Yup, it’s the crazy budget post. Intrigued? Every once in a while I get a great idea in one area or another. And just to be clear, I am aware that a good portion of readers think my “great idea” is weird.
There have been a few…You might remember the crazy diet post, the crazy emergency post, the crazy “green” post, or the crazy germ post. I know 75% of the people who read these posts think, “That’s weird/stupid/pointless. Back to my awesome life.”
But, I write for the other 25%. Isn’t that sweet of me. I look out for the little guy.
Cause right now in someone’s living room, a person somewhere is reading this with an antsy feeling in his/her gut – about money...someone who needs a budget, lacks a budget, forgot about their budget, has never even made a budget…etc. etc. etc.
So here I am to the rescue, with a (incredibly simple and childish) budget that has actually worked for us. Yeah, we are on month three of a working, sticking-to-it, real, live budget. (And now I’ve jinxed us.) But here are the steps. I’m starting from the very, very beginning. This is “budgeting for dummies.”
SIMPLE STEPS TO A SIMPLE BUDGET
- First, figure out how much you make in a month. Obvious, right. Actually this might be easy, or it might be hard. For us it was slightly tricky. Todd gets paid every two weeks, so I had to add all the weeks up and divide by twelve to get an exact amount. Also, he gets a once a month stipend for health care, so then I had to add that in. Then, there are bonuses. I chose to not include Todd’s bonuses in our income. If you want to include your bonuses/commission in your income, I’d recommend choosing the absolute minimum you know you will make. Be very, very conservative. Total monthly income: __________________________
- Next. Make a list of everything you spend money on regularly in a month. If you have monthly credit card loans or medical bills, be sure it’s on there. Also, be sure “savings” is one item on the list. Even if you can only save a small, small amount each month, be sure to do that. Here is a sample list, in case you’re from Mars and have never seen a list of things people spend money on.
Gas – car Gas – home Electric, water – home Mortgage HOA Health Insurance Cell phone groceries Church Compassion Life Insurance Car Insurance Disability Insurance $ to put in savings Prescriptions Netflix Eating out Internet Medical Bill Credit Card Car Payment miscellaneous expenses
- Now, some of these things are going to be the same amount every month. Fill those in.
- Now, estimate the remaining categories. You could just pick a number that sounds good, but I recommend against that. The best thing is to round up all your paper credit card statements (while you’re listening to music on your boombox, right? Check that…just go online 🙂 and add up everything you spent in that category for the last three months, then divide by three. Or simply even the last month. The point is to get a realistic picture of what you spend. At first, I fill in the boxes with what I’m actually spending. You can always lower your budget later.
- The next step seems really obvious, and if you’re one of those really crazy budget people who itemize your excel sheets in mint/quicken/budget apps I know nothing about, then go ahead and make fun of how simplistic this is. (Confession: I actually do not know how to use Excel. Cue the scoffing laughs in the background. I know, I know. It’s awful.) I’m off-topic, though. The next step is to add up all of your monthly expenses. Don’t freak out because categories are missing, like people’s birthday presents or trips to the dentist. We’ll get there. Total regular monthly expenses: ________________
- Now, find that number again for total monthly income. Subtract the income from the expenses. Take that number, and put it in the chart at the “miscellaneous expenses” category.
- See, here’s how your budget works: Each month, you have that amount to spend on anything else not on the sheet: presents, doctor visits, random kid items, conferences, etc. etc. (About once a week I’ll update that item in my chart and see how I’m doing.)
WHY THIS WORKS
There are a bazillion other budgets that I have tried. All of them are more complicated. They have more charts, more categories, blahblahblah. I like this because it is simple. How much do we make each month? And, how much are we spending?
A few other tips:
- car gas: I set my budget for $100 a month and I fill up my car for $50 each time. This makes it easy. And ps, if I’m running low, I don’t go anywhere. It makes me feel really, really frugal.
- groceries: I take out cash for the month. I can’t even stress what a difference this makes. I divide it up into weeks, and I can see and know exactly how much I’ve spent and how much I have left.
- Each month I keep track of our total cash position. (Savings: ___________ Checking: ____________ Other accounts: _________________.) That gives me an overall picture of where we are.
Here (Blog Budget) is my actual budget in Word if you’d like the format (don’t rush to open it and spy on our bills…I left the numbers off. Haha!). And ps, if you are in fourth grade or higher, you can make this document in your sleep. So again, don’t kill me with mockery for being so kind as to share my simplistic budget. Please. Have mercy.
ONE FINAL IMPORTANT NOTE:
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I think budgets are important. Without a plan, you perish, right? Isn’t that a verse, too?? But also, sometimes I feel like God is sort of laughing a little bit when I scrape together my plans and figures. He is the Lord who takes care of us. When my numbers don’t add up and my plans fall flat, God always shows up. He has been such a loving Father.
Do you live by a budget? What’s the best budgeting advice you’ve ever received?