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Budgets

April 28, 2008

I find it strange that most personal finance blogs have tips on how to make a budget, but you rarely see tips on how to STICK to a budget.  Finding the discipline to stick to a budget is really the hard part.  It’s the part I’ve always needed advice on.  When you hit the end of the month and you have to get to work and you have nothing left in your gas budget, just what exactly should you do?   

May is the third month I have made a real, detailed budget.  When I was younger, in college, I was told by my parents, “You need to make a budget.”  They went so far as to tell me to make a list of all my expenses and then subtract it from how much you make.  I am pretty decent at math, so it was no problem at all to write down gas$$, rent$$, food$$, insurance$$…  What I wasn’t told was how to STICK to a budget.

Everytime I would talk to my mom and complain how I never had any money, she would tell me to make a budget.  I would, but really these were just arbitrary numbers on a piece of paper.  They accurately reflected my fixed expenses, but had no real bearing on how much I would spend on gas, food, extras…  I just spent what was left in my account, and then I stopped.  Okay, I didn’t always stop spending then (I payed a lot of overdraft fees back then).  Then, I finally discovered Dave Ramsey and the envelope system

In March, I made a budget, and well, was pretty off in a few categories (mainly food), and kind of gave up on it by the end of the month.  In April, I made a budget, and for the first time actually tracked every expense through the entire month.  Again, we went over in a few categories (food again), but our income was more than I had estimated, so we still came out ahead.  This month, I thought I would make a small change to the way we spend in our worst category.  I have decided to use the envelope system for our groceries/food. 

I write our budget according to our payday cycles.  By that I mean, I started our financial month last Friday because that is the paycheck our first of the month bills come out of.  So, last Friday I went to the ATM and got out half of our monthly food budget in cash.  It is now sitting in an envelope in our bedroom.  (Which I’m not so carzy about cause our neighbors are kind of shady.)  We used a little this weekend for a bottle of wine and some ingredients to make chili.  I believe this will improve our food spending.  Now I need to work on improving my menu planning skills.  We may go over in other categories (rising gas prices and we have to get to work), but I feel we are on the right track.  I’m proud either way that for the first time in my life I am figuring out how to STICK to a budget.  I know in the future I will find ways to be sure I stick with it 100%.

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