It’s almost a new month! That means it’s almost budget time for me. I budget the finances in our family. I write it all on a piece of paper and it floats around the house for about three months thereafter. We try to keep up with it especially now that our wedding is over and we are saving for a house. It’s more important now than ever that we adhere to our budget. Which sucks because we both love food! And we hate dishes. So takeout is definitely a weakness we share.
June was our buffer month. We wanted to get back on track with our money and bills. Thankfully, we’ve been able to do that! Now that July is coming (and quickly!) we want to put our attention back into saving. We are both in debt right now because of several things. When we had our son, we weren’t making enough to pay extra hospital bills. Sadly, those have gone on my record as delinquent. That, along with credit cards and a Fingerhut account, has left me in debt for just under 5K. You may think that isn’t a lot. You’re right. But when I look back at the money I’ve wasted on stupid things, it frustrates me that I can’t handle my finances better.
I’m only 24 years old, but I take my responsibilities very seriously. I have a duty to my husband and my son to make sure I’ve got my stuff together. My husband is about 10K in debt if you count his student loans. Those have not adversely effected his credit score so we make sure to pay those on time. Our goal is to buy a house in the next year and a half (by the time my husband is 30 years old). That goal is attainable if we stick to the plan.
Now onto the juicy stuff! Budgeting can be so daunting. It’s frustrating and stressful. Budgeting takes thought and time. I’ve found that I budget best in the morning before work, but after I’ve had some coffee. I feel like I can conquer the world, and I’m not stressed out about my day yet. I typically try to budget for the month about a week before the month so that we have all our cards where they need to be.
Here are four ways to take control of your budget:
Find what works for you! Try and try again. I have a coworker who budgets for the entire year. Somehow he makes it work. I could never do that. Things are just so unpredictable (two-year-old son, anyone!). We used to budget for the entire month. But things started to go unpaid and would lapse over to the next month. That was not how I wanted to live. We had to find something else. Now we do a weekly budget, but for the whole month. More on that at beginning of August. The key for this point is to use old fashioned trial-and-error to find the best way for your budget. Check out my post, “I’m Broke & I Know It.” Being broke for a purpose isn’t all bad.
Follow your Budget! If you only budgeted $100 for entertainment, then stay under that. It’s terrible, I know! I’m terrible at it, but I won’t be able to save any money if I don’t stick to my budget. We can revisit this next month to see how I’ve done. Perhaps this will keep me somewhat accountable for my actions. In following your budget, make sure that you over-budget. Summer is upon us. Which means running the air conditioning more than normal. I know that my electric bill will be about double throughout the summer months. So I have to be sure to budget for that.
Budget for Emergencies! If an emergency comes up, you will want to be ready for anything that can happen. Make sure you budget according to your family’s needs. When you decide on an emergency budget, make sure that you do so according to where you live. An emergency in Tennessee will cost less than an emergency in New York City. If you do not use your emergency budget each month, put it into your savings account. Once you’ve set up a decent Emergency Savings Fund.
Communication is key! If you are in a relationship and have joined accounts, this is super important. Even if you have separate accounts, you should each have a budget. You should be open about your budget with your significant other. If you have a problem with spending money on something (too many lunches out), then be willing to discuss options with them. They will usually be open to help you. My husband and I take turns making lunches for both of us. This helps us not get bored with having to make our own lunches every morning. It also helps with morning rushes.
You can do it! Budgeting just takes some time and commitment. Like any lifestyle change, you have to be ready for the change. Don’t give up after the first month (or even week). Like the first point, you have to find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s the only way to learn. Just be sure that you use the mistakes of last month to make next month better!
How often do you budget? Do you feel that is enough for you?
Feel free to share your budgeting ideas in the comments below.