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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?