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Has anyone *successfully* used a budget? Help me!

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hi mamas,

Has anyone here ever successfully used a budget? I am so sick of sitting down with the bills, knowing that I won't be able to pay them all and I'll have to juggle things.

I have tried budgets in the past, but its not so much as I can't stick to them, as I never know how to set them up. Like a $600 car bill drops out of the sky- how on earth do you budget that?

I've also tried the exercise of writing down every cent you spend for a month and then looking at patterns, etc. But I never did anything with the data.

Is there a website or a book that would break this down and make it easier?

My dream is to know exactly how much spending money we have each week. Sounds SO simple, but it alwasy come down to us splurging a little when dh gets paid and then scrambling at the end of the month.

Oh, one other thing- *my* income tends to be erratic. I do childcare and the amount I receive really fluctuates. So how do you work *that* into a budget??

Please help me figure this out- I hate feeling so out of control about it!

Thank you in advance for any help you wise mamas can give me.
post #2 of 12
What worked for me was to live on cash and pay bills with money orders. DH makes about the same amt every payday, so when a bill came in, I would write the amt and bill info on a calendar (got one with great big blocks), when payday rolled around, I added up how much we owed, went to the bank and wrote a check for cash in the amount of dh's check (leaving about $30-50 in the account), then bought money orders for the bills. What was leftover was for groceries, gas, and spending money for the next 2 weeks. It was very hard and we always felt broke, but we managed to pay all the bills and didn't bounce any checks, never wondered how much money we had.

If you can live on your dh's salary, I would try to budget based on that and put your salary into savings for an emergency. If you need your salary to pay bills, figure what your lowest week of income is and base your budget on that. If you have extra, great, if not- you're still within your budget.

The month before I started this, I bounced $300 worth of checks b/c we had no idea how much money was in the account. It was crazy out of control. Dh would take out money or use the debit card and not tell me- or give me a ton of receipts weeks after using the card.

Now, I keep the checkbook by the computer and balance it every day. I don't buy the money orders anymore, I write checks for the bills and take the extra cash out of the bank. If either of us happen to use the debit card for something small, we're each responsible for entering our own transactions. Dh rarely uses the card anymore- so it's really easy to balance.

I hope this makes sense. It's the only way we have been able to keep tabs on our finances. Dh used to get frustrated when I told him we had no money the day after he got paid. Now if he has any questions on where our money goes, I tell him to check the calendar or the checkbook. It's not like I'm keeping money from him, it's just that we don't have it.
post #3 of 12
I am so in need of help as well, as to keep blancing my checkbook daily. It's like I need someone to force me to do it each day. I balance it on the computer with MS Money, and it really helps. I NEVER EVER have cash because I can't spend it wisely, and I don't give my DH a ATM card. He used to have one, and he would never give me the slips, and so when I got my statements each month, I would have at least a hundred dollars of withdrawls, plus during the month I would have insuffient funds, etc, etc, etc... I finally got a check card (MC), and I have to subtract that each month. I didn't give one to DH. He wants one, but I tell him he has to go to the bank and sign a form (which is true, but I could bring it home to him, but...)

post #4 of 12
There is a website called the Dollar Stretcher that has been very helpful to me. I would recommend that you give it a lookie and see if it could help you as well.
post #5 of 12
I agree with Michelle.....living on cash ONLY did wonders for me, it was easy to do and it WORKED.

It kind of instilled a way of life in me so that today, years later, I use the ATM card occasionally but I don't LIKE to and we always have enough money to cover bills even if income is eratic some months.
post #6 of 12
We have had trouble sticking with budget, too. My DH is a really good saver & budgeter and I am not so good...

The budget idea that seems to work really well for some is to really look at your expenses for like whole year, even once a year things like taking your pets to the vet, or buying Christmas presents. If you know you spend $200 on Christmas presents every year, you would put away $16/month (or whatever the math is, my mind isn't working). Same for your once a year vet bill, birthday presents, etc.

This is heavy duty, but I know people who have done it and have been successful.

We are still digging out of some cc debt. But we are only using cash or debit card for our purchases now. And DH puts as much as humanly possible away each month.

Best of luck to you.
post #7 of 12
What we do (but dh's income doesn't fluctuate that much) is have approx. 10% automatically transferred to our saving account, 10% donate then I figure out what the bills will add up to until next pay day (dh gets paid on the 1st and 15th), for bills that change slightly month to month I guesstimate high and whatever is left we use for groceries first, then all other things (going out, hobbies, ect.) Dh doesn't make much, but doing has built up our savings enough that when unexpected stuff comes up we are still fine HTH
post #8 of 12
The website that has helped the most with my finances is www.cheapskatemonthly.com. It has really helped to reduce my debt as well as plan a monthly budget, and put money aside for emergencies, and savings. You do have to subscribe to have access for all the tools, but I think it's worth it.

Hope this helps.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the ideas and support!

