I failed to meet my pledge this year due to poor budgeting. In this post, I explain what I think happened and how I plan to avoid similar problems in the future.
I wrote this post because I felt like I owed the community something for missing my pledge, and I thought others in a similar situation might benefit from this -- I can easily imagine others running into this kind of problem.
What happened this year
I'm not great with budgeting in my personal life. This is my single biggest problem with meeting my pledge. This year, it bit me especially hard, and I expect to fail to meet my pledge for the year.
There were a few things I wanted to do that were expensive, time-limited, and really "fun" -- not necessary to stay alive, but part of what makes my life worth living. Some friends of mine had weddings that I wanted to fly to, dress well for, and buy presents for, and there were a couple of other events that I expected to be really fulfilling in a similar way. I'm in my late 20s, and passing these things up just felt too painful to me -- I don't know when I'll get these opportunities again. I don't think this is an excuse for failing my pledge, just a reality of my financial situation that I didn't realize early enough. I didn't have enough in my normal monthly "fun" budget to cover these expenses.
The plan was to borrow against future months' budgets to finance these fun things. I would spend less on fun in later months of the year, and use that money to pay pledges I'd missed (and to catch up on paying off my debts).
This plan didn't work. I might have been able to make it work by (1) figuring out how much I'd have to give each month and how much I'd have to put into my debts to catch up, and (2) setting aside part of each paycheck to pledge / pay debts, but I didn't do that.
At this stage, I haven't put aside enough money to expect to hit my pledge this year without creating serious problems in my life. This sucks.
How I'm fixing it
I'm not explicitly planning for now to catch up on my pledge -- effectively, I'm declaring bankruptcy on the pledges I've missed. I found it too daunting to figure out how to make this work, and I expect to lose more future pledges if I don't stabilize now. Assuming I stabilize, I might revisit this and try to catch up on my pledge in the future, but I'm not making promises there.
I've created a new budget category, "Fun savings". The purpose of this category is to save against future expensive, time-limited things that I'm not realistically going to pass up.
I've also created a new procedure that I'll follow on the first of each month:
- Pay my pledge and my debts.
- Leave housing, monthly costs, and monthly fun budget in checking.
- Transfer the remainder to savings.
The effect of step 3 is to move this month's fun savings and anything unspent last month into fun savings. When special, time-sensitive, expensive "fun" things show up -- I expect most of these to be travel, because most other things can just be deferred until I've saved up for them -- I'll dip into fun savings to finance them.