Creating Good Habits: Creating and Maintaining a Budget

Since blogging about things helps keep me held accountable, I’m trying to add a new task each week that I’d like to work on. This week, I am going to work on a creating a new budget for us. Our current one is so outdated that I think it’s hindering paying off our house and getting more money into our savings. Expenses are changing as our family goes through different stages of our lives and it’s always a good practice to continue to update your budgets periodically.

While I can share so many good deals and money-saving tips with you, by far, the best one I can encourage you all to do is to create a budget and stick with it. I know, I groan at the thought of a budget, too. But it’s honestly very, very hard to pay off debt and get that savings account rolling when you don’t have a plan in place and you don’t know where your current money is going each month.

There are so many useful budgeting tools online now. But no matter which one you choose, the first thing you really need to do is to track your current expenses and cash flow. How can you decide what to allot for groceries if you don’t know how much you spend on them?  Or how can you know what areas to work on cutting back if you don’t know what the amounts currently are to dial back on? So this is definitely where I recommend that everyone starts.

Get a receipt for everything you buy, including something as simple as a pack of gum, for ideally one month and then total them at the end. You might be surprised to see where your money is actually going. From there, you break out your expenses making sure you budget within your means and hopefully have some money for savings–and eventually you’ll work on cutting back your expenses as much as you can to get your debt paid off faster and the savings account building up.

What types of budgeting tools are all you having luck using? I’m hoping that some of you will join me in this task this week to form a new ongoing good habit. Love to hear your progress!

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Comments

  1. Debbie says

    We are thinking about doing the cash only thing for everyday stuff like groceries and entertainment for 2011. We have cut some of our expenses but still need to cut back on others and if we only have a finite amount of cash each week (instead of a number on a chart) then it may cause us to think more before we spend.

  2. robin h says

    We also are thinking of doing the “envelope” system of cash only for at least the first 6 months of the new year. I have tried and failed at several different budget attempts and I think it has to be due to still using a credit card for everyday expenses .. its much too easy to ” forget” I purchased something. I am not a stay at home mom and the loss of our second income is difficult to adjust to .. I love all the money saving tips you offer !

  3. CJ says

    I’ve tried keeping a budget before but decided it’s just too time consuming and stressful for me. I do best just being mindful of getting good deals and cutting back now and then when I want to save up for something. I’ve actually found that I spend more when I use cash. I use my Discover card and pay it off every month, no matter how much I’ve charged. I’m single so I dont have the worries of a family like many others here, I know budgeting is a must for many families.

  4. Brooke says

    We have been doing a budget and evaluating our success on the last day of every month.

    We enter in every purchase, even cash. Each month we challenge ourselves to find a way to cut $50 in expenses or add $50 in earnings.

    If we succeed, we celebrate with $25 and put $25 in savings towards the home we plan to buy. If we beat our goal, the extra goes into a short term savings (for trips, new t.v., etc).

    If we succeed each month for a year, we will have saved $1950!!!

  5. Emily T says

    We have a had a budget since 2004 and would be lost without it! My husband creates it about 6 months out and we adjust as needed. We have a set amount every 2 weeks for groceries/household items, phone, cable, internet, electric, gas, and water. We also include car payment, insurance, birthdays, holidays, and have some set aside for spending. Everything is on an Excel spreadsheet and we can see our savings add up right before our eyes. Best thing we ever did! Plus we never carry cash, and if something comes up and we have to use our credit card, we pay it off the next pay period.

  6. Tazzra Johnson says

    I create a budget but I have learned from the past that the envelope method or cash method is not for me (although a friend of mine had a lot of success with it). For me and my husband, running out of cash doesn’t stop us from spending. I believe no matter which budgeting way works for you, the biggest thing to remember is the 3 day rule. If it’s over $5, do you really need it and would you use it? Leave it at the store, go home and think about it. Chances are in those 3 days you will realize you don’t need it and you will be happy you didn’t spend your money. In today’s society we have become very materialistic, and not that it is a bad thing, but we should be able to tell ourselves no or we will only teach our children to build debt as they become consumers themselves.

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