A Better Way to Budget
I’m going to talk about one of the most repugnant words in the English language today. The dreaded ‘B’ word.
Yes… Let’s talk BUDGET.
My husband and I have struggled over the years to keep track of our money well. We are not ‘Spreadsheet’ type people. We are very much ‘Have You Seen My Sunglasses Oh Wait Never Mind Here They Are On Top Of My Own Head’ type people. So, you can already see the dilemma forming, I’m sure.
This lack of budgeting prowess has gotten us into some pickles over the last 14 years of our marriage, such as some credit card debt and often finding ourselves with too much month at the end of our money. A few years ago, we got tired of always feeling beat up by our bank statements, so we signed up for a Financial Peace University class and decided we were going to pay off our debt and get back on track.
Fast forward to now. All our debts (excepting the house) are paid off, and that’s great. But now that the slate is mostly clean, we’re discovering there’s still a problem.
We still totally suck at budgeting.
The trouble with making and sticking to a budget is the "dailyness" of it. Even when we were paying down our debt over all those years, it was more of a “just throw whatever is left over at it” approach. It was not super calculated or structured. Paying down debt for us was more of a desperate, common goal that we tackled with much heart and very little structure. But budgeting, by nature, has to be a relentless pursuit. A daily routine. So how do you do that when there are two of you living different lives in two different places during the day, pulling from the same accounts? It’s a conundrum that still baffles even the most brilliant minds of our times. (Or so I like to tell myself to make myself feel better. Haha.)
In the pre-technology era, this meant each person writing down each transaction and, at the end of the day, balancing your accounts using things like pencils, paper, receipts, and whatchamacallit… MATH. I’m sure it is true that every single person should still know how to operate their budgets in this way and balance a checkbook on paper, even in this era of technology we find ourselves in, but y’all… I need all the help I can get. Please, futuristic technology robot cyborgs of the universe! Help me count my dollars!!
After doing some research on what tools are out there to help the less-than-savvy budgeters in the world, we landed on a budgeting software called YNAB. (Short for ‘You Need A Budget’.) This program appealed most to us because of its philosophy of ‘giving every dollar a job.’ Every single dollar that comes in is accounted for so that none of them can wander off by themselves into a thrift store, never to be seen or heard from again. We have lost too many precious dollars that way in the past, and it’s time to take a stand. No dollar left behind!
The great thing about some of these budgeting tools that are available now is that they can actually link to your bank accounts, so that each transaction is automatically entered into the program for you, and you can designate where each transaction belongs in your budget. No pencils required! (Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.) Plus, each program has an app for your phone so that you and your partner can keep track of what is available to spend, even when you’re on the go.
Even better, though, is the fact that I can share all of this new budget-y knowledge that I am gaining with my own kids as they grow and become responsible for their own finances. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like they don’t have control over their money, and I’m excited to be able to share some tips and tools with them that they can apply even now with their allowance and chore money. It’s never too early to start!
So, if you are struggling to take control of your budget like we were, take heart! There’s never a better time to take a baby step than right in this very moment. The freedom that comes from having a clear picture of what is coming in and going out of the bank account is well worth the effort, whatever form that may take for you and your family. Maybe you love the spreadsheets or the pencils or even…the math. Do what works for you! For us, it’s the futuristic technology robot cyborgs all the way.