For most of us, our budgets don't break due to huge expenses every month. We die from 1000 small cuts and potentially give up since it "is just too hard for us", or, "we aren't good with money like Bobby!"
What I saw with our budgeting struggles was exactly that, we would say "oh we've been so good we'll go out to dinner", or, "It is just a sweater, it was on sale, I Saved you money, that what you wanted wasn't it?" so we would be $20 over here, and $10 over here, it just adds up quickly. Also, once you break discipline, you have to get right back in or you will stop trying soon.
One of the things that I was initially dead set against after reading Dave Ramsey, was the wacky envelope system. I thought that since we were bad with cash this would be a ticket to crash, but really that is the secret of the system...you can't crash, you can't go over!
The system works like this:
- Separate bills - Separate the ones you can pay with cash, true cash, not money orders or checks. For us this was the following: Groceries, Gas for our car, Entertainment, Dining, Kids Allowance, and Our Allowance.
- Set budget for each - If you already have a budget, great! Otherwise you need one for every category.
- Break It up - I get paid every two weeks so our plan was to get cash every Saturday after I got paid. So we divided the budget in two. I understand that I get paid 26 times, but our stomach doesn't know that so we looked at a top down budget and a bottom up and determined our bi-weekly needs.
- Separate Envelopes - You need separate envelopes for each amount. On allowance, one envelope per person. Write on the outside of them what they are for and how much is in them when filled.
- Divide up the responsibilities -Get your spouse Involved! Letting someone else have decision ability over a fund is a great way to stop being the budget police! If it is just you, then still judge each envelope as a separate entity and not as a pool of money.
- Plan out your cash - In order to fill those envelopes to the exact amount, and no more, you will need a wide variety of denominations, in our case, all of them! Plan out what bills work for you in each envelope. If you want to eat pizza, and you know Pizza Hut won't take a $50...don't put a fifty in that envelope. On the other hand, you might not want to bring 200 single $1 dollar bills anywhere...trust me...
- Off to the Bank - I will warn you, some of you will feel weird the first time you go in with a note asking for an odd amount of cash and then want it in all of the possible denominations. Don't stress. The banks don't care, and if they did...who cares! It is your money. In fact I have explained the system to a few teller now and one of them is doing the same now as well!
- The Last Envelope - There is one more envelope; label it Overage. You won't need it yet. But at the end of your period, one week, two weeks, etc., whatever is left over goes in to that fund. My suggestion is to do something that the whole family wants to do; pizza, a movie. Celebrate that you beat budget, which is the only way money is left! Spend it guilt free. You will want to put it towards debt, or some other noble cause, but don't you need to as it is truly extra But you do need it, and so do your loved ones, small motivators. If you want Budget to stop being a 4-letter word? Just try it!
- The Aftermath - For us it is important for everyone to know how we ended up for the month at. IF we went over in some other area of our budget we dock the next envelopes, but not the overage. So for us for example, our gas bill was a Ninja this month, as some folk decided that they preferred it warmer then where the thermostat was set, no surprise, higher Natural Gas bill. So for the next few envelopes we will pay it back via lowered Dining and Entertainment. It is a great reminder to all to do there part...and have my kids tattle on each other (kidding).
So what about those easy savings that I spoke about. They come from making budget every time. If you are not using this method, add up over the last 90 days how much you went over in those categories you could pay for in cash? $20, $50, more? Big time budget blowers and money management killers. Using a debit card, or even worse a credit card, and you can nickle and dime yourself to death.
Us? In 12 weeks we haven't gone over once in anyone of the categories, and had, on average $20+ to spend on a couple extras! We are not perfect by a long ways, but we have been able to work together and still have some creature comforts. I know I drive people nuts by saying this, but It is a marathon and not a Sprint. You have to be able to live your plan...forever!
Hope this works for you. If you are doing something similar let me know, would love to hear how it is working for you.
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