Dealing with guilt

Hi all,

I've been eyeing YNAB for a long time and finally pulled the trigger this weekend.  The process of setting up my budget has been eye opening to say the least.  I'm dealing with a lot of embarrassment and guilt over being the primary reason that our family is in the situation we are in, and for not having a true sense of our finances for so long.  While I know I need to be an adult and pull up the bootstraps and take responsibility and all that, I'm fighting with the emotional side effects of this process.  I know the best approach is to learn from my mistakes and keep pushing forward, but I could use some words of encouragement, and I need help to create a mindset of positivity instead of dwelling excessively and unhelpfully on my previous mistakes.  I've done some searching around the forums but haven't seen too much around the emotional/psychological aspects of starting this process.

Can anyone point me towards posts or threads that talk about getting past this?  I really think I just need a little push to get out of this funk...and while I'm a bit sheepish about asking for mental help on a budgeting forum, part of what got me into this situation is that I tend NOT to ever ask for help.  And once things get uncomfortable I tend to move into denial mode.

So, if you have any suggestions for reading, or maybe just a quote that will serve as a positive kick in the rear, I'd appreciate anything you might have to share.


12replies Oldest first
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Active threads
  • Popular
  • Sherry, I think it's normal for YNAB to stir up those feelings.

    Here's why, in particular: without using YNAB, it's so easy to look into your checking account and feel like, "That's enough money to buy the thing I want right now." There's no real sense that you're literally taking that money away from another responsibility, because you haven't assigned responsibilities (aka jobs) to any of your money beyond the most urgent bills.

    Then along comes YNAB and it hits you with a brutal dose of the truth. It says, "You thought you had some money? Well, you don't. You don't even have enough to make it through the month."

    That was true even before YNAB, but you couldn't see it. And so you couldn't do anything about it. This isn't your fault; it's just what happens when you don't have any system that gives you an honest view of your money. There's nothing you can do about the past, and blaming yourself is unlikely to do anything to help you make better decisions. From here on out, you've got YNAB to help. One of the ways it helps is by giving you little nudges every time you look at it (and when you're getting started, I recommend looking multiple times a day). At first you will hate being reminded how constrained your spending is. That's normal too. But those little nudges can be really powerful, and once you get a few wins (making it to payday without overspending, for example), you might even start to enjoy them.

    Best of luck with everything.

    Like 3
    • mamster Just the right dose of objective reality and optimism that I needed.  And thank you for the tip to look multiple times a day.  I was thinking that I shouldn't try to look at it TOO much, but  it will probably be easier on me in the long run if I can desensitize myself to it early on.  

      I appreciate you taking the time to reply!

  • Sherry- I can empathize. I spent the last several months talking about how I need to get back on a budget, and each time I sat down to really crunch the numbers, I would get scared, frustrated, and procrastinate finishing the exercise. I would justify not having a budget by saying that I had some "big-picture" things right: that I was fully funding my 401-k, had refinanced my student loans and was actually starting to make a dent in them, that I was keeping my housing costs relatively low for the area in which I live. But, despite all of this, I would log onto my credit card's website at the end of the month and consistently be surprised by how much higher the bill was than I thought it would be. But then I would tell myself that it wasn't so bad, because I could dig into my modest savings account to cover the shortfall, and that I would just pay myself back when I got a work bonus or income tax refund. It became a game of shuffling money around and always managing to pay the bills, but not really getting ahead.

    I was living on next month's income and telling myself that it wasn't a problem because at least I was earning plenty of credit card rewards. I am embarrassed to admit that for quite a while, I thought that I didn't have time to devote to budgeting, due to working long hours. I would read budgeting blogs and feel ashamed that as a single person without children, I seemed to be spending significantly more than a small family on food. I would get off a long phone call at work where I had just explained a complex concept to a client and then feel like an idiot when I checked my credit card statement during my lunch break and was helplessly unable to put together how I had so grossly underestimated my spending for the month. And it bothered me greatly that I was always surprised by my spending, as if it were something passive that happened to me instead of something active in which I had taken part.

    I made the decision to finally take control of things just last week when I downloaded YNAB on free trial. I'm not a seasoned user with a great success story, but rather am a newbie just as you are. I spent a good part of this weekend feeling emotional and frustrated while watching tutorials, reading these forums, and setting up my budget. I'm not sure what to expect but even if I fall short of some of my goals, at least I am moving in the right direction. And so are you by admitting that you want to take action. That's really the most important step. It looks like there's great advice all over these forums that we'll probably both find useful as we go on this journey to taking control over our finances. Just wanted to let you know that you're not alone! Best of luck to you.

