I balance our checkbook EVERY Saturday. If I work Saturday I do it on Friday night. I am OBSESSIVE about it. I also take that chance to pay our bills, cry over how our IRA’s are doing and take a financial snapshot of how we are doing.
Right now I am creeped out.
Not about my IRA, although I very well should be. I figure that’s a long-term investment as I am not retiring for basically forever. I hear my dad talking to me when I look at our losses…. He’s a smart dude.
I’m creeped out because we have nothing that we’re currently saving for. Forever it’s been a house, a car, a trombone and while we have plenty that we’d like to buy — I’m totally in a wait and see mode. The economy is obviously sucking it up. If I were to save, it’d be for new couch — that’s for dang sure.
My friend Lara gave me the smart plan to have an emergency fund. That way when we have an unexpected doctor bill, or something that takes us out of our usual budget we dip into that to pay for it (and then build it back up as we continue to save). I have decided to raise the limit on this little fund, as we never have a clue when I’m going to work and I’d like to have a little more reserve in there. The key to this is only allowing yourself to do it in an emergency. Usually I confer with Drew before I dip. Like, sometimes our doctor copays could total 45 for a visit (we have outrageous prescription coverage — don’t get me going) — it’s not realistic for us to not eat for the week, so we have to dip. Our dips are rare though. Hopefully, if the copay is only 15 I can eat it from the week and stay on track.
Then, we have our more long term savings. This of course, I have very lofty goals for. I am a saver, I truly enjoy seeing those accounts go up and up (even if it’s only by a few dollars each month). This isn’t for retirement, it is for emergencies but “real” emergencies — not just an errant bill here or there.
But, I thought I would share what our monthly budget is. So many people wonder how we make it in this fine valley. I won’t go into our mortgage payment, etc. But these are our monthly “real” expenses (I have also taken out our bills — because it’s embarassing how much we pay for cable and internet — but since we live away from family I call this a necessity — I would guess for “bills” — which would include cable, internet, cell phones, gas, electric, etc — we pay around 350 — YIPES, I know)
- We get $80 dollars/week to live on. This is for groceries, going out to eat — anything not covered by the other items. I would guess that groceries usually takes around 40-50 of this, depending on the sales. I get this out in cash each week at the grocery store — and we spend cash the rest of the week on these types of items. This is down from 100 when I did a budget re-check last year. 80 is tight. I will admit, and we rarely go out to eat anymore. But I’m finding ways to make it work. The kids are getting used to splitting burgers with us, etc. Honestly, I haven’t noticed THAT big of a change — and we’re saving almost 100 dollars/month. You also need to remind yourself that every 100 counts — if you can save that for a rainy day.
- Costco budget of $100 — this used to be larger, but I cut back last year when I wasn’t working as much. I’d like to keep it at 100 for right now, it’s doable-ish. Also I am getting a lot of the things I used to get at Costco at Walgreens for cheaper at this point — so some of that is coming out of our 80 dollar budget.
- Gas $200 (a complete guess — we don’t drive a ton, but our cars aren’t the most fuel efficient)
- Dating $100 (this includes 1 date with the kids that costs 20$ and then 80$ for us to use for babysitters and whatever we spend on our dates — so much cheaper than a lawyer, don’t you think?) I also found that I had to budget money for this, otherwise it was never going to happen, I’d always find a new place to use that money, when it really should be going here.
- Clothing/Household $50 total (25 for each is supposed to go into this — this is to buy like lawn fertilizer, clothes for the kids or myself — it’s supposed to help me from dipping into that emergency fund — it’s not realistic for me to throw 20 dollars of lawn fertilizer into the 80 dollar budget, but it’s a need so I made room for it here)
- Own Money $80 (Drew and I each get 40 dollars of our own money to spend during the month — mine goes mostly to going out to eat with friends, and his goes to Dr. Pepper and perhaps a teacher lunch, MP3’s and bouquets of flowers for me — in my dreams).
On top of those, of course we have our mortgage and car insurance, and life insurance but I didn’t want to bore you with all of those. I thought I’d give our real world budget. It’s actually working for us. I’ve used this system for the past 4 years or so. Prior to that I had never found a system that worked. I needed very definitive small categories and the weekly allowance thing has helped a ton. Thankfully, we’ve had our “own money” funds since I graduated from college. It’s been huge for us to each have $$ the other person can’t judge (and yes, I am the judger).
And there you have it. I’d love to hear how you guys budget. It’s a really personal thing — but I think in times like this it’s important to share what’s working for your family (and perhaps re-evaluate what isn’t).