the budget’s got room, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

A budget shouldn’t influence you to spend money unnecessarily, just as a budget shouldn’t prevent you from making an appropriate expenditure when you may have run over on a particular category for the month.


What’s better than a budget?


Spending mindfully.

A mindful spender doesn’t see that budget gap as an opportunity to spend, it’s an opportunity to achieve her goals more quickly. A mindful spender has a long-term vision of the future and doesn’t let short-term gratification disrupt her progress.

A mindful spender knows when and how his money is spent. He spends money when he dines out, knowing he can spend less by preparing his own meals. He realizes he is spending money when he turns on the air conditioning, turns up the thermostat, or keeps a low deductible on his home or auto insurance.

He knows how much he is spending whether he uses, cash, credit, debit, or check. The method of payment has no bearing on his spending decisions. He knows that a dollar is a dollar is a dollar.

When you’ve adopted this mindset, you just might be ready to kick the budget. Because you don’t need a budget. Because budgets are not sexy.



For a contrasting viewpoint, check out $77,500 Reasons You Really Need a Budget from PeerFinance101Are you ready to kick the budget and get your sexy on?

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40 thoughts on “No. Budgets are Not Sexy.”

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  4. I think I’ve tried every budgeting app out there, including using good old pen and paper. And while it’s exciting for a day or two, my perfectionism takes over and make the experience terrible. I have to change the category of every transaction and reconcile everything to the cent or I don’t even use the thing. for its purpose.

    I just gave up a few years ago and have never looked back. I have savings and investments taken out automatically and don’t worry about the rest. We’re frugal by nature so haven’t had any issues. I do get the itch sometimes when I hear of a cool new app, but in the end they don’t provide much value to me.

    I guess I just need to stay on the varsity team and not go backwards to JV!

    • This is the truth. I love YNAB…until it’s time to make everything fit for the month. When I overspend a category or make an unexpected big purchase (like a new laptop and a new fridge this year), I just bump up the budgeted amount. I don’t think that’s the way the budgeting software is supposed to work. Plus, everything not fitting in “as expected” makes me antsy. Clearly I don’t Roll with the Punches well…

      I have discovered that I am a much better tracker than budgeter. I like to track and adjust for the next month. Probably time to let my YNAB expire, then, and go back to Mint.

  5. I am a paper and pencil person. I had to start budgeting because even though I thought I was being mindful about my purchases, I really had no idea about the total of those at the end of the month. It was shocking, to say the least.
    Now, several months later, I’m getting the hang of it. But I still write it all down, just to make sure. And I’m seeing where I can reduce spending so I can save that cash for all kinds of emergencies.
    I have used some of that saved money to open up stock accts and an ETF. Again, my intent for using my saved cash is for emergencies, even medical and dental ones. But I couldn’t have done it without a budget.
    Is all of this sexy? Well, is a beautiful smile and a healthy body sexy? Hmmm…..

    • Glad it’s working for you. Different things work for different people, but clearly the paper and pencil method is helping you out. I think just knowing you’ll have to make a note and add a purchase to the list can make you second guess making that purchase.


  6. Good stuff about budgets. Whenever I have some $$$ leftover, I just transfer it over to savings without giving myself a second thought about where I can spend/reward myself for coming in below budget. It is just extra money that will essentially do extra work for me. I will admit though once in a while I will splurge but will make sure it’s on something mindful, that has been researched and if it an item (i.e., new shirt or stylish socks) rather than service, will be used on a regular basis.

  7. Awesome article. We have a budget set up in Mint but we no longer pay much attention to it. I prefer to track our spending to see if something is out of whack. The budget was really helpful 5 years ago when I needed to change my spending behaviors but now that we’ve become mindful spenders it doesn’t do much for us.
    Even though we’ve had a savings rate of over 65% over the past two years we try to enjoy the journey along the way. If that savings rate drops a bit because we decide to spend a little more on our happiness we’re okay with that.

    • We’re in very similar spots, Mr. Enchumbao. Tracking doesn’t alter our “budget” but I was genuinely curious, and wanted to be somewhat meticulous, so we could share our numbers with you all.


  8. I’ve never been a strict budgeter myself. I feel like it’d be very easy to get down on yourself for seeing one of those green categories turn red. There was a period of time where I would track every purchase manually. It was a much more time consuming experience, but I probably did have a better idea as to where which dollar was going. If you’re a natural inclination is to “buy what you want and save the rest” and you tend to save a whole bunch, I think having a budget could be useful in because it encourages you to spend more and not take the natural state of, well, possibly having less fun in your life. Maybe not at the individual category level, but if you reach the end of the month and you see that you have $XYZ left over, maybe that gives you permission to blow $$ on something you’ve been putting off without feeling guilty about it.

