Budgeting… The Wrong Way
Recently I found some of my old budgeting tools and excel sheets. For years I had assumed I was good with money and that by writing a few bills down on paper I was budgeting…Actually, I wasn’t good with money and I wasn’t even budgeting! I was writing down how much our bills were and a round about time they came out of the account. That. Is. Not. Budgeting!! That is sort of the bare minimum of being a responsible adult… (Cringe)
There are a ton of free budgeting tools available to you. One of my favorites was the Every Dollar App. My wife and I used this religiously for some time. In my opinion this app was pivotal in our quest to become debt-free. The app allows you to create a monthly budget and to log each purchase. The logging of each purchase forced us to be more responsible with our money. For us, the Every Dollar App forced accountability.
Another application popular budgeting application is Mint. Mint has been around for a long time and is owned by Intuit. You might be thinking that name sounds familiar, they also make TurboTax and QuickBooks. So, they know a thing or two about money! Mint will automatically categorize purchase and can be linked to your debt and credit cards. Also, it will notify you if you go over budget!
Last but not least, Wally. Wally might not be the most well rounded application but, it’s good for one thing… budgeting! The app can help you track your income, expenses and displays a snapshot of your remaining budget. Anyone who has every over drafted an account will appreciate this feature! Finally, I like how the application looks, it has a really sleek display.
I’m happy I can laugh at myself now because back in 2016, I thought I was king-ding-a-ling Seriously, I thought I was doing some badass budgeting. I know something is better than nothing but, come on, I wasn’t budgeting. We simply had a list of bills each pay, and when they came out of our account. I wasn’t tracking our spending at all. We made a budget and then left $1,250 a month for food, gas and fun. $1,250… What the hell? Why the hell does anyone need $1,250 just to spend bi-weekly? That’s nuts… just nuts.
To make matters worse, I didn’t track that $1,250, I had NO idea where it went. $20 here… $20 there… money has this really cool way of vanishing when you ignore it! The pay period will go on and pretty soon my wife and I would have the “We only have X amount left in the account”. At that point, we hoped the other wouldn’t buy any more shit. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t and we would overdraft the account.
We were mindlessly spending thousands of dollar a month! To this day, I don’t even know what we bought… There is probably an isle at Cabelas named after me and a Dollar Store named after my wife. You laugh, you can spend a shit load of money at a dollar store… (wife screaming from other room) Trust me, you can.
After I found the Every Dollar App we learned what budgeting really was! My wife and I sat down and wrote out a monthly budget. It was hard and we really didn’t even know where to start. Luckily, our bank has the ability to export monthly statements to excel, so we did that and got a general idea as to what we SHOULD spend on food and other items. Budgeting was awkward at first, it’s not easy to hold yourself accountable for your spending, let along your partner for theirs. After a few months something cool started to happen. Accountability led to less over-spending ,and better decisions. Better decisions led to less awkwardness. Less awkwardness led to… Giggity giggity.
It took us a few months to really figure out exactly how much we spend on things… We typically would under budget for food. Shopping at the big box stores had to stop. Let’s take just a moment to remember online grocery shopping and curb-side pick up… (silence). It was so good while it lasted but, she gone. We’d walk into [Big Box Store] with $200 to spend, buy a bag of groceries, some grapes, and POOF have $6 left in the budget… Once we started frequenting Aldi’s, it became much easier to stay within our budget. We still over-spend on food at times but, it’s a rare occasion and it typically leads to massive under-spending the next pay.
Every Dollar Downside
The one big down-side to the Every Dollar App is the fact it doesn’t allow you to create a bi-weekly budget. Monthly budgeting probably works for some but, we are paid bi-weekly and for us it was easier to budget based on pay days. Perhaps one day (maybe today) Every Dollar will update their tool to allow for bi-weekly budgeting.
Budgeting… Our Way
I grew tired of monthly budgeting apps and decided I needed to create my own excel budget. So, I sat down with my buddy Microsoft Excel and created a bi-weekly budget workbook. Creating four sections based around our spending. Bills, Vehicles, Food and Debt (now “Other”). The simple workbook allows us to manually upload our spending and some simple formatting allows for auto-population of expenses. I even learned how to make the font turn RED when we over-spend. Dammit, I should be working at Google or something. These tech-savvy talents are being wasted.
This part sucked. Here’s the truth, it sucks at first to admit your screwing up. It does, it’s embarrassing but, I had to get over it and man up. You gotta be honest with your partner. Budgeting for us is a team effort, and every Thursday my wife and I sit down and discuss the upcoming budgeting period. We discuss if there any new expense due, if there is something we need or want, or if additional money needs set aside for something. Communicating with my wife has a funny way of reducing my “wants” and having to wait a few weeks massively reduces impulse buys. The most important part of the budget meeting occurs when we both agree to the budget. High five, slap on the ass and we are off to conquer the world.
Here We Are
We realized that buying random stuff didn’t make us happy and we had life and financial goals. If we wanted to achieve those goals, we had to take control of our finances. Budgeting proved to be the magic bullet. Knowing and control where every penny goes is the one key to success. It’s not HOW much money you make, it’s WHERE you send that money that dictates financial success. Once we completed our bi-weekly budget, we were able to pay off the final $59,403.26 in debt in roughly a year. Sure, it’s intense… and yes, we sacrificed. We lived, and we grew to understand our finances and each other so much more. The results of budgeting absolutely blew me away. We went from having roughly $2,300 a month in extra cash to $5,200!! That would not have been possible without budgeting.