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Hope and Fake Budgets

I have a master spreadsheet of life. That’s really what I call it. And it’s right up there with my little black book in the category of “I get sweaty palms if I can’t get to it”. It contains my day to day expense tracking, monthly budget/spending summaries, rough net worth calculation, CD ladder tracking, any exercises I am working on (wants vs. needs or dog spending), birthdays, christmas lists, a tab titled ‘worst case scenario’, and other fake budgets. It sounds sort of fancy. It’s not. It’s one big excel spreadsheet, with a bunch of tabs labelled and organized to my liking.


There are a lot of pro’s and con’s to running your Financial Empire this way. Probably more con’s than I’m even aware of. I’ve been doing it thus since I cleaned up my act. For me, it works. One of the big reasons why, is because its flexible. Let’s back up to ‘worst case scenario’ and ‘excercises’ for a minute.

There is a very small, minute, ever so slight chance that circumstances could be changing. It’s so slight I don’t even want to broach an announcement. There are one million and one ways in which this could fall through. I don’t want to jinx it. I don’t want to think about jinxing it. Crap! I just did. I don’t want to count chickens before they are hatched, put eggs in one basket, or participate in any other potentially damning bird metaphors. What I do want to do is keep my mouth shut (very hard for me), and plot and plan and scheme with my little spreadsheet.

This could very well be a false alarm. But if it were perhaps, maybe, at all possible that this could occur, it would involve a change in income. A downward change in income. Not so far downward as to necessitate two jobs. More a budgetary adjustment. A welcome budgetary adjustment. So welcome, that I’d like to start it now. Looping us back around to those exercises and the one spreadsheet to rule them all.

Before I took The Leap, I created the ‘worst case scenario’ tab. I knew we could survive my gargantuan jump. Moreover, because we were talking worst case scenario here, I knew we could survive if all hell broke loose (which it did). I never realized how hard it would be to maintain, but survival in numbers in boxes on screens, it existed. The Big Fat Mortgage would be paid. The lights would stay on. Dogs would remain fed. Running those numbers served me well. I went back to them time and time again. When things were out of whack, review the the numbers. It was assurance that we can do this, and here’s how. Taking the time to build in those savings, expenses and even a fudge factor saved my bacon. It wasn’t perfect. There were still bumps in the road, pot holes, and freaking craters. Nevertheless, it was a solid base that kept The Empire a-standing.

My big mistake was not actually living it beforehand.

Ooops. All my shoulda, coulda, woulda’s in that scenario. I should have started living on The Pet Store income before I was actually making Pet Store income. Then I could have put away a bunch of extra money. This would have given me even more of a cushion and a practice run at living that life. I like to think I still would have left. (I would have.) Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bucket of cold water. Maybe. I’d like to find out this time around (assuming there is a this time around).

Under these circumstances I return to the master spreadsheet of life. I make another tab. What should I call it? Fingers Crossed? Hopes and Dreams and For the Love of All that is Holy? Generics probably better. The point is, I take our approximate income if this marvelous thing were to happen. I tweak how our expenses would change to the best of my ability. I’ve done all this before, I’m good at this part. Now though, now I make this my working budget. Harder, that.

I’ve updated direct deposit information to siphon off the difference between what our income is and what it would be in this scenario. I could set it aside myself, but I don’t even want to see that ‘extra’. Once it’s in a savings account, it very unlikely I’ll touch it. I want to live like we dont have a two income requirement. I’m going to employ all my best acting poor skills. Before we actually have to. If we get the chance. If. If. If.

And if not, well then… I’ll be sad. I admit it. The extra money tucked away will probably help soften the blow.

How do you prepare for big life changes? What mental games do you play to trick yourself into living below your means?

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Gillian @ Money After Graduation

It’s such a good idea to be prepared for what might come — I awill keep my fingers crossed for your “Fingers Crossed” scenario :)


Thank you for the finger crossing. I certainly hope I am preparing for what’s to come.

Kimberly C

Fingers crossed for you! 😀 I am really interested in spreadsheet’ing my finances, as I like spreadsheets and it’d probably be a good influence on me towards being more conscientious about my money spending. But, I’m totally stumped about how to make something workable that is not overwhelmingly complex. Do you itemize everything? Is it more a running tally of totals divided by purpose? Do you keep last months/years data to compare to?


More finger crossing! Hooray! Thanks.

My spreadsheet could certainly be more complex. Excel expert, I am not. Yes, I keep historical data to compare to. The bulk of it is really just check register in excel, which is a record of most everything we spend, including credit card transactions. Then I do a monthly summary tab, with totals for each category for the month and projections for the new month.

It could be prettier – more ‘ like’. I hate mint though. Its overly complex and I can customize it to the level I want to. So I stick with the spreadsheet of life.


It’s really encouraging to see that you’re so excited about a smaller budget. Your whole blog in general is a celebration of living on less that’s not yet common in this country, but this post specifically just made me smile. I really hope this change comes around for you :)


“A celebration of living on less”. I love that! Thank you Steph! If that’s what my blog is, then wow. You are right though, it’s not common. If I talk about these things in real life, a whiskey tango foxtrot moment with the listener usually ensues. Most people just do not get it. Except us. 😉


I am falling in love with your blog because it’s genuine and practical with lots of honest insight.

Your spreadsheet sounds much better than my simple monthly budget in a table. I try very hard to stay in my budget. I have savings I can dip into and a money pad (left over money every month), but this doesn’t make me feel secure.

I don’t look often at the worst case scenario but it does happen and actually last month was my worst ever with the necessary purchases of a new tire, a new car battery, change of transmission fluid and new brakes, an unexpected bill, and unexpected medical expenses.

I now have on “the waiting list” my next haircut, the dog’s next haircut, and my next oil change.

Anyway, I make my pennies squeal. I look hard at the “needs” versus “wants” but it still doesn’t always work.


You guys are killing me with these comments! In a good way. :) Thank you Laura, that means a lot.

I love the idea of making your pennies squeal. And no, it doesn’t always work. That’s ok. At least around here it is.

Sounds like you navigated your worst case scenario pretty damn well. If all you’ve got on your waiting list is haircuts and oil changes, good for you! The lights are on. The car is running. Important things = covered. Nice work!

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