I think what we have to do is switch to cash. DH and I talked about it and he agreed that was what we need to do. But its really hard to take that leap!

I think that may be our New Years resolution....

I will check out the websites posted too.

Thanks again every one!!
post #10 of 12
It is really hard to switch to cash, but it's really worth it. It's really empowering. I don't dread balancing the checkbook anymore, because I always know exactly what's there anyway.

I started doing it this past January and it's worked wonders.

Good luck.
post #11 of 12
I think I would do terrible switching to cash! That would mean I had to do extra work to get money orders, I would have to go to the bank to get the cash, then when I have the cash in my hands I'm going to say its only $5, but I'll say it 30 times and that $5 will end up be $150 lost to things I can't even think of what I spent it on. I usually think three or four times before writing out a check, and maybe twice about getting out the credit card. It seems like more serious money, little kids get cash to spend on frivouless things, you need to be an adult to get a checking account and credit card.
Dh and I have seperate checking and savings accounts. I always know what is in mine and he always knows what is in his. Then we split the bills, when we were making the same salary we split in a way that we were both paying the same $ amount in bills. He has finally passed me up and now he pays more then I do. We both have roughly the same amount left over to do whatever we want with. It sort of sucks though because he has the mortgage payment and for me to get close to that payment I am making the car payment + the gas bill + the electric + the garbage + ... + ... so I have a million bills to take care of and he only has a few.
I feel like doing things this way we each have less to worry about. I only worry about my bills and he only worrys about his, instead of us both worrying about all of the bills.
Then how I plan my budget is I got out a excel spreadsheet, listed all the bills I need to pay and the day of the month they are due. I get paid everyother week, which is about twice a month, except 2 months of the year where it is 3 paydays a month. So I only think about getting 2 checks a month, that 3rd pay day is for savings. Then I divide my bills into 2 installments. These bills get paid with the first check and these with the second. Due to when the bills are due I have a big installment one check and a small one on another. So I have to leave money from the small installment to cover for the large one because my payday doesn't cover the whole thing. If you look at it that way you will see when things are due and maybe you will be lucky and can split things evenly through the month, or you will see how you need to plan. This has worked really well for me. If you want I can e-mail you my sheet and you can see what I mean and know where to plug your numbers in.
If I were you I would take your lowest expected weekly salary and plan on that as your budget. The weeks you get paid more, put the more in savings. Pretend you never saw it, it doesn't exist. Then you will have a suprise savings to go on vacation or get a fancy dinner out, or all the money for christmas, or whatever you want that will make you happy.
post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally posted by bigbellydreams
That would mean I had to do extra work to get money orders, I would have to go to the bank to get the cash, then when I have the cash in my hands I'm going to say its only $5, but I'll say it 30 times and that $5 will end up be $150 lost to things I can't even think of what I spent it on. I usually think three or four times before writing out a check, and maybe twice about getting out the credit card.
It's not any extra work for me, b/c the bank I use is in the grocery store. I cash the check, then go to the service desk of the store to get the MO. (The bank charges $1 per mo, the store only .20) I've stopped using money orders for the bills- I now pay again by check, but we still use cash for regular purchases. We don't carry the full amount with us all the time. We keep it in the house and only take what we need- when it's needed. I seem to spend more frivolously with the debit card then with cash. It's easier for me to overspend when I'm using plastic (debit or credit) than when I only have a certain amt of cash. Dh and I generally have $20 or less in cash on us at any given time.

Quote:
Originally posted by bigbellydreams
Dh and I have seperate checking and savings accounts. I always know what is in mine and he always knows what is in his.
This would work great for us except we only have one account with one income. Not much left over after payday anyway, no sense in having 2 accounts.

Quote:
Originally posted by bigbellydreams
Then I divide my bills into 2 installments. These bills get paid with the first check and these with the second. Due to when the bills are due I have a big installment one check and a small one on another. So I have to leave money from the small installment to cover for the large one because my payday doesn't cover the whole thing. If you look at it that way you will see when things are due and maybe you will be lucky and can split things evenly through the month, or you will see how you need to plan. This has worked really well for me.
This is essentially what I do, except using cash for me keeps me more on my toes for some reason. It's almost like credit and debit aren't 'real' money. I know that's not true, it just seems like that to me- easier to spend money when it's not really there.


Quote:
Originally posted by bigbellydreams
If I were you I would take your lowest expected weekly salary and plan on that as your budget. The weeks you get paid more, put the more in savings. Pretend you never saw it, it doesn't exist. Then you will have a suprise savings to go on vacation or get a fancy dinner out, or all the money for christmas, or whatever you want that will make you happy.
I totally agree with this!!

My problem with using an excel sheet is that I need something staring me in the face every time I turn around. The calendar is right on the wall so I look at it every day and every time I answer the phone. It's too easy for me to NOT log into excel. I can't avoid my calendar. (We tried the spreadsheet once before- failed miserably.) I think your way of budgeting sounds great- just would no way work for me at this point.
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