I’ve Officially Entered the Dark Side of Budgeting….

Cracking under stress I’m taking a break from budgeting.

Yes, you read that correctly. No, this does not mean I will be heading out on any mindless shopping sprees.

For the past four weeks, I’ve been caught in a vortex of incessant number crunching. Perhaps it’s my way to exuding control over situations that are clearly out of my control (ahem…job searching…), or perhaps it’s because I don’t feel confident that something great is going to come along anytime soon. Hell, it could even be a mix of the two plus other factors I haven’t quite figured out..

Regardless, I’ve been crunching numbers daily in an effort to ease my no-longer-subconscious anxiety over this transitional period. And quite simply, I’m driving myself crazy.

I’ve realized that I’ve entered a stage of budget-related stress that I’ve never felt before. For the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out how I went from happily setting my monthly budget and monitoring my spending to obsessing over every penny spent multiple times throughout the day. As someone who has worked tirelessly to instill a sense of balance into my efforts, I know that I’ve officially entered the Dark Side of budgeting.

What is the Dark Side of budgeting?

For me, it’s clear that I’ve entered the Dark Side of budgeting because I’m obsessed with every.single.cent. Every decision I make–despite a seeming lack of connection to money on the surface–has everything to do with my budget. Worst of all, my sleep has been horrendous because I’m having nightmares about paying bills, draining savings, and my Excel sheet (even though I have ample savings and have yet to touch it!). The Dark Side of budgeting is a realm where you’re not really focused on your budget–you’re obsessed with it to the point of feeling paralyzed.

Some signs you’ve entered the Dark Side of budgeting

  1. You’re turning down opportunities to spend time with friends because you fear they’ll require spending money (I even turned down a walk around a local pond; I was certain I’d get roped into lunch, etc. and wouldn’t go)
  2. You’re calculating your next grocery purchase as you prepare your lunch (Don’t use two tomatoes–save the other one for dinner!)
  3. Most horrendously, you’re looking over your budget sheet at least 2 times/day even though the numbers clearly haven’t changed….
  4. When you even think of the word budget, you physically feel stressed


How to re-emerge from the Dark Side of budgeting

  1. Take a break
  2. Close the bank account web browser tabs, shut down the computer, hide the checkbook
  3. Make your break long enough so you’re able to clearly identify what’s really bothering you
  4. Create a plan to overcome whatever anxiety is leading you to feel so stressed out
  5. Follow the plan, but keep your spending in check–this is not a time to go into “head in the sand” mode!
  6. Get out of the house, exercise, spend time with friends, etc. The key is to give your mind a complete break from the budget mindset
  7. Re-assess and make necessary tweaks until you’re able to return to your normal budgeting habits


The actions above are exactly what I’ll be doing. While circumstances may very well change this week (I’m waiting on the official offer package for the 10 interview job!), I still need to give myself this opportunity to decompress from all things related to numbers–aside from potential salary negotiations…wahoo!

While this certainly won’t be an easy feat to force myself to take this break, I know it’s necessary, I’ll benefit in many ways from doing so, and  I’ll return to the budget scene rejuvenated and ready to tackle the next set of obstacles I’m faced with (or goals I’ll set).


Have you ever found yourself on the Dark Side of budgeting?
What did you do to snap out of it?


Photo credit: topgold


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Freelancer; reformed spendaholic; risk taker; adventure seeker; world traveler; rose smeller; debt destroyer. My mission is to inspire others to live a healthy, balanced life one cent at a time.


I’ve Officially Entered the Dark Side of Budgeting….38 Commentshttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.thehappyhomeowner.net%2F2012%2F06%2Five-officially-entered-the-dark-side-of-budgeting.htmlI%27ve+Officially+Entered+the+Dark+Side+of+Budgeting....2012-06-12+14%3A35%3A59Jenhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.thehappyhomeowner.net%2F%3Fp%3D722

  1. I track every penny in the sense that they all get downloaded into Quicken, but I don't worry about each and every one when it comes to spending. To me it's just not health to be that anal/obsessive/whatever other adjective fits. I save on the things I buy, but sometimes there just aren't ways around paying the full ride and when it's worth it to me, that's what I do. There has got to be some balance between saving and spending where you can enjoy life today while keeping a watchful eye on tomorrow. Otherwise, what's the point?

