So, the best way to stay on budget is to actually have a written budget. I used to try to keep everything in my head, but it’s not working so well these days (I chalk it up to pregnan…er… mama brain?). Actually, it never worked that well. If it did, we probably wouldn’t be in our predicament.
Dave Ramsey (you’re going to hear his name a lot) follows a “zero-based” budget. This means every penny has an assignment. At the end of the month/the bottom of your budget, every bit of income should be in a new home that isn’t your checking account. I have a very hard time with this. I like to have a cushion just in case I forget a bill (usually it’s the kind that gets automatically withdrawn). However, this budget makes you check and double check that you have every little thing written down. I equate it to your boss telling you an assignment is very important. If you’re like me, that makes you go over the final product with a fine-toothed comb before you present it. Your boss in this situation is you and your family. Who deserves a job well done more than you?
So, Dave has a budget sheet that he uses (you can find it here), and I used it as a jumping off point. Zach and I are big fans of spreadsheets, so I made our own. Originally I inserted some formulas (nerd alert), but all the changes made them useless. That’s the thing about a budget, it’s always evolving. They say it takes about three months of budgets to get it right. We’ll let you know.
I really like to break down numbers as much as possible, so a weekly budget really appeals to me. This could get a bitexcessive, so I’m think bi-weekly budgets are the way to go. Typically, you make one a month. I get paid weekly and Zach gets paid twice a month, so lining it up with Zach’s paychecks makes the most sense. I like to get all the bills, and organize them chronologically by due date. Then I can split up what needs to happen in the first half of the month and what needs to be in the second half.
The budget isn’t just bills. You have to figure out every single thing you spend money on throughout the month (or whatever time frame you decide to work with). I almost always forget toiletries…and car maintenance…and really anything to do with the car. Zach uses about $400/month in gas (he commutes over an hour each way to work. Don’t become teachers, kids!), so that’s a pretty big chunk to forget. One way to keep track would be to keep every single receipt for a month. It’ll be a harsh dose of reality (See my last post for how much we spent on food in 11 months), and should also catch any costs that you didn’t think about.
So, there you have it: Your beginning guide budgeting. We’ll get more in depth when we feel like we know what we’re doing. Do you use a written budget? If so, do you have any tricks?