Time to Plan: Creating a 2012 Budget

While I can find and post so many great deals, coupons, freebies, etc for you, overall the best way I can help you all save money throughout the year is to encourage you to create a 2012 Budget and do your best to stick to it.

I know, the thought of making a budget does not sound like a lot of fun but it the long-run, it can help make life a little easier if you have a plan set in place to help you meet your financial goals.

Each year in January, I create a simple budget for us and then modify it, as need be, throughout the year. Budgets do not have to be elaborate. My personal preference is to actually keep them fairly simple as I am more likely to stick with it. A budget is simply a formula of Income minus Expenses. I like to break my expenses down by “fixed” and “variable.” Fixed would be the items that occur each month and normally cost the same amount, such as your mortgage, any car payments or loans, etc that you have. Variable expenses are those that fluctuate monthly. I like to set aside money each month for birthday/special events. Some months they are higher or lower so I break them out into a separate category.

These are a few of the things I include in mine: mortgage, utilities, insurance, phones, TV, Internet, Food, Household/Pet Care Expenses, Fuel for Vehicles, Tithe for Church, Savings and our “Allowances.” I try to set aside money in categories for things such as medical/dental/vet bills, car repairs, special events, vacation fund, etc.

There are several resources online for tips on creating a budget. We had great luck reading and following Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover Book as he taught us how to budget down to the very last dollar each month. His book is phenomenal about helping you get motivated to get yourself back on track and pay off your debts.

I’m hoping that if you haven’t already, that you all consider taking a little “Time to Plan” and create a budget this year. You can also start off small and at least create a Grocery Budget for yourself. Here’s what I suggest for that:

1) Start off by keeping your receipts for a month.

2) After you get home from the stores, take your receipts and highlight your items on it like this:
a) Green – items that were on your grocery list that you needed and got a great deal on
b) Yellow – items that were not on your grocery list but were on a great sale and you truly needed them
c) Red – items that were complete impulse buys that you could probably do without

3) Staple all of your receipts together each week. Take a small sheet of paper and make a note to yourself how your week turned out with your purchases. Did your purchases make a lot of good meals for your family? Ideally you want to only buy the items that you can get the best deal on and that provide lots of meals each week. Did you buy a lot of unnecessary impulse items? Are you seeing a lot of yellow, which might suggest that you need to keep track of low inventory items more?

4) At the end of the month, you can add up your receipts and create a budget with your totals. If you over-spent, set your budget lower and work to stay within that amount if you can.

Over time, you will start to be able to see your shopping trends and try to adjust them to squeeze the most out of your shopping trips. A tip I love to share with my readers is to create a shopping list and put any “impulse” items in one area of your shopping cart. Before you check out, take a look at what you added and ask yourself, do I really need them?

Good luck creating your budgets! The time you take to create one can help save you money throughout the year.

Thank you for stopping by Coupon Geek! I value my readers and their advice, tips and comments. Please remember that Coupon Geek is a positive, family-friendly and upbeat site when leaving your comments.


  1. says

    After reading the other two great posts under the title, I went on a search to find more. I love this post even more. I was trying to figure out the budget for the year early this month. I keep a spreadsheet from year to year with all the bills (gas, electric, phone, internet, credit card, mortage, preschool, trash, water, car insurance, house insurance, county tax, car taxes, federal income tax and state income taxes) and income (my husband’s job, FSA money, rebates, interest on bank accounts, and cash). The total difference is at the bottom of the sheet to quickly tell me the months in the positive and negative to check on trouble spots. The great thing is that it also tells me if I am on track for putting money in savings. My problem is figuring out the green, yellow and red items that you list above. My husband loves cheez-its but those aren’t really a NEED (in my book) so I can’t figure out if they should be green or yellow. I don’t have a ton of red things because I usually think better about things and return anything that we really didn’t need… except the things that I get my son which are probably red but I try not to spend to much outside the budget on those items. Are they only green if they are needs? I bought 60 pounds of chicken which was on my list and the lowest price around but I can’t figure out if it was all a need even though I know it will take care of us for months. Where do you get the guidence to figure out which category to put the expense?

  2. coupongeek says

    For my grocery budget, all our basic needs come first. That has to include adding a little food to the stockpile, which may be pasta, meat, cheese, etc. The money that’s left over each month gets split between putting some towards buying meat in bulk from a farmer and the foods we like that aren’t “needs” but nice-to-haves. Some months there are more nice-to-haves than others. You kind of learn to eat them sparingly when they are limited. You may want to put a small budget aside for grocery nice-to-haves like Cheeze-its.

    But overall, everyone has their things that they need to spend money on that keeps them a little happy. Mine would be Skinny Cow Ice Cream, maybe. :)

    Just having a budget and sticking close to it is a great way to save money. Overall, just try to stick as close to possible within your grocery budget and making sure you get good meals, some stockpile and some nice-to-haves, too!

    Hope this helps?

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