IF YOU COME across a discussion of spending on a personal finance website, you should immediately be on high alert. There’s a good chance you will be scolded for spending too much, and then exhorted to create and follow a written budget.

So let’s start with a basic truth: After exhaustive research, it’s been scientifically established that there are only three people in America who draw up and follow detailed monthly budgets and, no, you wouldn’t want to go out for a drink with any of them.

What’s the alternative? Consider a much simpler approach: Make sure you save enough every month toward your various goals. If you do that, there’s no need to budget. Instead, you should feel free to spend your remaining money on whatever takes your fancy. We’ll tackle saving money in the next chapter.

That said, here are two suggestions: First, make sure you have some sense for how much of your monthly spending goes toward fixed costs and how much is discretionary. This can be crucial information if you find yourself out of work, you get hit with large unexpected expenses or you’re figuring out how to generate enough retirement income. Second, think hard about how you spend your money and whether you’re pursuing the right financial goals, so you squeeze plenty of happiness from your hard-earned dollars.

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