The Uncomfortable Budgeter

the reluctant budgeter

Several weeks ago, I was the guest blogger at Lark and Bloom.  I wrote about my adventure into the world of budgeting and my journey of becoming a budgeter.  Well, a reluctant budgeter.

After a month of trial and error, I have some things to share in the coming days, but in case you missed it, here is the guest post, which served as an unofficial kickoff to the series.

Go to Lark and Bloom to read my original post, or check it out below.  Well, go to Lark and Bloom anyways.  You’ll find it to be one of the most genuine, kind and all-around interesting blogs written by an equally genuine, kind and gosh-darn interesting person, Elizabeth.

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Everyone, meet Sarah Warren! I am beyond happy to share the first of several guest posts for An Uncomfortable January. Sarah has been a friend of mine since college. We were freshman who were equally obsessed with Jane Austen, fine china and bowls of pad thai.  She went on to get her masters in writing and now writes at The Accidental Okie.  This means that she sees the hundreds of grammatical mistakes I make on my blog & loves me anyway. Sarah also is the one who did the design for Lark & Bloom, for which I am eternally grateful. Give her a big Lark & Bloom welcome & join in her discomfort.

Sarah- The Accidental Okie and Uncomfortable Budgeter.

I’m on an uncomfortable journey: learning to budget.  Let’s not mince words.  I hate it.  I’m growing to embrace it, but I still mostly hate it.

A combination of being a stereotypical creative right brainer, not excelling at numbers, and hanging on to hefty emotional baggage led me to pass off budgeting responsibilities to my husband.

Last semester he started teaching a college class for extra income. That’s on top of being a high school science teacher.  He didn’t have time to do the budget anymore.  It was ignored for a few months and gross overspending ensued.  I needed to take something off his plate and we realized the person spending the money really should be the one setting the budget.  Since I do all our shopping, I was the natural, albeit reluctant, choice.

I’ve already had a few successes and failures, which I’ll be documenting on my blog over the coming months, but here is a preview of what I’m learning in this uncomfortable journey.

Tackle Demons

For several years of my childhood from middle school to the first year of high school, we were poor.  To this day, thrift stores and canned soup literally cause my heart to beat faster as I momentarily relive those meager days.

Most people walk into a thrift store and think about cool vintage finds.  I remember the year I had to buy my new school clothes at a thrift store and nothing fit my awkward mid-puberty body correctly.  I remember having to work three weeks of babysitting jobs after a friend stole my graphing calculator because she thought it would be funny.  I remember my friends asking why we always had the exact same groceries, and me never telling them that we stood in line for our box of groceries every week at the food bank.

For me, budgeting equaled counting pennies, which equaled feeling all those things again.

When I think about budgeting, I think about my parents arguing about money.  Any time my husband brought up the budget, I was sure he was mad at me.  Our monthly budgeting meetings consisted of him trying to talk and me defensively evading every question.  Not super productive.

The practical steps of setting up a budget are important, but for me identifying and dealing with my own junk and establishing new ways of thinking have been equally necessary.  In my soul searching, I realized I’ve been more secure overspending than budgeting because if I could overspend, it meant I wasn’t helpless like before.

Seek Wisdom

I’m not doing this alone.  Once a week I meet with a mentor at Barnes and Noble.  Pat and her husband’s life story revolves around coming out of major debt, and now they enjoy helping young couples avoid the traps they found themselves in.  We drink coffee, pore over my budget, look at spread sheets and share tips – well, she shares tips with me and I write them down.  Bottom line – if I was doing this alone, I probably already would have given up and gone back to my old ways.

It seems that no matter the uncomfortable journey you find yourself on, there is someone who has wisdom to share.

These days, I’m a reluctant budgeter.  Maybe someday I won’t be so reluctant.  It seems the only way to get from here to there is to continue on this uncomfortable journey.  I might even go shopping at a thrift store by the end of it all.


If you have any budgeting tips, I’m all ears!


  1. Rhonda Farris aka Mom! says:

    I am humbled and proud of you. I suppose that is why I don’t like thrift stores either.

  2. I’m reluctant budget. Let me tell girl you are not alone. I feel the same like you. Reading your story I felt reflective in a mirror. I had poor childhood too and I have a math teacher and yes he made all the budget too because I overspend. And now he is about to finish his master degree in Adult Education. He so busy, his classes, full time job and his charge on church. Hardly have time for himself and we have a 13 yrs old boy and 3 yrs old. And learning budgeting too. Thanks for share your experience with us. Read about I’m not the only one in this word having this problem make me feel I’m not along and I can get wisdom answer and suggestion from you… Like me others women in my church can learn from you… Once again thanks from me and my women’s church…

  3. Sarah,
    I stumbled upon your blog after searching on Pinterest for budget binder ideas. I found this post and I just have no words. I could have written the part about budget talks with my husband, only mine has reached the point where he just can’t take it anymore. I NEVER equated my budget issues with past issues, except that I never really learned to manage money at home. But it is so true when I think about it, I overspend because I can, because I’m not being deprived when I can buy what we “need” or want. I have a lot more to ponder, but I just had to comment and tell you how much I appreciate this post. And all of your budget posts and cute printables. And the sushi salad idea, that is brilliant!

    • Sarah Warren says:

      I’m so glad that my post blessed you. I found even in writing that blog post that I realized deeper things in my heart when it came to difficulties with talking about finances and budgeting. It’s still hard, but I’m getting better both at managing money and separating past emotions and experiences from present realities. Thanks for commenting and stopping by, and I hope you try the sushi salad. It’s yummy!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this, and the printables on your blog. I’m just getting started and this is already immensely helpful.

  5. Just wondering…. how much cash do you allot yourself per week to start out with? I’m new to budgeting also and am not sure what a reasonable amount is to start off with?

  6. Sarah Warren says:

    Hi Erin – that’s really going to be different for everyone. For instance, I am gluten intolerant, so our food budget is a lot higher than some people’s. But my husband and I work close to home, so our gas bill is lower. Here’s how we started though: I went through and guessed how much I needed for each category, making sure our budget ended with zero dollars left over for the month (savings is one of the budget items), and then I went through the recommended percentages to see if we were close on each percentage. Some were on the high end, but others were on the low end. So that’s a starting point. Try it for a month or two realizing that you are probably going to fail. You’ll realize – whoa, I go to Starbucks a lot more than I thought or maybe you’ll realize that you legitimately need to raise your grocery budget. By trying and letting yourself shuffle things around for a few months, you’ll find your sweet spot! Congratulations on starting this exciting journey!


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