Making your first budget (or your second or third) can be frustrating.
Earlier this week I told you about the moment, or rather process, when I realized I needed to change my financial situation. Making a budget that worked for my family was also a long process. I’d like to share it with you, so you can avoid the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
When my husband and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor made us make up a budget. That first budget was a joke, now that I look back on it. We took the amount of money my husband made and subtracted all of our expenses. When we got to $0, we called it good.
Unfortunately our budget didn’t take into account things like hair cuts, car repairs, and new clothes. Or even used clothes. We wrote it down to show our pastor, and that’s the last time we looked at it. We obviously didn’t get off to a good start.
In our early marriage, I was really into Larry Burkett and what is now Crown Ministries. Larry, and now Crown, have a guideline budget tool based on suggested percentages of income for each budget category, so I used it as a guideline.
Unfortunately, our minimum debt payments were 15% of our income, instead of the suggested 5%. And our total housing costs were more than the suggested 36%. Still, I was determined to make the budget work, so I started slashing budget categories.
What we ended up with was pretty unreasonable. $85 a month for groceries. $20 a month for car repairs. (We drove a ’76 Datsun). Still, we pretended everything would work out. And we never once lived within our budget.
My husband worked in commission sales for many years. In my opinion, there’s nothing harder than trying to make a budget when you don’t know what your income is going to be from month to month.
Still, I figured out a way to make a budget that worked for us. I think it would have been a good thing, if I had used the right tools to track our budget. But I didn’t know about the wide variety of budgeting tools available, and I was trying to use Quicken, which didn’t do what I wanted it to do.
That’s not to say Quicken is a bad program, but it wasn’t the right one for me. So that budget failed too. You can’t stay on a budget if you don’t keep track of what you’re spending.
We’re still working on fine-tuning our budget, but we finally have a system that is working pretty well. My husband’s income is fairly regular, which makes it easier to budget. I’m using Y-NAB, which does exactly what I need my budget tool to do. And we’re committed to getting out of debt. I have high hopes that this is the year my budget works for me!
This is the first in a multi-part series about the things I’ve learned from my budgeting mistakes. Stay tuned next week for more in-depth posts about budgeting on a variable income, dealing with an unreasonable budget, and finding the right tools to use.
Do you use a budget? What are some of the problems you’ve encountered when trying to budget? How did you deal with them? Don’t have a budget? Do you not want to use one, or is something holding you back?
Photo by Betsssssy.
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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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