Disclaimer – this post has nothing to do with pigs… or toes.  It’s probably a pretty stupid title now that I think about it.  What this post does have to do with is budgeting, which is something I fail at.

This is how it tends to go down.

OH MY GOD SELF!  I spend way too much money.  I can’t live this way.  I should probably have a freak out about it, and start doing all my shopping at the dollar store.  NEVER SPENDING MONEY AGAIN.  Budget all the things!

Usually, that’s as far as I go with budgeting.  About two weeks later I’m both tired and terrified of my dollar store groceries, and I slowly revert back to old habits.


Lately, I’ve decided it’s good practice to check in with this budget on Sunday evenings.  This is how that tends to go down.

OH MY GOD SELF!  I have already spent over half of my grocery budget, my restaurant budget and my gas budget… plus I had a huge vet bill.  I wonder if I could classify fly spray as an entertainment expense instead of a Simon expense?  Is it possible to get by the next two and a half weeks on two tanks of gas… or $100 of groceries?  How mad will Tim be if I start buying cheap peanut butter instead of the all natural stuff.  I will never budget successfully.  I fail at life.  I should go eat a cookie.

Then I feel bad about myself for the entire evening and sit up at night wondering how I’m going to pay for X thing up in the future and pondering how long can I last without horse showing before I just shrivel up and die.  Now I’m being dramatic (because let’s be honest, that’s how I roll), but budgeting is just not one of my strengths.


Somewhere there’s a happy medium between “la la la I live paycheck to paycheck AND I’M SO IGNORANT AND HAPPY” and “IF I SPEND MONEY THE GOOD LORD WILL STRIKE ME DOWN.”  I’m not exactly sure where that is.  I joke, but this stuff gives me major anxiety.  I blame a family history of hearing how awful debt and credit cards are and how they’re pretty much going to ruin your life.  Not that I am happy about my credit card balance, but I think the ulcers and lack of sleep I’m developing from worrying about it may off me well before the balance drives us into bankruptcy.

Of course having a half lame half show horse doesn’t help things at all.

So bloggers who (in my head) are all successful budgeters and therefore better people than me – any tips?  I’m really good at saying no to significant monetary purchases, but sometimes I feel like that’s the only good money strategy I have!


  1. I have a very strict budget file when it comes to my gas, food, rent etc. I am lucky enough to make the money for the next month in the current month (ie my paychecks this month are for next months expenses). L shared a great website with me for how to spend less on groceries. I know that personally I would save a small fortune if I didn’t eat out. Given the flat tire I just got it looks like I might be actually forcing myself to follow a smaller food portion of my budget. Good luck with the stress. I can totally relate. I mitigate a large part of the stress that comes with big vet bills by saving way more than I should need monthly so it’s in the bank if something happens. Like it did repeatedly this spring.

  2. I may not be the best person to give advice since I live a fairly similar life to you, but somehow I can manage to trick myself into spending less. The two best tricks I have tried, and been successful at, are putting a credit card away (leave it at home style) and immediately transferring money to savings on pay day. For me, if it is cash or if it is a credit card, I will spend it/ swipe it without flinching. If it is in the savings account, I have to think twice before transferring it out.

    • ***This***

      My paychecks are directly deposited into my account. My employer allows us to deposit into two accounts. I have it set up so that most of the paycheck goes into my checking and a certain percentage (not too much) goes directly into my savings. I don’t even see it. It’s easier not to spend the savings since there is no little plastic card or checks attached to that account. I’d have to make an effort to log in and transfer savings money to checking.

      Also, since you’ve had vet bills and I’m guessing are planning for more, buying only what is necessary would help save some. Do you really need to eat out for lunch on Tuesday or buy those cookies at the store? Every little bit helps.

      • Agree! For me automating my savings helps a lot. I don’t see the money so I don’t miss it.
        However I do think that the horsey lifestyle just comes with financial drawbacks. I view it as, I take my vacation every day when I ride as opposed to going on an expensive cruise to the Bahamas…that counts as saving, kind of?

        Also, I WISH I did this, but I don’t–my fiancé has a special savings account for Christmas gifts, the annual water bill, and other expenses he knows he will have throughout the year. A small portion of each paycheck goes to that each month so he doesn’t have to scramble for the big stuff.

