A budget doesn’t help you unless you use it. Much is said about making a budget, but what do you with one after you’ve got it?
Doug and I sat down together this weekend since it was the end of the month, and we looked at our budget and spending. It didn’t take much time, because there shouldn’t be any surprises.
Here is what we discussed:
1. We didn’t go anywhere because it was so cold outside, so my gas expenses were down.
2. I think our food costs are high. Doug says to keep it the same, because he likes our food and we don’t go out often.
3. There’s a dentist bill I don’t like very much. Moving on…
4. With spring coming, what do our wardrobes look like? Can last year’s clothes make it through the end of this summer? Does anyone need shoes?
5. We made a decision that it’s time to replace our old car. Our old car is twelve years old, and our “new” car is eleven years old. We plan to buy one with cash and avoid debt, so we talked about what kind to buy and how much we can afford.
When looking at a budget, whether it’s for you or it’s you and a spouse, there are a few key concepts to keep in mind:
Add grace to your budget.
There are bound to be accidents and mistakes. How do you categorize them? We literally have a line item in our budget called Grace. It helps us to not be mad when one of us does something wrong. (Read more about adding grace to your budget.)
There will be expenses you don’t like.
Chalk them up to the “cost of living.” Acknowledge them, but don’t dwell on them.
Plan your actions for next month.
Your budget needs to be tweaked from month to month. What will you try to do differently, and what purchases do you plan to make?
A budget isn’t supposed to make you feel trapped or constrained. It’s not there to make you feel bad. It isn’t something you use to pick fights with your husband. It isn’t someone standing over you questioning your every expense.
It’s a planning tool, and it’s yours. It’s there to put you in the driver’s seat so you don’t have to wonder where your money went at the end of the month. It’s there to help. Use it.
Do you have questions or need help? Let’s share help in the comments.