Friday, 5 February 2010

Home Organization 101: A New Take on the Family Budget

 If you're here from Home Sanctuary, Welcome! 

Budgetting while I was single and in college was easy.  I just told myself that I had no money (not so far from the truth) and willed myself to buy only the cheapest brands of the absolute necessities, with the exception of shampoo.  Why shampoo?  I think the Pantene smell just reminds me of family, since I and both my sisters used pantene as teens.

Now, though, I have to budget for three people and the running of a family household, complete with diaper wipes, ¨real¨ groceries, and ridiculous amounts of gas for the car.  The budget we were working from last year was beautiful - colour-coordinated and neatly stacked in columns in Excel.  Problem was, it stayed in Excel and my beautiful spreadsheet never spoke to our bank account or ATM cards.  Then Christmas came and went, and a credit card payment was mistakenly skipped, and we found ourselves in need of a much more visual, ever-present budgeting system.

I probably watched 15 episodes of Til Debt Do Us Part at my parents before figuring out how to make the system they use on the show work for us.  Basically, we wrote down our fixed monthly expenses - tithe, rent, phone, internet, insurance, and debt repayment, and subtracted that from our monthly income.  Then we made a list of all of the ¨variable¨ expenses - savings, food (including restaurants), clothes, fuel and car-maintenance, household (for everything from toothpaste and diapers to furniture and home decor), entertainment, and the all-important ¨guilt-free¨ money - money Andrew and I each get to spend on whatever we like, without having to answer to the other about our purchases.  This guilt-free money can be used toward coffees on the way to church, video games (after saving for a couple of months-we don't get much each month), fabric, or model railroading stuff.

We divided the cash left after our fixed expenses between the variable categories, and are actually using ALL CASH this month - each variable expense category has its own jar and its own budget.  Receipts from each category go in the jar when some of the cash is spent, and we always have a visual reminder of how much cash we do/don't have left for the month.

This system is working fabulously, especially for my husband, who needs to see things to understand them.

What kind of budgeting tips and tricks do you use?


  1. We attending Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at our churc a couple of years ago. It was life changing. I highly recommend it.

  2. I think that's great. We always say we "need to sit down and hash out a budget" but with a varying income, it's so difficult to do so!

  3. We also took the Dave Ramsey course. It was great! Then Greg worked out a spreadsheet based on theirs and we are starting to use Quicken to make sure that the checkbook is synced with it. It works good for us.

  4. Wow, great system. It is much like the envelope system that Larry Burkett used to teach! Hope it works well for you!

  5. We took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University at church and follow it. There are great, simple budgeting forms on his website.

  6. Kudos to you and your husband!! Sounds like you both are very disciplined folks. Just know that you will reap great rewards by budgeting now, one day you will be where we are, "the empty nest" and you can enjoy the fruits of your discipline. Blessings to you!

  7. Congrats to you on budgeting. We really need to do so very, very soon since we'll be dropping down to one salary and I know I need to be more disciplined when it comes to the call of Starbucks and such. I hope it keeps working for you!

  8. Congratulations...sounds like you are off to a great start!

  9. I'd like to use cash more so we can stick more to a budget. Staying on track and we can save up for that special dinner or trip.

  10. That sounds like a great system! I may have to try something similar. We made out a budget about 6 years ago just before my oldest was born, and since have had paycuts galore! Instead of redoing the budget, we are just trying to spend less and less and it isn't exactly working. I think cash systems are definitely the way to go; and I love the visual of the jar! Good idea!



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