This is not financial advice. Just my opinion and experience.
I've never used a budget in my entire life. That is, I've never written down expense categories and allocated a specific amount of funds to each category. I've also never been in debt. My family and I live a modest lifestyle and don't lack the things we need and many of the things we want.
I find that the idea of having a written down budget can help SOME people, but can be a roadblock to financial success for others. Allow me to explain. I don't use a budget because my reasoning tells me that being as efficient with my money and not allowing a feeling of materialistic greed to control me is the best way to go. If I had a set amount of funds for each expense category, I might feel COMPELLED to spend any excess each month. Instead, I focus on how to be efficient as possible and spend wisely.
I think some people who may be financially undisciplined can be hindered]\
by their budget because they think they need to spend all the money in each category each month. In that case, an ATTITUDE adjustment is needed. A better attitude would be to save any money that is leftover from necessary expenses and some luxuries.
The key to all of this is to control your SPENDING. When your spending in each area of life is controlled and efficient, the saving takes care of itself.
Yes I stick to a budget, one way is by not purchasing cable TV. We haven't had satellite cable television since 2007, that's one way to save lots of money. We watch movies and shows on Hulu or Youtube. The subscription for Hulu is $7.99 a month, they have documentaries, reality shows, game shows, cooking shows, etc.
I started drawing up and writing down a budget some 30-35 years ago, and every year I update it; sometimes later that I should have, but eventually it does get done.
I allocate moneys to cover certain expenses, and whatever is left is mine to do with as I wish. Meaning, I could leave it to accumulate and spend it all on one big thing [holiday, makeover etc. . .] or use it that month for any outing or indulgence.
I have to admit as I grew older and am less able to earn money, I have learned to discipline myself off any excess.
One way I have found useful for me [I am female] is when I see a dress, or something else that really attracts, and I am dying to go in and buy it. Of course at that time, my mind gives me plenty of reason why I should buy it.
I sush my undisciplined urge by saying to myself "Okay, okay! I shall go in and buy it - TOMORROW."
Sometimes I do and find it gone. Nothing else I see after that appeals.
Sometimes I am busy and forget all about it the next day and the next, and by that time it is often gone, or else my 'urgent need' no longer bites, so I let it go.
I had to retire early and so my income is pretty slim and I cannot afford to go crazy with spending.
To date I have managed to eat well, dress reasonably, give gifts to those I love and keep me homed in reasonable comfort.
I do jiggle the figures from one category to another at times, but I have always managed to cover all my expenses. Black and white is relentlessly imperative!
For month to month expenses, typically, though with kids, the $2000 ER expense from a misadventure comes up once in a while.
The biggest benefits of the budget are telling the kids "we have X per kid for camps for the summer, pick which camps or earn the extra money to do it", and my daughter earned $40 more to do the horseback riding she wanted and son sold several hundred dollars of camp card (coupon cards) to pay for camps he wanted. I didn't say "no, we can't afford it", I said "we can afford X, if you want more, earn it" and they did.
And a budget allows us to say we will do home improvements and repairs, but tell the contractor "my budget is X, what can you do within it?" or scheduling work based on cash flow instead of going into debt for things.
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