In my circle of friends, we have been talking about budgets, making ends meet, and how the heck to try and get a little ahead in the world. I admit, it’s really hard, but it’s doable. No matter what your income, the key is to not spend more than you make. If you do, you are digging yourself a hole that is impossible to get out. We like to plan for things ahead of time so we are prepared when the car breaks, when insurance comes due, when we want to take a vacation. You can’t always predict a rainy day, but you know that they will eventually arrive and you will want to be prepared.
Every time my husband gets paid, which is every 2 weeks, we sit down together as a couple and figure out where we are telling the money to go. That’s right, we tell our money where to go.
Off the top, we take care of our essential bills – house payment, water, electricity, etc. Since are paid every other week, we estimate and divide our bills by 2 so we know how much to budget each paycheck.
Then comes more budgeting. Write down every single category that you can think of for your family for the entire year. We have the following categories:
- Dining Out/Entertainment
- Home Maintenance
- Erin Allowance
- Chris Allowance
- Homeschool Materials
- Car Maintenance
After we have paid our bills, we allocate the rest of the money into each category. For starters, we tithe to our church and also put 10% into savings.
You’ll notice we budget for things like Christmas, Insurance, Homeschool Materials, Vacation, Clothing, and Gifts. These are all things that will happen throughout the year. Every year Christmas arrives. Every year a new school year arrives with homeschool materials needed. Kids outgrow their clothes. Car Maintenance is an essential. Insurance has to be paid. Vacation may or may not happen. We adjust our budget according to our plans that year.
I remember there was a time when I’d get an insurance bill and panic. Where were we going to get the money to pay that rotten bill?!?! After time, I realized, it’s not the bill’s fault, it was my poor planning. I know it’s coming, so I might as well plan all year round so when it comes it doesn’t sting so much.
This doesn’t come easy, though. It’s really hard to be sticking the money away for these things and taken an initial food budget or entertainment fund cut. However, when the time rolls around and you have the money ready, you’ll be so thankful to not be eating only beans and rice and ramen noodles that month. 😉
Continue on down the list placing funds as needed. Have a party coming up? Up your food budget and take a cut elsewhere. Lots of birthdays that month? Up your gifting and lower something else.
Allow your categories to “roll-over” to the next pay period so you can continue saving. For example, you know you need a new door in your house. The $20 you can budget this paycheck isn’t going to make it. Don’t give up. The next month, add $20 more to that and now you have $40. Continue building until you have what you need. It’s not going to happen overnight but will happen. This is another reason to continue putting the money in their categories. Say you haven’t been using your car maintenance category for over a year. You have $750 in car maintenance saved up. Then something major breaks in your car. It’s a whole lot easier to move forward when you know you may have most of it already saved up and waiting on that rainy day.
Now let’s talk about allowances. No, I’m not talking about the kids, I’m talking about the adults. My husband and I sit down and plan our budget every time and what we have decided together is that each paycheck we get an allowance. We have decided on $20 per paycheck. He gets $20 and I get $20. We don’t ask each other where the money went, that is up to our discretion. $20 pays for my mom’s night out with friends, haircuts, etc. Many months I don’t even use my money and save it up for something special for myself. Chris’ $20 pays for his breakfast with friends every other week, and more recently, he saved up his money and bought me some beautiful earrings for Mother’s Day! $20 seems to work for us, and like I mentioned, many weeks we still have it to roll-over to the next month.
My top 5 tips for a successful budget:
- Prepare for the rainy day BEFORE it arrives.
- If you are married, work on the budget TOGETHER.
- Learn to say NO, it’s not in the budget.
- Be a good STEWARD of what you do have.
- Do not SPEND more than what you make.
What other tips would you add that have worked for your family?