About two weeks after delivering my littlest little one (and by littlest, I mean my youngest… at 10 lb 6 oz, she was actually my biggest) I put away my maternity clothes. I boxed them up and stacked the boxes in our enormous wall of boxes in the kids room (Have I ever mentioned that we have zero closets in our basement abode? True story.).
Now before you start getting jealous, I’ll make it very clear that my regular clothes still didn’t fit. Not even close. Of course I was tired of my maternity wardrobe, but that wasn’t my main motivator to box the clothes. My idea was that limiting my wardrobe would motivate me to get in gear and make my regular clothes fit again. I decided that I would just wear non-maternity clothes with elastic waistbands until my regular clothes fit. That meant mostly skirts. Long, flowy peasant-style skirts. No jeans. Or any pants for that matter.
Fast forward three months: Did it work? Nope! I just got comfortable in my elastic waistband skirts and went along with life. I didn’t change my habits at all. Not surprisingly (but still disappointingly) my results didn’t change.
The nice part is that my clothes didn’t punish me at all. Elastic waistbands are infinitely more forgiving than skinny jeans. The bad part is that I didn’t make any progress getting back to my normal pre-baby size. A flexible benchmark gave no motivation or accountability.
So what does this have to do with your budget?
I know you’re dying to know how this personal tidbit relates to your budget.
In clothing and budgets alike, some wiggle room is essential. After all, you still have to breathe and move in your jeans, right? And trying to stick to a un-flexible budget is a recipe for budgeting failure and a bitter hatred of all things budget.
At the same time, too much flexibility (elasticity, you could say) means too little accountability. When your waistband has so much wiggle room that you can eat whatever you want without consequences, you are not held accountable for your intake. On the budgeting front, you might have goals like saving or paying off debt, but if your budget’s elasticity can stretch to accommodate habits that contradict your goal, you aren’t being held to the standard that you created for yourself. Your budget should keep you in line to meet your goals.
In all this, you might even feel frustrated that things aren’t turning out the way you want. After all you did set a goal and want to see results. I know I was hoping that putting away my maternity clothes would magically make my body slim down to fit in my old jeans and I was frustrated when that didn’t happen.
While setting a goal and desiring to achieve it is a great start, holding yourself accountable to your budget or to the scale is essential. Elastic waistbands and wishy-washy budgets won’t do that for you. While the serious budgeter’s budget is flexible, it still adheres to a standard of accountability.
You budget might have an elastic waistband if…
- You know you can easily hide your spending (my skirts always fit no matter what I eat)
- You aren’t tracking everything
- You make excuses like “it’s just a little thing” (dollars, like calories or pounds, add up faster than you think)
- You don’t have a game plan to reach your goal (if you don’t change the behavior, don’t expect different results)
- You don’t have a way to measure your progress
- You feel comfortable instead of challenged (in a positive, motivating way) to reach your goals
If this sounds like you, it’s time to revamp your strategy and set up a budget and a system that will hold you accountable so you can make progress. Tracking your spending is a great place to start. Tracking your spending is the calorie counting of budgeting. Build a budget that focuses on your priorities and make sure it has some flexibility. Hold yourself accountable (or get someone else to help keep you in line)!
For the record, I am finally making good progress on getting back into my jeans, no thanks to the elastic waistbands. Just having a desire to wear my old clothes wasn’t enough to make it happen. I’ve made changes and held myself accountable like a boss and wouldn’t you know, I’m seeing results!
How about you?
- Does your budget have an elastic waistband that is keeping you from reaching your goals?
- How do you juggle keeping a budget flexible but still holding yourself accountable?