Creating a budget
I have tried so many templates and programs, both free and paid. I always wind up going back to Quicken. You can get it as a download off Amazon for $50.
IMHO, the key to controlling spending is tracking the categories in which you spend, much as the start to changes in your eating is tracking your calories and figuring out when and why you overeat. (This is probably why I keep going back to Quicken, the categorization feature is really robust). You learn where the overspending comes from in specific months, specific seasons, and eventually over the course of an entire year. Especially if you have to negotiate with a spouse about spending changes, it is incredibly helpful to be able to say "Frank, last month we spend 10% of our total income on eating out. Here's the pie chart to prove it. We only went to a restaurant once. The rest of the spending was on lunches for you. Let's start packing lunches."
Any other good advice?
Hubby, DD and I were hit with the fact the our DD does not qualify for subsidized health care through the state anymore. We had to add her to DH's insurance mind boggling price of 685.00 dollars a month. This was not in our monthly affordability range but we had no choice. So I am trying to cut back in other areas.
Start by recording everything you spend money on as you spend it. How is far less important than doing it.
I hated Mint personally. It just did not work with my CC and often got things in the wrong categories.
I like Pear Budget, but you do have to pay for it. Great for when you are starting up because you can edit the categories as you go and it tags things really nicely. Paying a monthly fee for it means I feel guilty if I don't use it, so I do.
I have also had great sucess setting things up in Excel (or Google Drive) to add them selves up. Paper does the same thing, minus doing the math.
Mint is a Quicken product (it was started as an independent company, but Quicken bought it).
If your only goal is tracking spending, Mint works because it lets you create your own categories. For things like planning out the year in advance, I think it's insufficient. But it's free, so it can be a great place to start!
Cash is King! When my husband and I first got together and things were REALLY tight financially we did the cash in an envelope system once we came up with a budget. Say our total income after taxes was 2,000 a month we would put 300 in an envelope for gas, 200 for food, and on it goes. This really helped us not over spend, because if we did the last week of food money may only have 20 bucks in it and it is hard to eat for 20 bucks
We fortunately have moved on from this super tight way of living but still find it is useful to use cash for personal expenses. For example DH and I both get $50 a week for personal spending and we take it out in cash so it is very black and white, when the cash is gone, so is personal spending...no more coffees, lunches out, or itunes, etc. This helps us a lot! Also meal planning is huge. We save so much money, eat better, and I am more organized because I already know what I am making for supper that night. Hope you guys come up with a good plan, such a bummer about paying so much for LO health insurance. An alternative is moving to Canada
Mint has changed. They have new "goals" and they have better systems for remembering your "categories" (you do have to go through and label everything at first but it will learn your preferences). Quicken always felt like having to take a jack hammer to a thumbtack for me. I stuck with it for two years but it felt longer, more complicated, and just took more thinking on my part. These days I mostly use Mint on my phone and it's hecka easy for me.
I love that Mint has sections where you can look at the long-term trends for your spending. That makes my little OCD heart soar.
I teach a "personal finances" section as part of an academic achievement class at a community college. I utilize Rutgers University website on personal finance. I start with the financial fitness quiz. You can find it here: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/ffquiz/ Then there are a ton of worksheets and tips on how to budget here: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/
The benefit of teaching this part of the class is that it prompted me to get my s--t together. I have tried many times, but I am doing good now. Its definitely worth checking out!
My husband and I love NeoBudget for tracking our spending. We can update it at home or from the phone app (no need to keep track of receipts this way) It's simple to use and we only have to spend about 10 minutes a week updating our budget. Budgeting is simply tracking where you spend your money. It's that simple. Once you know where you are spending money you can adjust to meet any of your financial goals. The hard part is developing the self control to not overspend but once you've budgeted for a while you realize that it's actually very freeing. My husband always says that we budget so we can do fun things without the worry of going into debt for them.