Do you budget? Do you have a budget? These are being called tough economic times (not that you'd know it in looking at gov't spending). Anyhow, I love tracking our money - I love making a game of how much I can save each month. I used to be a real dinosaur by writing how much I'd spend on my calendar (on the appropriate day), and what I spent it on, and then would add it up at the end of the month and put it into my little spreadsheet. Even when we got Quicken, I still punched numbers into my spreadsheet. Easy peasy. Quicken is fun but oh so complicated for my purposes.
By the way, I do NOT do couponing. That, to me, takes way too much time. Who wants to spend 2 hours to save $1.79?? I do use coupons occasionally, but the couponing obsession is just beyond me.
I'm still a slight dinosaur with my spreadsheet, but I have found some ways to make it easier and more efficient:
- Have you heard of Google Docs? You can turn any document into a "Google Doc" and access it from anywhere where you have email. Oh boy was I excited when I learned about this!! Why is this so great to keep as a Google Doc? I can open it from anywhere; Spencer can also open the it from wherever he can get email and add in what he has spent. Efficient. Easy. I love it.
- As I said, it's a sort of game for me to see how much I can save. I no longer write estimated outflows on the calendar (by memory) and add it up at the end of the month. How does that serve its purpose in terms of being a budget? By the end of the month, I could easily overspend if I don't know how much I have left in each category.
- Want to know how my budget is broken down? The number at the top is our NET income (after tithing, taxes, medical, dental, etc.) - it's what we take home. I have categories for: rent and utilities (soon to be MORTGAGE!), insurance, doctor visits, groceries, gas, clothing, cable/internet/phone, car maintenance and repairs, food storage, clothing, miscellaneous, and entertainment. Most important is our category for savings. Since I work a litle bit from home, I add in what I have made at the end of the month. We have saved thousands over the last two months.
- My grocery budget for the month is $350. We eat really well, but I find that number hard to stick to. I'd love to know what your grocery budgets are each month. I've asked around and think that $350 is on the low end of what others spend. For February I am up to $352 (eek) and obviously won't go shopping until Monday when March finally rolls around. My system is perfect for me, and I've even given it to others as a model. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but it works.
- P.S. Our entertainment budget is only $75 a month. We go out to eat MAYBE once every 2-3 months. We don't go out much because I just can't justify it too easily (and because my homemade pizza is way better than what I can get at a restaurant). So, a large chunk of that $75 goes to a baby-sitter while Spencer and I do something free, like the temple.
So, do YOU budget? Do you stick to your budget? I think it's wise to have a budget, whether you are rich or not-so-rich. It's very interesting to break down your spending and to see where everything is going. And nowadays, who doesn't need frugality? If you don't budget, try it out.Some other tricks:
--Buy your clothing in the off-season and learn when the stores have their sales. Old Navy has a huge blowout sale toward the end of every January, as well as every June/July--winter and summer sales, respectively. My kids always have at least a year of clothes, the next size up, in their closets. Two years ago I bought 3 GAP wool coats, normally $170 each, for $29.99. That October, I sold them on ebay and made about $40 each.
--If your Target has good clothes sales (I LOVE how my Target organizes clearanced clothes--by percentage discounted AND size!), and you are in need of good clothes, go on Tuesday's. Those are the days they typically mark clothes down, and you'll get the best selection. All my maternity dresses I bought in the offseason for $6.48. Most of my shirts from there cost me $3.74.
--Lastly, when you shop for paint, look for the "mis-tinted" rack. I didn't know this existed until just yesterday at Lowe's and happened upon a new gallon of paint, in a very light yellow color, for $5! That was a savings of $18.88! Just had to throw that one in there because I'm quite proud of myself... Coming soon...a light yellow laundry room!