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Budgeting struggle

September 19th, 2015 at 02:34 pm

I find it impressive and amazing people can follow a budget. I struggle with organizing receipts and honestly I hate breaking them down. I hate trying to group cleaning supplies, home furnishings, clothing, etc. I mean I can do very simple stuff like groceries and eating out and gas for the car. I also can do stuff like insurance or cable or water or electric.

But tracking all the spending? I'm not sure where to put categories and receipts sometimes. I only check my restaurant receipts against the charges to make sure the tip is put on correctly. And I keep receipts of things I might return or are high value with the item.

But how do you really track it? Is it better weekly? Or month? How do you budget stockpiling groceries or cleaning supplies?

What really worked for us and I'm still getting into the rhythm is picking a number and seeing where our budget will land. I'll pick a number and see if we can stay within and if need be I'll tighten it.

Rent $2400, Electric $200, Water $100, Internet $60, Cell Phone $95, Trash $30, Gas $200, Groceries $500, Eating out $200, Misc $100. Then see if we hit these targets and adjust.

But tips for budgeting will be appreciated.

6 Responses to “Budgeting struggle”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    I've been doing the backwards budgeting as you mentioned on my blog for many, many years. However...we (um, maybe more my husband) isn't aware of how much money is left. I'm not really blaming him as we haven't worked together to make it work. I've had to adjust each pay period based on our lack of communicating. I'm just tired of it and I think all the spending this year on moving and college has amplified the need to get on the same page.

    Our categories are going to be simple as well...YNAB suggests this. We hope to be tracking it nearly daily or at a minimum weekly. Since YNAB has mobile apps that sync with each other my husband can input his expenses while out and about and I can do the same.

  2. snafu Says:

    We're all different with different attitudes towards money. If you are satisfied with your system of inflow of income and outflow for expenses by their due date, future plans and savings you needn't adopt someone else's view. Like you, I've been puzzled by how others use the detailed information they collect and their detailed analysis on spending.

    Whatever method you've used up to now has obviously been successful. You're not a novice and planned how to use savings until DH returns to the workforce.

    DH's eyes glaze over whenever I suggest discussing finance. Zero based cash flow system works because it's the system he used at work. I prefer broad strokes, paying myself first, and using sums spent in broad categories the previous years to challenge myself to 'manage' spending as much as possible. I like statistics and watch recommendations like those that suggest families spend no more than 28% of income on housing or auto/transportation at 15%, food 17%. I eschew paying interest and give myself a lot of 'atta girl' self talk when I spend less than designated in any category. There is a more complicated, 3 section plan for savings.

  3. ceejay74 Says:

    I do a budget item and subtract from it every time I make a purchase; when it's gone we can't buy anything more in that category (or we can go into the next time period's line item if we really need something, but then we have less to work with the next period).

    I don't save any receipts; I just adjust my spreadsheet after a purchase and then throw away the receipt once it's been subtracted from my budget. Here's what my spreadsheet looks like, roughly: https:// docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18jF2wUxveFg2-tWNILJHf48jkKlwwbGNhqq8CYQGE74/edit#gid=0 Main difference is, I keep the final line as "$0.00" so when I adjust it, I can make sure what I did is adding up. Basically when I go to the grocery store, I subtract the receipt amount from Grocery/Household for that week and add the same amount to the credit card line.

    I don't separate groceries from other household items, it's just a straight weekly amount that can go toward food, cleaning supplies, small repair stuff, etc. If we're really under budget (which isn't often) we can pay for our wine with it too.

    For groceries/household, I do $170 per week during the CSA season, $200 per week when we aren't getting CSA veggies.

  4. PatientSaver Says:

    I wouldn't have the patience for budgeting either. But I do know how much discretionary money is available each month, based on my monthly income and average monthly expenses, so I just keep that in mind and have a vague awareness of what I've got to worth with based on what other discretionary items I may have already purchased in a given month.

    However, I do religiously track all my expenses into probably 18 or so different categories that I feel work best for me. I enjoy it. I've been doing it for decades now, so it's a habit. It sounds like this would be a hassle for you, so one compromise might be to reduce your expense categories into 3 simple buckets: 1. Housing (mortgage/rent, property taxes, HOA fees, homeowners insurance, 2.Ongoing Essential Expenses (electric, phone, Internet, food and so one) and 3. Discretionary (entertainment, gifts, subscriptions, etc.)

    If you saw how much you were spending on Discretionary expenses from one month to the next, for instance, it might spur you to take a closer look at how you're spending and further refine your categories so you can more easily spot anomalies.

  5. ThriftoRama Says:

    We opt for simplicity. We have $400 cash in an envelope on the side of the fridge for any expense that isn't a regular, recurring bill. (This is $400 per week). We pay for groceries, kid stuff, restaurants, etc. out of that, and when it's gone, it's gone. It goes pretty fast!

  6. Livingalmostlarge Says:

    Sweet I can't believe how varied the responses are. It's amazing that even people who firm handles on budgets can vary so much. That so people do cash in an envelope to deducting every purchase till i'ts gone. Amazing.

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