  9. Having a long relationship with someone with a poor handle on money, I am in the budgets are sexy camp. I also went on 1 date with a very nice guy, who could not afford date 2, but did manage to buy comic books that week.
    I 100% agree, once you have your act together a budget isn’t necessary. What tracking spending allowed me to do was reduce the amount to checking and boost savings. 🙂 That extra left over wasn’t a what can I buy, rather a move it to savings and if this overage is consistent reconsider where everything is going.
    A well done Mohawk is sexy!

  10. A novel and qualitative approach to personal finance, I like it. We can pay attention to the numbers all day long but if we follow your rule of just spending mindfully, we don’t even need to look at the numbers behind our purchases.

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  12. Haha great post as always PoF. I haven’t used a budget in a while. But I agree with J Money it may help those who are just starting to get a grasp on their finances. Unfortunately, I feel a lot of our colleagues fall into that category.

  13. Great post! I was starting to think I was the only one who did not budget. We never had any problems with our spending, and could not imagine taking the time each month to go over one. We just compare our credit card statements, and check what we bought if the balance seemed high. In general we do not spend money on crap, and that was good enough to get us to a 70% savings rate before I was able to up and leave my job.

  14. Hahaha funny post. Budgets are not sexy BUT having a budget system is a great tool to make sure you don’t over spend. Having a mindset of spending less than you earn is more important than having a budget IMO. Having a budget does allow you to get a good picture of how much you’re spending per category and see if you can optimize your spending or not.

  15. Agree wholeheartedly. Automate your savings. Bank your raises & bonuses. Forget about trying to be financially sexy. I don’t see the words budget & sexy ever being comfortable in the same sentence with each other anyway. I guess that’s what makes it a ‘sticky’ website page name.

  16. Hey Doc. Good points, tho would wonder if J. Money would agree (wink). Another tool, which I use, is to automate your savings. I currently automatically save 25% of my pay, and know I can spend the rest without worry. As long as I don’t run out of money in my checking account, my budget works. As easy as eating an apple a day……

  17. We have gone back and forth over the years. Because we are taking a year sabbatical right now, we started tracking it again. Also it is giving us a better idea what our spending would really look like in early retirement. I’m also kind of a numbers geek, so I am loving all the reports and graphs. =)

    • I hear you, Ms. Montana. I’m a numbers geek, too, and tracking our spending has been quite interesting. It’s mostly automated via Mint, and I do it not to limit spending (or allow extra spending) but to get a better idea of what “normal” spending looks like for us and to see where the money goes.

      Enjoy the sabbatical!

  18. Good point! We believe there is some truth to both “No. Budgets are Not Sexy” and “No Budgets are Not Sexy”
    A good way to be both budget conscious but not get lost in countless spreadsheets is to have a “budget” for how much we want to save each month/quarter/year. So, have a budget for one single category only and the rest will just fall into place.

    • Good grammar play, ERN. A couple similar favorites of mine:

      “Let’s eat Grandma!” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandma!” Grammar saves lives.

      And from the Simpsons, attorney Lionel Hutz changing “No Money Down” to “No, Money Down!”

      Like you, we have savings goals. Max out retirement plans, and invest a set amount into a taxable account each month. The 529s get beefed up when I get an oversized check a couple times a year. The plan leaves enough to support our typical spending, and remains flexible.


  19. Haha…. It’s hard to not like a post that features your half-grown beard like that 😉 Well played, sir, well played.

    Though, for the record, I do agree with you – but only in the latter stages *once* you know what you’re doing with money more. When most people start out – myself included! – they don’t know where the hell any of their $$$ is going or why. So tracking it and working out budgets in those first few months/years are crucial in my opinion. Even if you don’t track it down to the last penny (which I don’t either).

    It’s hard to be “mindful” when you don’t even know what you’re spending on 🙂 Most people need help getting to that point first, whether through budgeting or other ways of tracking their $$. But once you get there? Hell yeah! Budget or don’t budget ’till your heart’s content.

    • We’re not so far apart on this, after all!

      I’ve got this figured out. You’ve got this figured out. Now when do your neighbors in the Capitol building start to figure out how to control spending (with or without a budget)?!? That might be a challenge above our pay grade.

      Thank you for the inspiration, the use of your goofy likeness, and for being such a good sport.


    • Great article, but for me and not for my husband.
      I agree with J.Money.
      It also depends on the person.
      You see, unlike you Mr. POF, I don’t have a frugal spouse. Thus budgeting and lots of financial meetings has been crucial and helped keeping my husband on track. My husband doesn’t have the, um, should of say maturity? Or natural instinct for money and grew up in a family who believes the more you spend, the richer you are. He believes in “I work hard, I deserve to upgrade to first class when I fly. I don’t like this cheaper house. It”s open floor plan is not as open as I would like. Let’s buy a home twice as expensive in the most expensive area, so we can be happier”
      Over 20 years of marriage and two kids later, After tons and tons of talks and sometimes arguments, and after adding one bankruptcy to our history, I am still working hard to keep him on track. I am all left Brainerd and constantly calculating with spread sheets and naturally frugal. He is all, “Don’t worry. Let’s buy what we want and we will pay for it later. “
      So, I found out that envelope system sort of has worked OK for him.

