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I know that budgets seem very overwhelming to many people. To be honest, they were totally overwhelming to me at first too. It can be so confusing and seem like it is so time consuming when you are first starting out. Some people feel like they don’t even know where to start. They want to budget and make the most of their money but they are just not sure how. I get it…. I have been there too. We were there it seems like not too long ago. Managing the household budget can seem a little scary and like it may be too complicated or hard. I am going to give you some tips on how to manage the household budget so it is easier and so you have a system in place that takes care of most of it for you.
How to prioritize your household budget
There are certain things in the budget that you cannot alter. For example, you have to pay rent or your mortgage. If you have a car payment, you need to pay that too. If you have student loans, medical bills, credit card debt, you need to pay something on those as well, right? What else do you need in the budget? You definitely need food, gas for the car, heat, electric, fun money and maybe some other things in there.
When we started our budget we made 3 columns:
Column 1– debt that we owe. Write down any debt that you owe and automate that this comes out first each month. Try to side hustle your way out of the debt that is the smallest. You can sell a bunch of stuff to try to get some of your debt paid off as well. We did this when we started and we were able to pay off a medical bill with the money we got from selling our stuff. Every little bit helps here so don’t discount that making an extra $50 or $100 won’t add up because it really does.
Column 2 makes up our bills- electric, gas, cell phone bill, internet, trash, sewer, etc. This column is for stuff that we will never be able to get rid of. It will just always be there even if we are debt free.
Column 3 makes up the variable column. This is the column you have to look at and really see where you can make your money work for you. This column we use for food, gas for the car, charity, fun money and all the extras you need to have to live basically. This column can change and this is the column you really have to pay attention to. It is easy to overspend on food and fun (trust me). You have to be diligent about working in this column. Track your expenses here and figure out which numbers really work for you. Your budget may change a little from month to month so be ready to make some changes if needed.
Many people use the cash envelope system here so they know they can’t go over. We don’t. We use our debit card and track the expenses through our bank account and it seems to work for us. Feel free to experiment and see what works for you. I often will keep receipts from groceries and add them up each week and at the end of the month to re-evaluate whether or not I am on target with food.
Only having 3 columns really simplifies the process for us. It just makes it easier. We have automatic withdrawal for column one at the beginning of each month. Your bank will probably offer that as well. For column 2, we look at those bills to make sure there is nothing crazy as far as expenses with gas, electric, etc. We do pad the budget for gas and electric to make sure we don’t overspend on those areas. We budget $100 per month on each. If we go over on one, the other is likely less so it naturally just compensates for the other.
Column 3 is the tricky column. This is the column where we have to watch our spending…. Especially on food. It is so easy to go over on the food budget. For us, we don’t use the cash envelope system here. I use the debit card and we calculate each week how much is spent. You can simply write it down on a chart or keep your receipts, but track it somehow to see how you are doing. We generally buy the same things for food so I generally know each week what I will be spending.
Food can be expensive so get creative with meals. Don’t shop until you are almost out of food. If you need snack ideas, I created a list of 100 Cheap Clean Eating snack ideas. If you need help with organizing meals I absolutely recommend using the Organize Yourself Skinny eBook to help as there are several ways you can get organized with meal prep that are mentioned in this eBook. You can find our more about the book here. You can also save money on groceries by using some of these methods. If you hate meal planning, I recommend the $5 meal plan. For more information about the $5 Meal Plan, you can check it out here. It is $5 per month and they plan your meals and give you the shopping list for your meals. I just recently signed up and the service has been great so far!
I recommend for fun money that you use cash. It is a guaranteed way to only spend what you have here.
Tips to make the budget easier
I know that budgeting can seem complicated or like a lot of work. I get it. I really do. But, the reason I recommend budgeting is because it is a lot less stress than trying to figure out where to find money to pay for bills. Life is all about systems. Once you find the system that works for you, it is so much easier. Here are a few tips to make budgeting easier:
Have a place for the bills that come in. When you see a bill in the mail, have a designated spot for them so you have pay everything all at once. You will have bills at the first of the month and usually at the middle of the month, pay them no more than twice a month if you can help it. You don’t need to waste the mental energy with paying bills as they come in.
Create a designated time to pay the bills. Organize your calendar so you have time to sit down and pay the bills. This will give you time to look at the money twice per month
Have a budget meeting set up for each of these times. Set up a time before or after paying bills to meet with your spouse or the family to discuss how things are going and what money will be paid toward debt.
Hold each other accountable at the meeting. Make sure you are all on track with how the money is being spent. You may need to alter the budget if you cut out your finances or you need to increase your grocery budget. Here is a list of other things you could talk about at the budget meeting.
When managing the household budget, don’t make it too complicated. Make it as simple as possible. I know that getting started with using a budget can be complicated, but this really is a very easy way to manage a budget.
Don’t forget to sign up for the email course to create you own Rockstar Budget! You can sign up here!
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What method do you use to budget?
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