You might think that as the creators of Buckets, my wife and I always have our budget done daily, in great detail and stick to it perfectly. Not even close.

Here’s our recent story about failure and success. Enjoy!


Last year, we bought a house that needed a little bit of remodeling. With only 6 weeks to renovate before moving in, we spent every spare minute working at the new house. Generous friends provided ample help and instruction throughout this process. Last July, we moved in with half a floor and no main kitchen. Luckily, there is an extra half-kitchen in the basement so we could cook and wash dishes. Or, there was a kitchen in the basement.

Unluckily, the basement flooded two months after we moved in. Our finished basement became unfinished as we ripped out the floor, bathroom and kitchen to fix the water damage. Due to supply-chain issues, everything about the remodel has cost more than we expected, took longer to arrive and sometimes things were just unavailable. Having no kitchen is not very fun.

This caused a few things:

  1. I learned how to make cabinets!
  2. I learned how time-consuming it is to make cabinets.
  3. We spent almost all our free time this past year working on our house.
  4. Because we were so busy, we didn’t do our budget for almost 6 months!

Yes, SIX months.

And because of that, we overspent on the remodel. When we finally got around to categorizing and making it rain, we had quite a bit of self-debt. As we debated what to do about the remaining work, it felt like a huge failure.

But, there was also success. First, prior to that 6-month budgeting hiatus, we had consistently budgeted our money together for the past decade. Sometimes we lag a month or two, but for the most part we’re within a month of up-to-date. Because of this decade of habitual budgeting, we were able to float unbudgeted for a little while and still be okay. This habit was a success.

Second, while debt is awful, self-debt is not nearly as stressful. If you can choose who to take a loan from, taking it from yourself is 100% the best choice. We’ve paid ourselves off with our Year’s Supply bucket so we’re out of self-debt. Now we’re working to replenish it. I consider it a success that Buckets led us to have a year’s supply.

Third, this experience renews my love for Buckets. Really, every time I use Buckets, I’m excited to work on it. Also, we want the mobile app so bad! It would be really convenient to be able to categorize from our phones.

Buckets can withstand a messy life and imperfect budgeting. I like that.

Lastly, I’m happy to say that we’ve added a Diapers bucket to our budget again to get ready for the child coming in a few weeks. Looks like we’re going to continue to be busy (and sleepy) for a while.

Diapers budget

What successes have you experienced with Buckets?

— Matt