Today.....I'm going to talk MONEY ;) I made a quick, fun little DIY craft yesterday to help us keep our spending in check and I thought I would go over how we balance and maintain our meager little budget.....and a few tips I have for keeping things in check.
Let me start off by saying that we don't use credit cards. The only debt we have is our mortgage and usually a car payment.....we did have a car payment until we paid it off with our tax return a month ago (YEAH!). We tried the whole credit card/random loan thing back when we first got married and the results were disastrous. So, we save up for every big purchase we have. A lot of big big things end up coming out of our tax return, since we are lucky enough to get a decent one each year.
Here's what ends up happening though.....we go through lean times and really buckle down and budget the heck out of ourselves and get creative with money saving techniques and really save every penny....this in turn results in more prosperous times....then, because we feel like we have plenty of "extra" money, we lose our minds a little bit and overspend....sending us back to the scrimping and saving. Am I alone in the cycle? I doubt I am.
Usually what I do is lay out a budget for each pay day. I list all of the things I've allocated to be paid with the first pay check under it's date. Then I move on to the next pay day (we have two a month) and lay out the rest of the things for the month under that date. I include all bills, tithing, savings and I always budget a specific amount for groceries and gas. Anything misc usually gets included in the grocery budget if it's small. Then what I do is I go to the bank on pay day and pull out our grocery money, gas money and any money that is left over after all of the bills are paid in CASH. I get the bank to give me extra little envelopes to separate it out. :) Doing this helps me to not swipe my "magic card" and unknowingly spend the money that's already allocated for something else....or it keeps the hubs and I from both spending the same money....we both think we have the same amount, and we both spend it on different things (this totally happens when we leave money in our account). If you pull out everything extra in cash, then you can see what you have in front of you and you are less likely to mindlessly spend. Now, one problem you can have with cash is how quickly it can go once you break a big bill. The envelopes help with this.....and my new DIY project below will help with this as well.
You know, they say that no matter how much money you have, you will never get ahead until you can learn to live beneath your means. Spend less than you bring in, whether you have a small income or a large one, you can accomplish your goals if you are strict on yourself.....it'll just take you a lot longer the less you have (sigh....I'm in that boat, lol)
To help our family prioritize our spending, I made a list.....I have made this list a hundred times before. I Guess it wasn't working since I've had to make my list over and over again. I have trouble remembering what I've put on my list when my list is put away in my notebook. I decided we needed a big, visible, board that I will see constantly. The problem was that I knew it wasn't going to be pretty (or so I thought) and I didn't want guests to see all of our financial business posted all over our walls. I decided to go ahead and see what I could come up with.
What I wanted was to force us to narrow down our top five priorities, and focus on paying for those things first. I'm talking big ticket items, small things and medium things. Basically anything, big or small, that we need to pay for or want to buy that isn't included in our monthly budget.
Here's what I made:
It's a dry erase board made out of a large frame, and some pretty scrap book paper.
Ok....laugh at me....I spray painted our yard. I was in a hurry. It will wash away.
To miter the edges of the paper, I folded like so....and cut.
I put it all together with spray adhesive. I glued it all to the random piece of card board that came between the backing and the glass in the frame.
I trimmed the edges and put it in the frame. Easy peasy.
In case you can't see what this says (it's blurry no matter what I do, since the glass is reflecting back the dry erase marker) The top says: Budget Priorities. Then the pink words are "top 5 priorities," "cost", and "$ allocated." The blue words at the bottom say "amount in reserve" and "notes."
Basically, we list off our top five spending priorities. We made sure to include one big ticket item, two small trivial things, and two medium priced things. As we pull out any extra cash we have on paydays, we go and decide what to allocate it to. It may cover the entire thing or we may slowly chip away at it. As new things come up, there's a space to jot them down at the bottom, so we re-evaluate what is most important considering the new items. The amount in reserve section is just a total of the amount of money we are holding as we are saving up for these things.
Here's an example of it all filled out. These are dummy ideas, and money amounts....as much as I love getting personal with y'all, I'll probably refrain from showing you exactly what's in our budget if you don't mind ;) .....I WISH we were saving up for Disney....but we aren't.... won't be long with this new system though!
I really wish I could get a good picture of this. I tried like crazy to get a good one of it hanging on the wall, but those were even worse. Here's the best I could get. This really is one of those things that is WAY cuter in person.
It's hanging on the wall in the hallway across from my bedroom door. I can't miss it. This is one spot that you can see from most of the house. It has been a bright blue reminder to keep ourselves in check and work toward the goals that really matter, instead of buying trivial stuff, nickeling and diming ourselves into oblivion.
I have more plans to come up with something very cool to cover this when we have company over, so I'll probably do a second blog post when I have that finished.
Hope you all have a great day!