I’m a little nervous, a little excited and welp, all the emotions about writing this post. First off, let’s just get this out of the way – I’m in no way an expert at budgeting, I have a background in personal banking and have studied it quite a bit, but it’s not my area of expertise and this is what works for us and might not work for others. Also with that being said, these are my opinions. Now, moving on. I’m going to kind of break this down into sections just because I think that’ll be easiest. I’ll talk about our budget, how I kind of keep track of everything and what works for us. Then I’ll do kind of an FAQ and answer the most common questions I got asked on insta-stories. And then I’ll end with linking some things that I really like using!
I also tried to make up little “mock up” examples of bills and how I write things down so I could include pictures but without giving you guys our financial details because somethings are meant to be somewhat private 😉 HA. So let’s do this thing.
A couple of years ago, when we decided to sell our first home and get started on our more “forever home” we really sat down and kind of made a game plan of finances. We literally wrote down every bill we have, debt we owed, down to the literal cent. I wanted to see everything in one place and I kind of made it our “master list” which I STILL have. I did one page of “bills owed”, another page of “debt” and then a goal page of “what we wanted in savings by X amount of time”. Obviously all of those are going to be totally different for, EVERY SINGLE person. Once we had that down then we really started to work on our “budget” if you will. First we wrote down our typical salary each month between the two of us. Then we subtracted all of our “must have” (mortgage, insurance, student loans, etc.) bills and kept the remainder to work into the rest of our budget. I also made some little printables for these that you can use too, all the printables will be available at the bottom of the post.
Now I’m going to really dive into what we do and my tips and tricks that I’ve learned and use:
- Once you have your outline of what your actual bills are, then you’ll start budgeting things out like gas, groceries, utilities, etc. When you’re doing this one, make sure you aren’t OVER budgeting but also make sure you’re giving yourself enough budget. For instance, if you typically spend $300-$350 month on groceries, don’t set your budget at like $200 or $650. Get what I’m saying? Find a happy medium. For me, I like to over shoot a little, but if you like the game of a “challenge”, then set it at $325, however for me, I like to be safe so I would put ours at $350. Then you’ll continue to do so for everything, literally EVERYTHING. If it’s something you do, every, single, month – then put it on the paper. So here’s a mock one that I made up, with just random numbers and small lists – so obviously they will be much different and more in depth. I even made you a little printable for this too, again at the end of the post, that you can use to write yours out! I’m very much a visual person so writing things out helps me.
- After you have your entire budget written out, including everything – literally, we have a column for “car emergencies” that we just set aside a little each month for, a savings for Blake, every little thing INCLUDE IT IN THE BUDGET. I’ve just learned that if it’s not in the budget and being accounted for each month then it most likely won’t go where it needs to go or happen. Now you’re going to add EVERYTHING up on both the normal bills (mortgage, etc.) and the budget side. SO using my mock up from above the total would be $3895.00. You’ll take that number and divide it up into the number of paychecks you have. SO if you have two pay checks that come in a month, then it would be split in half at, $1947.50 per paycheck that you’ll set aside for bills, etc.
- Set up a bills checking account – we have found that this works really well for us and we can still use it as a normal checking account, but not our main one. So the number from above that you’re pulling out each paycheck will just automatically go into that bills checking account. Then you can set up auto drafts, etc. so bills are automatically coming out of the account that you’re putting the money in every month. **NOW the best rule of thumb for this that I’ve found, is to set it in there for the following month, so you’re always a month ahead and there’s always enough money in there, then it’s never a worry and just turns into a system**
- At the end of each month, you will go through and make sure you’ve met budget on things. SO for instance, groceries, let’s say you budget $350 but you spent $300 that month, well that $50 goes straight into savings, same for utilities, etc. – wherever you have the opportunity to go under budget, etc. Remember though if you go over budget you have to subtract that – but the goal is to always stay UNDER or right on budget. The only area I DON’T do this, is emergency car repairs, that amount just automatically transfers to our savings every month to keep it easy.
THE LEFTOVER MONEY:
- The best method to the leftover money that we have found is to just automatically set 50% of it away to savings right away.
- Now we are a little different and I’m a firm believer in credit and credit cards when used the right away, agree or don’t agree with me – to each their own and you have to find what works best for you. The reason I like them though is because you can earn so many rewards with them. For instance, our Disneyland trip that we just went on was basically free for us using points. You just have to find a card you like and be disciplined with it, meaning don’t overspend. If you have found you do overspend with credit cards in the past, then simple, don’t get one.