  3. Hahaha, budgeting. You’re hilarious! I am not the best at this!

    Here’s how things usually go down …
    1. I get paid monthly, so at the start of every month, I go through and make sure everything from last month balanced and shift any unspent money into savings.
    2. Mentally subtract all my regular monthly bills and expenses out of my paycheck, and pay all bills possible at this time.
    3. Take out savings for emergency funds and regular large bills (insurance and the like).
    4. Calculate what is left as “spending money.” Memorize amount.
    5. Try not to spend all of that, and NEVER, EVER, spend over. Check in with my accounts weekly to make sure I’m not overspending anywhere.
    6. Start over at the beginning of the month.

    Number one tip? I’ve found that having a good handle on what your monthly necessary expenses are (food, gas, board, dog food…) really helps you feel comfortable. When you know you have all the necessities taken care of, you can relax a bit and it’s easier to deny yourself something knowing you’re taking care of everything else.

    It’s not a perfect system, but at the moment it’s working to get my little family through my husband’s medical school adventure in poverty!

  4. Oh, I am so right there with you. With the job switch I just went from a bi-monthly paycheck to a monthly paycheck. I went into crisis mode- how do I make my last paycheck stretch the month until my first paycheck at the new job?! Will I be tempted to be a big spender when I get that monthly paycheck?! The world must be ending?!?!

    So basically, I will be watching the comments for any nuggets I can also pick up!

  5. One thing I do to save on groceries is check the circulars for sale on meat and buy in bulk. Usually the cost per pound is less if you buy the “max” pack and sometimes those are on sale even further. I separate the meat (usually chicken, or cut up HUGE poke loin into pork chops) into ziplock bags and freeze them. My freezer is full of frozen meats. I don’t have to to buy meat every week, so my weekly groceries go down. The one week I do buy meat it is a lot, but I know it will last me at least a month. This also helps refrain from eating out since there is almost always food to be cooked at home.

    I also have a friend who only uses cash. Her reasoning is that the trip to the ATM to get more is enough of a deterrent not to spend that last $20 on something unless she really needs it.

  6. I have to give a shout out to Mint.com. They have a great app and I live on it. My husband and I are both careful spenders (we have expensive hobbies of course) and we like the ability to check what is happening to each part of our budget (groceries, gas, medical bills, hobbies) up to date each day. Maybe it’s a bit overkill, but it helps me keep a grip on my budgets and what is priority. AKA….want to buy shiny new show bridle? Oh wait, I’m already $___ amount over budget so there’s a good chance it’s a bad idea.

  7. Have you heard of Gail Vaz-Oxlade? She is around for people like you and I.

    I am HORRIBLE with money. It is one thing I am truly bad at…budgeting. BUT Gail is amazing, she has several TV shows and books….I love her shows…my personal favorite is this one: http://www.slice.ca/money-moron/

    Try and watch these…if you can’t in the US I think you can download XPAT shield to be able to because it is a Canadian show. She also has a website with how to budget and free budgeting excel templates: http://www.gailvazoxlade.com/

    She is also on Facebook and posts tips daily. Seriously, her methods are amazing and will help. I wish you luck.

      • Ditto to Gail Voz-Oxlade. She has a couple of books too. She recommends using an envelope system for cash for bills, groceries, etc. I liked using the system, but my hubby hated it.

        I’m right there with you – personal finance is a big freakout of mine. There is something about having a bit of disposable income that messes with your head! I’ve had to force myself to sit down lately and really look hard at debt, spending habits etc. and come up with a plan. Feel free to email me if you want to talk further. Don’t want to write a book in the comments!

        Also, there are several good blogs out there on personal finance – some are kind of annoying, but others have some great nuggets of info, if you are willing to dig around.

  8. We want to work to live, which means that we have trade offs to enable us to live the way we want. We live in a small condo, without a garden or a patio or a paddock. We prioritize what makes us happy – and have an appropriate amount of electronics to keep us connected and entertained, the equipment we need to keep us active (includes my horse and their bikes) and the minimum we need to keep us comfortable at home. We will never worry about our décor, as long as the animals are all fed and loved.

    I set up bill pay for all of the bills at the beginning of the month. Our bills are pretty consistent, and so is our income. The bills are paid, then I set aside an amount for food, usually $500 every two weeks. That feeds a family of three, plus four cats and three dogs. What is left over is used for “fun”, plus gas and randomness. The big, non-routine items, like car insurance and tags, Broncos tixs, etc, are saved for out of the “fun” money. Credit cards are used when needed.

    Give yourself permission to live your life, which includes spending money. Set priorities with your husband. And then let the stress go.

