Whenever our spending used to get out of hand, I would suggest that we start using a budget. My husband with a furrowed brow and accusatory glare would squawk at me: “Just spend less!”
Well that’s just the smartest and dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, in one breath.
Smart, because of course, if you spend less, you will have more left over at the end of the day. But without goals and amounts.. Hello!! A budget!! It’s impossible just to halt your spending. This is not a moratorium on grizzly bear hunting, dang it! You can’t just stop spending money all together. It’s like a diet… You can’t stop eating. It’s the portion control that does the trick.
You’ve probably seen on TV shows when the debt counsellor hands the couple a bunch of envelopes with their budget, cash, for the month, for disposable items like clothes and groceries and toiletries. It’s incredibly effective, since you know how much you have in which category, and of course, you can steal from one envelope to meet the needs of another. But the trouble I have is not getting my travel points. Seriously. We have a big family trip coming up to Ethiopia, people, and go other places besides. We need those points!
So I got my husband, who usually pays the bills, to sit down with me and guesstimate our disposable income budget. I don’t mean the electricity bill of the home equity line of credit (we don’t have a mortgage.. More on that another time.) then I allocated the amount into envelopes… Virtually.
I use an ipad/iPhone ap called Budget Envelopes, that I highly recommend. Jason still uses Mint to see what cash is moving where, including every transaction and our fixed expenses. But I don’t care about that stuff… It’s not that I can change that through spending. So I use Budget Envelopes.
It syncs back and forth between our devices. Is is great because I can enter stuff on my phone right at the store, or at home… And Jason can too, but he’s always forgetting his gas and eating out expenditures (hint hint hint.)
The envelopes you can set up weekly, biweekly, monthly or other time frames. The pet budget is annual, for example. Don’t judge our pet spending, dear friends.. Remember we have 12 pets.
Generally, though, I find this very helpful, since not all budget envelopes are weekly. You can set them to roll over, as well. So when we notice that we haven’t spent much on dates lately… Let’s go out! And have no guilt about it. If I see we are getting low on the grocery budget, then I break into the pantry and just buy some fresh veggies.
The other important piece is that you can prioritize things that are really important to you. For us, our charitable giving is a big thing, but we consider it a fixed cost. So human health products and healthy food for the pets rank above clothing. In our budget, anyway. It’s great to have that discussion about what your priorities are, and put your month where your real priorities are.
The point is that you have simple feedback on what you are spending, no matter if you are using your Visa card for everything, like me, or cash.
The first month I started using the app, I cut our disposable income in half. How bout them apples? Now, that’s not all because of the tracking, but it sure was a big peice of it.
Download budget envelopes here. And yes, it’s worth the minimal charge to be able to sync your devices!