      Because as soon as we stop keeping up with the stressful financial meetings, his expenses soar over $3000/ m.
      He gets this rush from spending money and it’s a trap he is stuck in.
      So in our case, budgets have not only been sexy, they have become a necessity and a marriage saver.
      PS . Both dentists, he in early fifties and me in late forties and live in SF area. I know. Ouch! At this point, I am passed working towards early retirement and even financial independent. My goal has become for us to just be able to build a decent retirement.

  20. Agreed, PoF. We have an annual pseudo-budget of how much we should keep in checking and invest the rest, but we update it as needed and consider each purchase carefully. So far, we’ve always come in under our predictions and have been able to invest a tidy sum in December.
    However, we do still track our spending so we can see where every dollar went and address any categories with unexpected changes.

    • It’s always good to pay yourself first, for sure. We just completed 12 months of tracking our spending via Mint.com, ignoring the budget page. Our annual spending will be the subject of an upcoming post.

      Glad to hear you’ve underspent your predictions. Win!


  21. Good post. I must be still varsity then because I like budgets. They help me know how much I can save. As a natural saver I love this. However I do see your point

  22. Haha I must be the only one that thinks budgets are kinda sexy?? I love a good spreadsheet and plan, but perhaps you’re right and it is more about what the budget represents: a path to financial power and freedom.

    I like your thought on whether or not budgets could potentially be harmful – I hadn’t thought of that scenario before. I usually love to see leftover money in my budget (money that wouldn’t show as ‘leftover’ if I didn’t have a budget) and it feels like a reward in a game, but of course, I know a lot of people see budgets as cumbersome rather than useful frameworks for tracking spending.

    As always, thanks for sharing PoF! : )

  23. Ha ha!

    Like a Mohawk, budgets can get dangerously spiky for most folks. Those spikes in spending become a routine and, well, the final haircut is not looking so good. Money back please from the barber !! But the barber has already invested it, coz he’s smart.

    With tools like Miint and Personal Capital, it is so easy these days to track spending and it actually becomes background noise after a while.

    The intention of spending ( and it may be a significant amount for things you love) is hard for most because it is habitual. Breaking that habit, if it requires a budget to get started, can be a powerful tool to make that small but important baby step. A light trim rather than the full on Mohawk.

    • Well put, Mr. PIE. Budgets are a great way to begin getting a grip on your spending. Once you’ve got a firm grip and good habits are ingrained, the budget can go bye bye.


  24. Love it – and I’m on the varsity team! I’ve always been a mindful spender and that’s what got me to FI. I can’t write an article about using a budget – but I’m glad many people do. And I wish more of my tenants would use one and put “rent” at the top! What about our kids? Should we show them budgets and stress the importance or focus on mindful spending?

  25. Ha ha, good one PoF. This J. Money guy keeps motivating us with links of our articles, making us feel like ‘rockstars’, at least in PF blogging world. I think there was a Harvard Medical School tenured professor’s study saying Mohawk increases your sex appeal by 83.5% compared to normal haircut, in a scientifically constructed, clinically valid double-blind study using college freshmen, right after they drank a controlled 7 bottles of beer…oh wait, was it 8 (yeah, but the Harvard researcher snagged one during the study – hey, spoils of grant money!). I believe the study was published in the reputed peer-reviewed journal JAMA (Journal of American Mohawk Association).

  26. Nice article PoF. I’ve been tracking expenses for over a decade and budgeting for about five years. I use my historical tracking to help budget for the next year. My budget is more or less a prediction to help me estimate how much I’ll have extra which helps me set next year’s mutual fund contributions / allocations which helps me revise my FI date among other things. Doesn’t sound JV to me 🙂

  27. I’ve never understood why J Money thought budgets were sexy. Budgets are great for people who have trouble controlling their spending….or people with debts trying to get out of that hole.

    At our level PoF, yes, I completely agree…we don’t really need a budget. Being roughly close is good enough because we don’t live on the razor’s edge.

  28. Nice article PoF and I agree that budgets are NOT sexy, but FI is! I would say that we graduated from budgets to mindful spending several years ago. It’s a much better way to go through life. Being on a budget puts you in a scarcity mindset and does run the risk of encouraging you to spend if you have money “left over.” Mindful spending, I believe, puts you in the driver’s seat with an abundance mindset where you are deciding where to spend your dollars. the difference may seem subtle, but the psychological difference is profound.


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