  9. Coming from someone who made WAY below poverty level all throughout college and STILL managed to pay all my bills, eat, and own and sometimes show a horse, I can say it all comes to sacrifice.
    Do you *really* need organic food or can you go with knock off brands? Time your trips around town together so you save gas. Practice hypermiling. Do you need hair hightlights? Nails done? Going out to eat more than once a week? Shopping trips? More tack?
    I realize this can’t work for everyone, but thats how I made it work. I just looked at what made happiest (my horses) and what was truly necessary (food, gas, rent money etc) and what was erroneous (beer, going out often, hair done) and cut all that out so I could have my horse! I also bought most of my tack off eBay and made people gifts at Christmas. Little things add up!

    • This is exactly what I’m trying to do right now, but just working on it. First it was horse tack expenses, “Do I really need?” Usually the answer is no. Now I’m trying to expand that to other areas of my life as well.

  10. I’m horrible at budgeting as well so I don’t have any real advice for you. I will say that whenever I try to make a lifestyle change -exercise, eating healthier, etc, it NEVER ends up working long term unless I start very small. Maybe trying to buy all your groceries at the dollar store was too much? Maybe every couple weeks you could pick one small thing to change (skip Starbucks, buy a few generic brand items, eat out one less time), and just work on that until it becomes habit.

  11. I wish I could give you some tips but I’m honestly the exact same way – I go between the two extremes “SPEND ALL THE MONEY” and “OMG IM SO POOR, I’M NOT EVEN GOING GROCERY SHOPPING THIS WEEK.” I’m lucky enough to have a pretty flexible freelance gig on the side of my day job so I know if I spent more money than normal that month on an extra bill or if I’d like to splurge on something special, I have the opportunity to work more to make some extra $$.

  12. No advice as I also suck at budgeting. I live very literally paycheck to paycheck. It took me 8 months to save up $500 to pay for the spring show I went to. Having a second job has helped some, but I just don’t buy anything “extra” things very often. I don’t even own a TV. I don’t buy new clothes except maybe once or twice a year I get a new pair of jeans. But it doesn’t bother me because I love having a horse and I have no problem giving up other things for him. Maybe that’s unhealthy? lol

  13. If I didn’t have the horses, budgeting really wouldn’t even be that necessary. I mostly feel sorry for the fiance, who has big dreams of paying off the mortgage in 10 years. It’s cute when he does grown up things and I’m all over here like “PONIES!”.

  14. No advice here! Right now my budget is really really tight- so I understand your anxiety! I’ve tried Mint but never seem to have car payment etc info around when I try to set it up.

    My only tip on groceries- I used to make one big trip a week but found that food was spoiling or just not being eaten.
    So now I stop by the grocery and pick up food for just a couple of days. For me it makes it easier to eat through what we have and be more thoughtful about what I buy!

  15. The best budgeting advice I’ve ever heard is to look backwards (on what you’ve been spending), make that budget, then inch it back from there. That said, I am not much of a budgeter, but I do stick to one rule religiously: 10% of my paycheck, right when I receive it, gets transferred into a savings account. It’s not like I can’t move it right back into checking, but seeing that lower checking balance makes me less likely to spend it. I’d like to bump that up to 10% into long term savings, 10% into short term savings someday, but student loans take priority over that first.

  16. http://www.daveramsey.com

    Especially look into the My Total Money Makeover book or taking a Financial Peace University class.

    That info is how I’ve lived on a budget for the past seven years, and been debt free for four years. Wasn’t easy – took two years of working two jobs – but was very worth it because its how I was able to afford my horse.

    It takes time to get the hang of, because really, its mostly about changing your behavior. Your budget for sure won’t work the first month, probably not the second either, but getting into the habit of tracking where your money goes will show you where you can make changes. And once you get everything down on paper, on purpose, you’ll be surprised how much of that anxiety will go away. 🙂

    Happy to share more if you’re interested!

  17. The #1 best thing I’ve done to help organize my horse finances is to keep separate checking accounts for me and for Tristan. I calculated an amount that was board + monthly expenses + a little extra, and that amount is automatically deposited each month. Extra accumulates in there for emergencies. I am less tempted to just spend random money on horse stuff because he has his own, separate, siloed budget.

    It also helps that at my first job I made $18k a year for two years and still kept Tristan – so I set up a lot of systems that are still in place. I am BEYOND neurotic about groceries and eating out. When I lived on my own, I spent $20 a week on groceries. Really. Now, for two of us, I spend $40 a week. Yes, really. I plan, plan, plan. We eat fresh fruits and veggies, and there’s money left over for the occasional splurge. Now, I still make a nonprofit salary and it’s important to me to save, so I am still scraping pennies. My motivation over the last year has been the new car I have to buy this fall; I’m aiming for a 50% down payment on a late model small SUV. Every dollar I save ahead of time is multiplied because of interest!

