We’ve always had some sort of budget. In the beginning, it was written in a notebook. We would go out, spend what we wanted, drop the receipts in a basket and then, when we felt like it, enter those receipt amounts in the columns and cry.
Next, it was an excel file. Same scenario, different technology. Then it was Quicken–great program, but with inch-worm speed internet, it wasn’t much different than before.
I think the overall flaw has been not enough “cushion” (aka spending money) and no discipline. When you’re consistently coming up short on the monthly budget, daily check-ins are such a downer that you’d rather pretend you don’t have a budget. And that’s how I ended up as Debt’s girlfriend.
Now, we’re back to an excel file that we adjust each month and print out. We’re keeping tabs on it. We have two sections–one of each pay period of the month–and each section has a column for all the things we spend our money on.
If a payment is due during the first pay-period, it’s amount is entered into the first section. Then, an amount of zero is entered into the second pay-period section.
Of course, things we spend on all month, like fuel and groceries have equal amounts in each section.
We use cash for groceries and eating out. We withdraw a certain amount for fuel and apply it to a store gift card which gets us a discount and assures we get every penny’s worth and no more.
It’s finally working for us.
If you’ve never had a budget or don’t even know where to start, there are great tips on how much should go in each column at Crown Financial Ministries or any well-respected financial website.
If you’re like me, just start by writing down the have-to’s (mortgage, electricity, water, etc.) that are usually around the same each month, and then see what’s leftover. That will give you a plan for what you can spend on the “flexibles” (groceries, gas, going out, entertainment) .
But what to do when it comes up short? Hmmmmmm. . . .