- ANYWAYS, so we automatically put 50% away in savings, then the other 50% we use as needed, so if we purchase something on our credit card that was NOT budgeted, one – we do NOT purchase it unless it’s available in our checking account and two, we immediately put that amount we spent, aside to pay it off at the end of each month. This way we are accumulating points to use but also being smart about things.
- Now, once the last day of the month hits, I like to look, see what is left in that “leftover” and put it somewhere we are currently focusing on – so if you’re trying to pay student loans off or save more or whatever – that is where this money would go.
Using a Planner:
See example I made up above^^ — Like I said on stories, I LOVE using my planner for our budget, just because again visual. SO once I made our master list of bills, budget and goals I went through my planner, wrote down EACH thing that was due on it’s day due, then really broke down what goes in our “bills” account on paydays and our savings, etc. I also use my planner to write down goals. SO if I know once of us is getting paid extra for something or a bonus or whatever, I write down what I want to do with it. I do this with savings goals too – I want to have, x amount by x date.
- Q: How did you budget in building your new home and vacations?
- A: This is kind of where that “leftover” money comes into play – so whatever you are focusing in on that moment, the money goes there. Also when we were building this house we really adjusted our “fun budget” etc. so that we could save more.
- Q: How do you plan for the unexpected small things?
- A: One rule of thumb that I really learned when I took banking courses and worked at a credit union was to always have 6 months + of your basic bills set aside. This would be, your mortgage, car payments, insurance, etc. SO SAVINGS IS KEY. Now obviously that’s not going to happen over night, nor is it a real possibility for everyone, but I think if you’re actively really putting forth and effort to save you’ll have at least a small plan for the unexpected thing. You just have to do your best. If I’ve learned anything it’s that you don’t know what life is going to throw at you – we’ve had really hard years, months, days, and then good days. You just have to hold on and do your best and be as ready as you can.
- Q: How do you stick to it?
- A: Honestly, dive in full force and don’t look back. You just HAVE to be disciplined, that’s the reality of it. Plus it’s SUPER rewarding to watch things getting paid off and your savings growing. 😉
- Q: How do you budget for Target?
- A: Guys, priorities because you know Target is a must for me 😉 I include this in our fun money or if there’s something we really want and I’m okay with it, we will take it from the other 50% of the “leftover”.
- Q: Do you use or like the cash envelope system?
- A: We actually used to do this when we were in college and it was fine, but honestly – I just don’t love carrying cash around and what we do now seems to work well for us. And like I said, we love them credit card points – so we use it as much as we can. But to each their own, you have to use what’s best for you!
- Q: Our income is not fixed, how do you budget that?
- A: Totally get that, especially being self-employed 😉 You just have to write down your budget accordingly. You’ll know somewhat of what you’re going to make in the weeks to come, so you’ll just have to budget more on a short term budget, rather than long term.
- Q: How do you balance savings and spending on wants?
- A: Not going to lie, this one was a hard one for me for awhile. BUT like I mentioned earlier, watching your savings grow is literally SO rewarding, so I think that helps. I also like to focus on the big picture – ie; I want to retire at a decent age, I want to be able to give Blake things and help her with college, etc. Not to mention, while I love to get my Target on, in the long run – it’s not worth overspending for a “thing”.
- Q: Do you and Marcus agree on this?
- A: Yes! Marcus is totally on board. Honestly, I do alllll of our finances, but we communicate and he is aware of what’s going on, where things are going and gives his input, so it’s totally a team effort. We also have our own “fun money” amounts each month, so we know that as well and are able to spend on ourselves a little bit too. Also maybe all of my “fun money” each month gets spent on Target and Starbucks? Whoops. This is a judgement free zone though people.
- Q: Ways to cut spending?
- A: When we first really started this system after college, I took the first month to document and chart everything – where were we overspending, what were we buying, etc. Once I was done it was a harsh realization but we were spending like $600 on eating out every month, that was SO not necessary so we budgeted from there. If you have a tighter budget, which we have all had, then you’ll have to make harder choices and cut other things like cable, etc.
Alright, I got asked a lot of questions on insta-stories but I think I answered most of them in the description of our budget and then the FAQs. However, if you have another question I’m totally happy to answer, just within reason – like don’t be asking things like how much do you make! 😉 No ones business. So hopefully that all made sense and I explained it okay. Obviously everyone is going to be a little different but I think if I were to leave you with just a few tips and tricks, it would be one, organize (ie; we use the file folder below to keep our receipts by month), set up a savings for both you (and your kids if possible) and remember the bigger picture – one day you’re going to be in your 50’s, 60’s and wanting to retire, remember that now and don’t overspend.
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