The Birth of Fearless Budgeting

Listen to this blog post: “I Can’t Stop Spending!” podcast, Episode 053.

I’ve decided to create a series of spending plan training podcasts because it feels like that is the most important information I can offer you right now. If you want help creating or maintaining a spending plan, this podcast series is for you. Even if you already have a spending plan, the training will be a helpful refresher and will likely provide you a with new perspectives and tips. It’s the exact same process I’ve successfully used with my one-on-one students for seven years. And there’s no charge for this podcast series.

The Birth of Fearless Budgeting

I decided to call my training podcast “Fearless Budgeting.” I wrestled with this name for months. As you may know, I despise the word budget, but I strongly believe in the act of allocating money to categories, which is the definition of budgeting. I’ll go into more detail about spending plans vs. budgets in a later episode. But “Fearless Budgeting” truly encapsulates my overriding approach … to gently take you by the hand and help you overcome your terror around facing the truth of your spending, which is a crucial first step in the process, and to ease you into a practice that will keep you clear around your money and engaged with your spending plan ongoing.

By the end of the series, you will have a spending plan foundation and you will know how to work with your spending plan ongoing. And, you can always arrange a one-on-one session with me if you need additional help. Just go to for details.

I decided to do a podcast series instead of a formal video course because the idea of creating a formal video course just filled me with dread, and I wasn’t moving forward. So, instead, I’m going to give you everything you need to know through a podcast, helpful handouts, and informal videos when necessary. Some day, I may be able to consolidate all the information into a book or a formal course, but for now, I just want to teach you what I know in the way I’m most comfortable with for you to get the most out of the training.

I’ve already started creating some informal YNAB-specific video tutorials for issues that students have needed help with. Even though the videos are specific to one piece of budgeting software, the concepts will be helpful to anyone engaged in maintaining a spending plan.

Why Haven’t You Already Done This?

Many people want to create and live by a spending plan, but can’t even get started because just the prospect of looking at the reality of their spending or opening the envelopes from creditors or the idea of working with numbers paralyzes them. Recently, I spoke with a friend who was spinning and spiraling downward because she just can’t get a grip on her spending. She said she’s great with numbers, but when it comes to creating boundaries around the dollars in her own checking account, she’s so freaked out about it that it all looks like Greek to her. So if any of this describes you, I know I can help you move past those fears.

Someone recommended that my friend look at her checking account daily to see where her money is going. At that point, I laughed, because even today, doing that without having a spending plan in place would leave me breathless and woozy. Especially today, now that I no longer compulsively spend, when I look at my checking account, I see a lot of money. Well, relatively speaking (thinking back to the days when I might have a negative balance in my account). But still, it’s a lot for me.

Seeing that pile of money sitting there would awaken the spending beast within me who would instantly come up with five different ways to spend that money IMMEDIATELY, and give me complete amnesia around the need to reserve any of those dollars for expenses.

So, no. That would not be helpful to me.

Instead, I live and breathe by the categories in my spending plan. Because my spending plan and my bank account are reconciled, which means they are accurately balanced, I can trust that the amount that is available in each category of my spending plan is really there to spend. I can’t tell you the peace of mind I feel when I see my money in these individual categories rather than in one big batch. So, for instance, I know I have $645 left to spend on groceries this month, and I can also rest easy seeing that the money for my monthly bills is sitting quietly in each of their respective categories awaiting their turn to become payments.

Of course, that’s not to say that sometimes (ok, often) I get really upset when I want something and there isn’t enough in the category, and there’s just not enough discretionary money to take from another category to satisfy my lust. But my commitment to living within my means, which for me means living by my spending plan is crucial to my continued recovery from compulsive spending. So I live through the pain of waiting to buy until I have the money to do so. Of course, I’ll talk much more about all that in the podcast.

Going from being a compulsive spender to willingly living by a spending plan is a vast undertaking. I’m not going to lie to you. It means feeling the pain of saying no to myself, feeling the torment of not being the big spender around gift giving. Oh, the first year of sober birthday and holiday gifts was agonizing to say the least.

But I learned to live with delayed gratification, which is now my blessed best friend who I must admit I sometimes fight with and want to kick out of my life. But one day at a time, she stays by my side and is most often a comfort when the demon desire to spend makes me think I’ll just expire on the spot if I don’t buy some bright and shiny object that’s come into view RIGHT NOW but I don’t have the money to buy it. I’ll be covering this topic in depth in the podcast as well.

And by the way, you don’t have to be in debt to experience this level of pain. Don’t be fooled that you’re not really a compulsive spender just because you haven’t debted. I’ve known compulsive spenders who were in no danger of debting because plenty of money flows in. But it’s the pain of the powerlessness, chasing after the next purchase, and the next purchase, and the next purchase, and never ever being satisfied, that is exhausting them, draining their time and energy, destroying their peace of mind, and ruining their life and relationships. The destruction caused by the behavior is just as deadly no matter which side of the coin you find yourself.

So Why Do You Need a Spending Plan?

Compulsive spenders are generally undisciplined. Maybe you are highly disciplined in other areas of your life, but I’ve yet to meet any active compulsive spender who isn’t all over the place when it comes to money, and I know many compulsive spenders in recovery who still find their finances overwhelming and messy.

