I am not good at budgeting. Let’s hear an, “Amen” from the guy at the kitchen table balancing the checkbook and scratching his head; better known as my husband, Jimmy.
It’s not that I have trouble creating a budget, the problem arises when I actually attempt to follow it. I’m all gung ho for the first couple of weeks or so but then my resolve slowly dwindles because I get busy and don’t want to hassle with it or I find a cute cardigan sweater. Hey, it was on sale.
Jimmy and I view our money and spending as a team. We have different responsibilities. He pays most of the bills and balances the checkbook. I spend money on the day to day stuff like groceries, household items, and clothes.
It feels like I’m surrounded by a black hole that is sucking my money in; vanishing without a trace. Sometimes, if I’m really focused, I can identify the dark recesses of the hole: Starbucks, Chik-Fil-A, Banana Republic’s sale rack, the high school lunch cafeteria. Whether I am focused or not, money disappears quickly and sticking to a budget is a pain.
All that said, what I dislike even more than budgeting is the guilt and dissatisfaction I feel when I am not being mindful and intentional about where my money goes. I am not being a good financial steward.
I said steward, not Stewart.
The fact is, my purchases are more flexible. By whittling down the black hole, we would have more money to put toward our financial goals for the future, college, our church and missionaries, etc.
“The benefit to failing a lot is gaining an understanding of what’s not working.” – Me (this has probably been said somewhere)
I have failed A LOT when it comes to budgeting. Now, I am attempting to take what I have learned and put together a spending plan that works for me. It’s like organizing my spending process in such a way that fits my personality (i.e. level of laziness) and helps me reach my goals; ultimately contributing to our corporate goals.
Mine may not be the perfect, Dave Ramsey Financial Peace plan but rather, a plan I can follow now which is better than no plan at all. (Note to self. Put that on a t-shirt. Use proceeds for pedicures.)
I will briefly outline my budget. I do not claim to be an expert on this subject. I have tried to learn from others who are and from my own mistakes. The following are some of my past strategies and why they have failed. Knowing what trips me up helps me set a more realistic system for spending.
4 Past, Failed Budget Strategies and Why They Failed
- WRITING DOWN EVERYTHING I SPENT
- After I spent the first week obsessing over the perfect and cutest “spending journal” I just didn’t keep up. I was busy. The journal was in a different purse or in another car. I would forget to record purchases.
- It involved transferring that purchasing info and analyzing it on a regular basis. Enough said. Moving on.
2. CASH ENVELOPES FOR DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF SPENDING
- This is a fantastic system for spending but I would rarely have the correct envelope when I needed it. I would borrow from other envelopes and that screwed things up. That’s me.
3. CLIPPING COUPONS
- I have friends who are absolutely phenomenal at saving money with coupons. They have stockpiles of items in their basements and they NEVER pay for toothpaste. I am jealous of their tenacity for a deal. They love the process. I don’t. Again, I am working with my personality. I’m not a Coupon-Clipping Diva. No disrespect to coupon lovers out there.
4. SHOCK COLLARS
- I’m still working on a patent that would give me a little zap when I get near a mall or the frozen convenience meals aisle at the grocery store. So far all it does when I wear it is make me want to chew shoes but it keeps me from running after the mailman.
6 Components of My New Budget
- A CASH KITTY
- This does not involve my cat, Boomer. Besides, he consistently blows his cash wad on fake mice.
- This does involve getting a lump sum of cash twice a month designated for ALL my day to day, or discretionary spending. I am not really sure how much I need. I am starting with an amount that Jimmy and I agree on and adjusting if needed.
- I realize that to start I just really need a specific boundary. Here is the cash kitty I have for all my expenses for this 2 week period. Maybe later I will get more motivated to categorize my spending, but this is it for now.
- When my cash is done, it’s done. If I save in one area, I have more to spend in another. My husband’s only concern with this is if I come home with a new leather jacket, will the family be eating Ramen Noodles for the next two weeks? I told him not to worry. The ten cases of Ramen Noodles on my grocery list were part of a deal I couldn’t refuse.
2. A WALLET WITH TWO ZIPPER POCKETS
- I will keep coins in one pocket and bills in the other to keep cash neat and accessible. Below is a lame picture of my wallet. I held it up so you could see the zipper. There is another zipper pocket inside.
3. WEEKLY ADS
- Every Tuesday the stores in our area send out weekly ads from our local grocery stores. I will scan the ads for sale items. I will make my grocery list based on the ads. Sometimes that means going to more than one store. Get over it and do it. Some stores also have price matching.
4. COUPONS THAT ARE EASY FOR ME TO USE
- If I see a coupon in the weekly ads or elsewhere and it helps me out, I will use it but I am not getting wigged out over them. I am more likely to use coupons for clothes.
5. PHYSICALLY HANDING OVER MY CREDIT CARDS TO MY HUSBAND
- If I don’t have them, I won’t use them. We don’t have many credit cards anyway but my bank debit card is just as dangerous. It is easier to swipe a card than to hand over cash. Period.
- Gas is the exception. I’m still working this one through. It’s about to get cold here. I will want to fill my car without going into the gas station. Right now we are filling it on the weekend with my husbands card.
- This component is my idea, not my husband’s! I do this because it’s easier for me to avoid the temptation. Just like the idea if there’s no ice cream in the freezer, I can’t have a bowl.
- That’s where you come in for the next 8 weeks. I will be writing about my experiences every Friday. I promise to be honest.
- My husband has my credit cards and knows my plan.
- The bottom line of our cash flow is also accountability. The numbers don’t lie.
- Just because this is the last component doesn’t mean it is the least. It is the most important part. The Bible calls us to be good stewards of our resources whether that be time, talent, gifts or money. I know this is an area that could use more discipline. I am confident God will give me the strength to resist temptations to spend. (1 Corinthians 10:13) He does not expect perfection from me. I’m thankful for that.
I want to say for the record that no one shamed me into doing this. My husband hasn’t been hounding me to get on a budget. He is the first to admit he isn’t always so great in this area either. He is better than me, however.
This is about my own conviction and desire to be more obedient to God in this area. It is right. He does’t want me to feel guilty when I spend money. He wants me to be free to spend within limits that are healthy for Jimmy and me.
My budget will look different for me than for others. Budget amounts vary greatly depending on the size of your family; the age of your kids, where you live; your gifts and talents; your proximity to the snare of Target.
Budgeting is also done for different reasons. Some need to get out of debt. Others want to stay home with their children, buy a house, pay for college, go on vacation, or give more to charity. Whatever the reason, most of us can benefit from a budget.
I am writing this as encouragement to you and to myself. I will be posting every Friday for the next 8 weeks. I have already been using my budget for a week so be sure to check back and see how it’s going. I will have tips I have learned from experts, my own experiences, or YOU! I will include some recipes, my response to unexpected hurdles and whatever else I feel led to include.
I would LOVE to hear how you handle budgeting! What works for you? What doesn’t work for you. Maybe you want to try my system out!
I purposefully named this series My BFF – My Budget Friendly Friday for the obvious double meaning of My Best Friend Forever and giving myself and you the false illusion that budgeting is my new best buddy. Ummm…I don’t know that my budget will ever be as fun as my best friend, but maybe I can at least stop giving it the silent treatment and learn to get along. Will you join me for the next two months? I hope so!
P.S. Chelle, just because the title is Budget Friendly Friday it doesn’t mean you get to blow it the rest of the week. (See, I’m already wrestling with myself.)