Last century I used to use Quicken to track my expenses and income down to the cent, but I haven't done so for about ten years (although one of my goals for 2008 is to start doing it again, mainly to make my tax returns a bit easier to complete). That meant that I was able to get an accurate view of a year's income and expenses and make a pretty accurate budget for the following year. However, these days I manage without having any formal budget (at least I haven't written one down on paper for years) as everything is running more or less on autopilot, I have sufficient sources of funds available to manage any peaks and troughs in income or expenses, and I know my overall spending for the year will be won't throw out my savings plan.
How do I know that my spending will be in control, without using any budget? By living a very boring, predictable lifestyle (some would say, contented and stable). I have relatively fixed expenses on rates, utilities, travel etc. and we tend to eat the same things for breakfast and lunch (I bring lunch from home, although DW tends to eat out a bit more often), and randomly cycle through a selection of fairly simple home-cooked meals for dinner. For entertainment I generally watch free-to-air TV, browse the web, or read investment books from the local library (or while browsing in a book store). We also spend some time gardening, or travelling to the local parks and beaches, and I don't have a lot of free time anyhow since I'm busy with the kids and doing some part-time study by distance education. Of course this only works because we don't make any 'spur of the moment' purchases, and we don't spend anything on restaurants, movies etc. and don't do much (any) "entertaining" such as dinner parties. It also helps that I'd previously accumulated a whole lot of "toys" (camera, video, telescope, scuba gear, skis, mountain bike etc.) over many, many years, so that I now have a garage packed full of "stuff" to play with whenever the mood strikes (and I have any spare time!). Since I don't even have any room to store more "stuff" if I did buy it, it's quite easy to just go window shopping and ignore any pangs of temptation to buy a new shiny, plaything.
Copyright Enough Wealth 2007