I cannot stress the importance of budgeting.
HOLY COW am I shocked when I see how fast our money goes, when we actually pay attention!
For most of 2015 so far, we’ve printed out a ledger for tracking expenses by category, as well as a monthly budget sheet that accounts for EVERY DOLLAR of my husband’s salary (we’re still working out how we want to deal with my income, which is inconsistent, and any “side money” we earn). If I type out every bill’s cost plus projected other costs (e.g. groceries, gas, etc) and the number is lower than his monthly income, we increase the total in the “savings” category – yes, we have a specified monthly amount going into savings. That’s actually new for us, when I realized our extra each month was just sitting there.
There were a couple of months where we didn’t keep track very well. Big “OOPS” moments! Not so fun! But through those moments I’ve learned to keep a better eye on what we are spending.
Another thing I have learned so far – the monthly budget DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THE SAME EVERY MONTH.
Yeah, I used to think that. Not sure why.
For instance – some months have the standard 4 weeks. My weekly grocery budget is $70 – so a total of $280/month. Well, some months, like this July, are spread out over more like 5 weeks. I didn’t realize this right away and had to re-do the whole budget to include $350 for groceries. (Honestly, if I’d noticed sooner, I would’ve reduced my weekly grocery spending to $60-65 to help stretch things further for a 5-week month). Your utilities change seasonally, too, so I’ve learned approximately what to expect from those bills and adjust each month accordingly.
Budgeting is definitely not fun. Not my favorite item on my to-do lists. But vitally important to our financial health, and to achieving our goal of being DEBT FREE!
(Just the house to pay off, thankfully!)