    Like 2
    • Slate Blue Pilot Our stories are definitely similar.  I can relate to wondering why I was so surprised at seeing my tiny account balances when I knew I'd just gotten paid two days before...having forgotten that car loans and mortgages come out around the same time.  I also spent the weekend in YNAB webinars and tutorials and I'm pretty exhausted this morning from all that I've had to absorb about my spending. 

      I was reminded of a quote this morning: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."  So as much as I'd like to shove my head back in the sand in a lot of ways, at least we both have a chance of looking back and being glad that we started now, even if it seems like it's "too late."

      Thank you for taking the time to make me feel a bit less alone!

      Like 2
  • This is all about changing behavior. Here's a few quotes depending upon how much of a kick you need at the time:

    "Suck it up, Buttercup!".  Use this quote for those days when you're really feeling low and need to just get back on an even keel. Hopefully you don't have to use this one a lot.

    "'Twas I, but ’tis not I." (As You Like It, act 4  scene 2 - Shakespeare)  Use this quote to help remind yourself that what happened in the past does not dictate how you act now or in the future. I recommend this quote daily for a while.

    And finally, for those times at the end of a day, week, or month when you beat your budget and it didn't beat you: "We came, we saw, we kicked its A.." (GhostBusters - Bill Murray).

    Like 1
    • Turquoise Sun These are great, thank you!   I can see myself using all of them, but I  particularly like the Shakespeare.  I’ll be putting that one up where I can see it every day.

  • Hi, upright_ostrich  (I just love that user name! 🙂)

    Could've, Should've, Would've......  we all have those thoughts.  I could be retired by now, I should have bought a house with that money...

    I think that a little regret when looking back is normal and a fairly common theme.  As you move forward and deal with any outstanding issues, plan for the future, and corral all your stray habits, the overwhelming (and inaccurate) sense of having doomed yourself through past ignorance will diminish.

    Like 1
    • HappyDance Thank you!  You comment and these others are giving me a huge boost.  It makes such a difference, thank you!

      Like 1
  • Kudos to you for pulling the trigger! Clearly you are not alone in feeling some remorse for things in the past. I too am new to YNAB and feel foolish for allowing myself to get back in the red after working hard to avoid it and get out of it years ago. So often we get caught up in the day-to-day moments, just surviving the hour, the day, the week and thus, we are not really able to see the forest for the trees. Suddenly we look up and realize months have passed and we've just been scraping by. I think that is one of my favorite parts of YNAB, it lets us (forces us to? 🙄) actually SEE THE FOREST. Maybe you don't like how it looks right now, but at least you are looking! And now you can be honest with yourself moving forward. My other favorite thing about YNAB is 'spend the money you have now'. What happened before doesn't matter, just do what you can with what you've got today and keep moving in the right direction - always keeping an eye on that forest - and you'll generally be better off than you were at the beginning! 

    Don't ever feel afraid to ask for help here - money or mental - isn't that what these forums are for, after all? 🙂


    Like 2
    • Jen Wilson Hi Jen - and thank you for your reply.  This process is scary but it helps to know 1. that other people are or have gone through these emotions and 2. there is a silver lining to this huge, sobering dose of reality.  I know that ultimately, no matter what I discover, what comes from this experience is up to me. I know it's time to take responsibility, and yes, maybe I should feel a little bad about it for a while...but I know that wallowing in self-loathing and feeling bad is just not productive.  Actually doing something feels much better, really.  I really appreciate your comments to keep me mentally moving in the right direction with this.

  • hey upright_ostrich  im in the same boat you are. Ive been telling myself for months i need to setup a budget but i felt so overwhelmed by everything i kept putting it off. I finally downloaded this and I think it will take me a few days, maybe even a week or so to really get a grasp on everything and all the concepts of assigning jobs to your money.

    • Purple Octopus I’m a week in and still feeling a bit guilty and overwhelmed, but honestly I’m also feeling more empowered.  I may not like what I’m finding out, but gaining understanding is helping me feel like I can develop a plan.


      Good luck to you as you figure this out, too!

Like2 Follow
  • 2 yrs agoLast active
  • 12Replies
  • 758Views
  • 7 Following