FQOD: I have to get on a budget, but every one I have tried sucks.  What do I do?

Answer: Budgetting is exactly like dieting, with all of the negative connotations and misperceptions.  And generally it is about as much fun.  But look: within each there is a limited reesource (money, or calories you are allowed to consume) and some things that need to happen (pay rent and taxes, consume enough protein, etc).  There is room for creativity, and if done right there should be very little negative impact to your life style while having a bunch of positive ones.

One way to go about both  is the “big thing” approach (which can also be applied well to budgeting your time).  Start with your overall constraint (total calories or cashflow), then allocate to the important things first (taxes, savings, debt reduction, fixed expenses, etc).  You will have some remaining asset (money, or calories or time), so then chose something small that is important to you (a daily piece of chocolate or that little splurge for really good beer) as we are not completely draconian.  Then see what is left of your asset and what you still want, and allocate it to the “little things” (which tend to really add up, even more so then the big things).  When you run out of asset you need to stop and start re-evaluating: which is more important, doing the laundry or reading those funny emails from your friend?  Eating a big desert or having a few snacks throughout the day so as not to be ravenous?

This is your life, not mine.  So I can’t tell you what you need to do and prioritize your concerns, but I can help you figure it out.

If you want some real budgetting tools that don’t suck, check out Budgets are Sexy from J Money.