    That said, I am somewhat in the same boat this summer! I’ve had a series of unexpected expenses on top of some not-great choices and I am doing some scrambling to catch up. It’s a sucky feeling, especially since so many of the expenses (car insurance, supplements & meds for Tristan, setup expenses for the new puppy) are necessary but badly timed!

  18. One thing that I kind of pat myself on the back for is budgeting. For whatever reason I’ve always been really conscious of it and think that I do a relatively good job saving. Hopefully some of these tips help!

    I would say that the biggest thing I do that helps me is to divvy up what I use different forms of money for. For example:
    – Debit card: Used only for gas, and my checking account in general is used for writing out checks. That’s it. I try very very hard not to put anything else on my debit card. I do allow online purchases, because it’s easiest, but I really don’t buy much online, so that may be specific to me.
    – Credit card: I have one credit card. Just one. I use it ONLY for eating out. My thought behind this is that I would eat out regardless of how I paid, because I genuinely enjoy it, and lets face it, I rarely cook for myself. By using a credit card for something I’d buy anyways, I never go “over” or spend more than I expected. While the amount fluctuates a little every month it tends to stay in the same general area.
    – Cash: I use cash for everything and anything else. The key here is that my weekend job pays in cash and I refuse to ever take more cash out of the ATM. Whatever I make in cash on the weekend is how much I have to spend during the week and that. is. it. Hard to stick to some weeks, but it really, really, helps me from swiping my debit card and being in shock when I see my bank statement. You could easily do this by taking a certain amount of cash out of the ATM this week and refusing to withdraw anymore until the next week.

    As far as depositing money, all my paychecks go into my checking account. I have a number in my head that I am “comfortable” having in my checking account. Once my balance exceeds that number by $1,000 I transfer the excess into my savings. I like having the influx of cash in my checking account each time I get paid, but then once I have more than I need it goes to my savings which I pretend I don’t even have. The savings account ONLY gets used for emergencies/extremely high ticket items. Such as a down payment on my car (which I made in June 2013. Haven’t touched it since then!)

    For me it really just comes down to discipline. You can set any rule you want for yourself but when it comes down to it things will never change unless you really stick with it. I think because I’m an extremely independent person I am terrified to run out of money, ever, which is why I’m so neurotic about it.

  19. HIDE MONEY FROM YOURSELF! I have a checking account & a money market savings account. I put enough from each paycheck in the MMS for all my “big” monthly expenses (rent, board, car payment) plus the amount I want to save each month. The rest goes in the regular checking account. They are attached, so I can move funds between the two easily & still write checks from the MMS. But, I only get six transactions from the MMS a month, so that keeps me from constantly transferring out of my savings. When I had less expenses, I also bought savings bonds directly out of my paycheck (only $50/bi-weekly). This was the hiding money from myself. It was small enough I didn’t really notice the missing $50, and it also wasn’t attached to my bank accounts so I wasn’t constantly thinking about it. I wanted another way to save money that would be low risk, there when I need it, but harder to get to than my savings account. The bonds worked out great for that. I seriously almost forgot they were there and they paid for my car’s new A/C so I didn’t have to further deplete my savings. Other than that, since I’m bad about living to “paycheck to paycheck” I just make sure I have enough in my checking account to cover all the stuff I have on autopay before the next paycheck. Since the big expenses and savings never even hit my checking account, this works for me. I stop spending when the money in the checking account is gone! Also, ALL OF THE OVERTIME FOR ALL OF THE VET BILLS. Ta da!

  20. Lots of great tips from everyone… I commented above, but wanted to add that we all need to work out a system that works for us. Budgeting is right up there with diet, exercise and horse care – there isn’t one way that works for everyone in every situation.

    I hope you can find a way to reduce your stress and still have a bit of money for fun stuff like showing. I had to cut out one big show this year, after about 21324 things broke around the house and needed to be fixed!

  21. Well, I’m a terrible budgeter myself – that’s probably why I never buy fun stuff for the pony. But my husband uses this program called YNAB, or You Need A Budget. It’s the best thing ever and has saved our family from some serious debt issues.

    It isn’t just a budgeting system, it’s got principles that help you figure out which style of budgeting works for you and it helps you save so that you are spending last month’s paycheck, and saving one for emergencies. Really, it’s fabulous.

    bonita of A Riding Habit


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