Better Budget Challenge #1
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Sense to Save is running a better budget challenge, which fits right in with what I had planned to write about today - so of course I joined. BTW, I'm stealing your Drugstore Savings sidebar idea, too, Kacie!
Here are the questions she came up with:

How have you used a budget in the past? I used to use Quicken. Before that I had Microsoft Money or a piece of scrap paper. I love budgets and would make three or four different ones for all scenarios - I had a "bare bones" budget, with the minimum our household could spend. An everyday budget. A budget for if husband got that raise. A budget for if I went to work, and later, when I was working a budget for if I was not working. I love to play with numbers.

If you’ve never had a budget, how have you made decisions on how to manage your household finances? N/A

How did you put your budget to work?
I used a cash system for some categories, such as groceries, gas, etc., for a while. When I was using Quicken, I would just enter everything in the different categories. At one point, I tried a system with two checking accounts (one for paycheck deposits, then transferring money to the second one to pay bills, etc.) and an all-cash system, but those really weren't practical.

In what ways did your budget (or lack of) work for you?
Having a spending plan helped us plan upcoming expenses, and also remember to pay the bills, such as the car payment.

I used Quicken, which let me track our spending and categorize receipts (if we bought food, clothes, and tools at the same store, for example). It also was awesomely easy to balance the checkbook.

In what ways did it fail?
Husband dear was never really on the same page. I'm an ant, and he's a grasshopper. I want to save every penny, he wants to spend it while he has it. We balance each other out fairly well - his generous spirit really counteracts my natural stinginess miserliness conservativism.
However, the cash system for gasoline did not take into account the fact that he usually fills up the car, and usually pays at the pump with the debit card. Or the fact that if he paid inside (with debit card), he usually added several things - Cokes, chips, maybe a coffee for me.

My "thoughts" when budgeting was to average our gas purchases for a few months, and then divvy it up by the week. The theory was, when we were out of gas money, we didn't go anywhere.

The reality was, we very rarely just took a drive for fun, or a day trip to the next town, or whatever. We bought gas and used it to drive to work, school, or the grocery store. If a family member invited us over or a friend needed help, we never said "Sorry, I've used up the gasoline budget for the month." People, not budgets, were the priority. When that part of the budget was out of whack, everything else got out of whack too.

Also, we were budgeted within an inch of our life. We barely made ends meet. Any unexpected shortage of workhours or extra big bill would throw us off for months until we got back into balance.
Also, our last budgets were on Quicken, which I loved - however, it was difficult to adjust the budget monthly and currently our desktop needs a new motherboard, so I don't have access to it.

Think about your past experiences with budgets and your home finances. How do you want to use a budget in your personal finances?
I want to see what we are spending with an eye to reducing it. Also, to get a better handle on where the money is going. We are so used to living paycheck to paycheck, that now that we have a slight bit of breathing room it just slips through our fingers because we don't have a plan.

What is your overall purpose in establishing a household budget?
We started Dave Ramsey's Money Makeover last year, but got thrown off track by several extenuating circumstances (husband disabled from work, car accident, suddenly needing to move to a new house). We want to get back on track with the Baby Steps.

What do you hope to gain from it?

More money to put towards a house. Validation of money saving strategies. It's one thing to use coupons - but seeing how you saved 30% off your grocery bill is motivating to keep up with the work involved.

Anything else you want to mention about your past or future budgets?
I'm putting our household spending on the sidebar as an accountability tool. My goal is to spend $160/week ($640 a month) on household goods. This includes everything, including food, paper goods, diapers, cleaning supplies, birthday presents, celebrations, etc. We have a birthday or celebration almost every month (September and October are party free, for the most part, but we stock up on school supplies).

I'm going to post the numbers for each month. It's easy to come in totally under budget for a week or a month (eating only out of the pantry, for example) but then the month prior and the month after are budget busters because you have to stock the pantry or restock the freezer. By posting over the whole year, those type of gimmicks will even out.

Right now our budget is on a partial cash system. $160 in cash to an envelope for household, and husband dear and myself get $20 for "whatevers" - cookies from the drive thru, Cokes, collectible football cards. The children's allowance usually comes out of the household money. They get $1 a week (four older ones) but they only get paid if their room is clean so it's more like $4 a month.

How about you? Do you have any budget goals for the year?

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 1/08/2008 08:42:00 AM | Permalink | |