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Please DO NOT reply to this thread with questions. If you'd like to add a budgeting strategy that isn't listed, please do. If you have questions about your own budget, put them in the main forum.
There are several ways to budget your money. Some people use the envelope system, Quicken software, etc. I personally use Excel to keep a spreadsheet of my expenses. If you know of a budgeting system that isn't listed here, please explain how it works so that others can try it.
THE EXCEL BUDGET
Using Microsoft Excel, you can put all of your finances into a spreadsheet on an ongoing monthly basis, and you can plan for occasional expenses such as birthdays, holidays, car maintenance, etc. There are many, many ways to do this. The way I do it is to put 12-18 months into one tab of the spreadsheet, which accounts for projected income, expenses, savings, etc. I then copy that budget into 2-3 more tabs making slight adjustments for income (since I'm not on a set salary, it fluctuates), savings, how much I plan to spend for holidays, etc. Using this method, I'm able to see large expenses in the future and am less likely to spend money leftover in my budget this month.
I break my household expenses into several different categories and take the money out in cash. I put the allotted amount for each expense into it's labeled envelope and once that money is gone, it's gone and I can't spend anymore in that category until the next month. I find that I spend less when I use cash too. I just don't get the same sense of how much I'm spending or how much money I have left if I'm writing a check or plopping a credit/debit card down to pay for something. With cash, you always know how much you have left until your next paycheck-no calling the bank or getting online and wondering if your dh has maybe spent money he wasn't supposed to.
For fixed bills (mortgage, utilities, car insurance, etc), I mail in a check just like everyone does. The envelopes keep me from overspending on the variable expenses.
STOCKING UP ON SALE PRODUCTS
I only buy cleaning supplies, hygiene products, & diapers/wipes when they are on sale. That means that I may go several months without buying any of those products, but I still put the money in the envelope each month and let it build up. That way, when (for example) diapers go on sale, I can take all the money in the envelope that has been building up for a few months and stock up. Since I've saved a little each month, it doesn't affect that particular month's budget. I hope I phrased that in a way that makes sense.
SPENDING "FUN" MONEY
Dh and I also budget a certain amount of spending or "fun" money each month that we can spend without being held accountable for. For us, that's $20 a week for each of us. Some ppl do $100 a week and I have 1 friend who gets $10 a MONTH. Regardless of how much or how little, it is something that needs to be decided ahead of time and taken out in cash. You can use it for whatever you want. Personally, I have a Netflix subscription (since we don't have cable tv), I buy a Subway sandwich once a week for $5, and the rest usually gets spent on stuff like Bath and Body Works or books from Goodwill, stuff like that. Dh normally blows his on fast food and video games and I can't say a word about it
Something that took me waaaay too long to learn is that you cannot budget every cent. You must set aside money each month for those unexpected expenses that come up every month. Things like oil changes, a call out to pest control, an unexpected birthday party invite, etc. If you don't plan for the unexpected, your entire budget will be thrown off and you'll resort to using a credit card or tapping into your emergency fund-neither of which should be touched for anything other than a true emergency. Not only that, but you will get discouraged and think that you just cannot stick to a budget and may even give up on budgeting altogether.
This brings me to another point-an emergency fund. Many ppl don't have any money in savings and when they hear ppl talk about an "emergency fund" they picture the 3-6 mos salary that we all know we're supposed to have sitting in the bank somewhere. HA! I don't know ANYONE IRL who has that kind of money in a liquid savings account. It's intimidating to think that you need that much money in an E.F. and we (the average middle-class working family) throw our hands in the air and say "that'll never happen so I'm not even going to try. I'll just keep an 'emergency' credit card instead." DON'T make this mistake. It's okay to have an E.F. with $1000 or $2000 in it. You need something for emergencies and you don't want to go in debt over a broken refrigerator or ER visit. The big thing to remember here is that a true emergency is something that affects your home, transportation, or health. Discuss the expense with your spouse & pray about it (if you believe in that). If you agree, only then withdraw the money for the emergency. Replace that money before paying off other debt or spending money on anything that isn't a necessity. Once your acct is back up to $1000 (or whatever amount you have decided to keep for emergencies), then you can continue to pay off debt or use for spending money.
I totally look for sales, but I also have a master budget and master shopping list. That way I know exactly how much is alloted a catagory and I also know what all in that Catagory is needed. For example:
On my budget I may have $45.00 set aside for household expenses
Then my master shopping list states those expenses are:
etc. So, then with diapers I know that there is a place in town giving away diapers to needy famlies, shampoo at walmart is cheaper than the dollar store and the grocery store has a good ongoing deal on TP
Then my list looks like this:
1. Shampoo (0.19 at walmart)
2. TP (1.00 at save a lot)
3 diapers (parent help stop)
I may find Kmart has a sale the rivals save a lot one month and go there instead... but I never waver from the items found on my master list. My theroy is, it is better to have what you need on hand than to have to rush out and get it or scrmp for it later. Maybe I'm woohoo, but I've actually made a couple of bucks off of unwise neighbors who would pay ANYTHING for one of my 10 bottles of shampoo. Lol!
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I usually put both DH&I' income into one revenue bucket and allocate it into several major expenses:
- home expenses consists of several sub-expenses such as: mortgages, association fee, property tax, insurance and utilities
- in-law financial support (because MIL is disable elderly and SIL is disable unwed-mother with a child)
- household expense consists of several sub-expenses such as: groceries, gasoline, car maintenance and medical expense
- miscellaneous budget such as: church donation and gift giving budget for weddings or friends invitation
- occasionally, if there is leftover, I try to save it
I buy in bulk for daily necessities such as: shampoo, soap, flour, sugar, pasta, etc and try to find the cheapest gasoline station in town and buy them around once a week.
I also try to cook more by cooking in the weekend and mid week and then freeze it into smaller portions for use during weekdays.
I try to buy in bulk too. I have a family of 6 and we try to save where we can. I find Costco to be one of the best wholesale clubs around. With the holidays coming around we try to do black friday and yankee swaps. I definitely recommend yankee swaps if you have big holiday get togethers like ours. This year I did something inexpensive and got a bunch of beautiful custom frames from Hospitality Frames I think everyone will be pleased. I also recommend using an app called mint that helps track where your money goes. It shows areas where you spend and can help you cut costs on unnecessary buying.