    • I agree! I used to be just fine with tracking things up until the job transition stuff. I know this is temporary, but I still don't want to be stuck in an unhealthy pattern for even a short period of time, hence this post/break!

  2. I don't track every penny. I just set a ball park figure, making sure to err on the high side, for every expense category in my budget and review it monthly. Using Mint, I can always drill down if any of the categories starts to balloon. Keeping a balance is a good thing. Tracking vs Obsessing right? I've been known to obsess over my website stats and adsense earnings however. LOL. Guess we all have weak areas.

    • Keeping balance is key. I just need to get through this transition phase before I can fully go back to my old system (which has worked very well for years!).

      Adsense earnings? You have those?? Hahahaha

  3. I think a break is fine once in a while. And you probably know your budget by heart anyways (or a ballpark area) so it's not likely that you'll go crazy and overspend. When I start to head over to the dark side my guy is there to pull me back. It's a good balance we generally have with each other. He makes it so I'm slightly more flexible and I make it so that he actually has a budget to adhere to!

  4. I found myself on the dark side at the beginning of last month. I was going insane thinking about our budget so the only thing I could do to get out of it was say 'who cares' and I chose not to budget for the month of May. I know we overspent on some things but in the end it was worth it to recollect myself so I could start June refreshed and not so obsessed

  5. I don't keep a budget. I have a BUNCH of rules on spending, and I automate my bill payments (except student loans, I like doing those manually) so I occasionally check in on my spreadsheet, but I find freedom in not having a budget. I found that my budget was just a tool to make me feel guilty for "going over" in some categories.

    • Sounds like you have a great system. I don't usually feel any guilt as I've designed my budget to be a fluid document that's always changing (basically, as long as I don't go over the total amount of income coming in for any month, I don't really care how the categories break down & I'm happy to switch it up mid-month if needed)–it's just that this job stuff really has thrown me for a loop!

      I do love that you have spending rules–I have some too that definitely help me stay in check!

  6. I can definitely relate to this! I'm not taking a break from budgeting but I am taking a break from obsessively checking our accounts. We recently changed our passwords and I haven't memorized them, so I "can" only log into our accounts on our desktop, which I don't even do every day (big accomplishment!).

    I'm crossing my fingers for your job offer!

    • Hahaha…love it!!!

      Well, I got it! I accepted the offer yesterday so as long as I pass their background check stage, I'm good to go!!! Until it's 100% I might not believe it considering how nutty the last month has been…haha!

    • Exactly!!! It's super temporary until I know more about my next job (accepted the offer yesterday–just need to wait until paperwork is complete!).

      That picture *cracked* me up…hahaha :p

  7. LOL I've done #2. I think just putting on your sneakers and getting out of the house for a walk…or any kind of nature is a good idea. Helps you feel grateful and connected, and sometimes you just need to get away from the computer! I know I do anyway.

  8. You have to keep your sanity… Sometimes a break is needed.

    Even without counting every penny, I know you have already instilled some good habits and wont get into any trouble.

  9. "The Dark Side." I love it. I can feel Darth Budget summoning…. I have to remind myself that budgeting is about being able to save and achieve my goals. If I'm on track on my goal plan, I'll go ahead and eat both tomatoes.

  10. These tips will actually help me, because I too have gone over to the Dark Side of Budgeting. The methods that have worked for me so far is going out on no-spending dates with myself. These dates usually entail going to my local park or just simply walking for hours. I've also spent some time at the 2-dollar movie theater in my community, and this has served as an escape. Lastly, I check my bank accounts only occasionally for my financial savings standing.

  11. I ration food like that also. I try o get by with a little less than the measurement calls for in order to stretch my food.

    I amglqdyou are taking a break, it's good for your mental health.

  12. This post describes exactly how I've been feeling lately. Like you, I've had to step away from the budget. It was driving me batty staring at excel every day, stressing about the tiniest purchase. Sometimes you just have to take a breather.

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  15. I love the grocery shopping reference! That's totally me :-) tho I have a family of 4 to buy for. Stinks about the BoA story. Sorry. A guy I knew had a similar problem at an HSBC.

  16. I would say I'm on a break right now. This month is full of big changes and I don't really have the time (nor do I want) to track every penny. I still check my bank account almost daily and am aware of where my money is going… but this month, I just need my dollars and cents to work with me and not worry about me trying to work with them!

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