The reason for that has inevitably been that they still lacked clarity around their spending and debt. And I’ve found that people are sometimes confused about the difference between tracking their spending and living by a spending plan.

When people say they “track their numbers,” it means that every time you buy something, you write down what you bought and how much you spent. It’s a necessary component to figuring out the truth about your spending, but it’s only the first step in a three part process and, by itself, it won’t give you the truly healing clarity you can have around your spending. For instance, if I just track my numbers, I can easily:

  • Spend money that I need for rent to go to a concert because I forgot about the rent being due, and I don’t get paid again in time to avoid a late fee.
  • Overdraw my checking account if I don’t keep track of the available balance.

It’s crucial to develop a method to know before you spend money whether you can afford to buy the item. That’s what a spending plan does for you. And that’s the second step of the process. And by the way, I’ll be teaching you all the budgeting tasks you may find confusing, like reconciling with your bank account, and give you step-by-step instructions around how to accomplish them. You’ll understand this process clearly and have a method to do this simply and easily.

But what you need the support of others for is to help you get willing to live by the reality of how much money is available for what you want to purchase and to teach you how to live with the discomfort of saying no when you can’t afford it. And that’s the third step of the process … without which the other two steps are unlikely to keep you from compulsively spending for long.

It’s like building a house. One part of the process is gathering all the materials for your new home (tracking your numbers). Another part is putting up the walls and creating the interior design (creating and living by a spending plan). Your new home could be gorgeous to look at, but without the crucial third piece – a strong foundation (recovery from the addiction) – your house will be easily destroyed.

Not a Cure for Compulsive Spending

So here’s the hard truth. A spending plan won’t cure you of compulsive spending. But if you’re like me, you already know this is true. Just think about how many books, courses, and spending plan software or templates you’ve already tried and abandoned.

Through the Fearless Budgeting training course, I’m going to walk with you through the process of creating a spending plan, and help you continue in clarity around your spending. Because I’ve been where you are, I can help you address the fear and anxiety you experience around this process in a way the financial gurus can’t. And I know how to teach you the technical side of budgeting in a way that is simple and easy. So I want you to feel hopeful and positive that you can accomplish this.

But, I also need to share my belief that it’s imperative to include some form of recovery work around the addiction to succeed with any spending plan process. The part that I can’t help you with, the part that no budgeting expert can teach you, is how to recover from that seemingly hopeless state of mind and body that is compulsive spending; to discover what will work for you to get you willing to say no when the demon inside of you is screaming YES!

One thing I know for certain, trying to do this with no network of support is least likely to work. So I urge you to find others who are walking this path with you. My path was through the 12 Steps. But there are many avenues to recovery from compulsive spending. I do recommend that you try six Debtors Anonymous meetings. They have phone meetings worldwide every single day as well as many in-person meetings. And there is absolutely no cost to join. Plus, you don’t have to be in debt to benefit from that program. And you will find a network of support waiting for you with open arms.

But if that program just doesn’t speak to you, try Underearners Anonymous or Recoveries Anonymous. And if the 12 Step model just isn’t your cup of tea, know that there are lots of other programs around, like SMART recovery, and even therapists specializing in compulsive spending. Just Google “Compulsive Spending Help.”

But, a word of caution: if you do find a a therapist, group, or program that costs money, please be very careful not to pay more than you can afford. And research it well to ensure you will find the help you need. I once heard a wonderful expression at a meeting – Do not mistake temptation for opportunity. So please keep that in mind when “shopping” for a recovery program. In my experience, if it causes you to overspend or debt, it’s most likely temptation. And for me, the best network was one comprised of other compulsive spenders.

Having said all that, you can still benefit from the Fearless Budgeting Training program because you will be given the step-by-step instructions and emotional support you need to move forward to create your spending plan, which is a crucial tool for every compulsive spender. Even if you find yourself back at square one down the road, once you’ve gone through this process, you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off with your spending plan without having to start from scratch.

And even if you aren’t in recovery yet, if you feel ready to move forward with Fearless Budgeting, you may find it’s just the push you need to propel you into recovery from compulsive spending.

Timeline and a User Group

I expect to start posting the Fearless Budgeting podcasts by February. If you want to receive a notification when the podcast is up and running or to receive each episode through email, you can sign up at Fearless Budgeting. And it will also be available on iTunes and Stitcher.

I’m going to create a user group so you can ask me questions as you go through the training and to, hopefully, provide an additional network of support for students. Most likely, that’s where the course handouts will be located. If you sign up, you’ll get a notification when the group opens up and when there are handouts.

I’m offering this training at no charge to you, but I do believe in its value. Many who have gone through the program continue to work with the spending plan they developed using the Fearless Budgeting system.

But I’m sure you realize that there are significant monthly costs associated with producing the podcast and videos, which includes domain hosting, software, mp3 file storage, and more. So at any point, if you find the training helpful, please consider making a donation of $1 or more to support the podcast. Go to I would really appreciate your help.

I’m excited to start on this journey with you. Please, please, leave me your comments or questions below.

And don’t be afraid. It’s really going to be easier than you think.

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