Our budget continues to be an iterative process. As much as I like stability, there are still expenses I forgot I need to add in our budget to account for and they disrupt my budget! In March, I needed new tires for my car and our car insurance was due. Also, our food budget, which includes groceries and going out to eat, was over budget by $388… Yikes!
These things happen, but knowing that you are going over budget because you check in with your budget is the important takeaway. My wife and I knew halfway through the month that we were going to go over budget. My wife’s birthday is in March, and we have many friends that have birthday’s in March too. Therefore, we were going out quite a bit. We frequented many restaurants in our old stompin’ grounds of Nordeast Minneapolis – brew pubs too 🙂
Our plan is to buckle down in April on food expenses to make up for the large expense for food in March.
The car insurance payment and needing new tires was also not a surprise. However, it still pains me to fork over that kind of cash for these types of expenses. I know some people save up for these larger expenses, but I’ve tried that in the past, and it doesn’t work for me. Instead, we keep a nice buffer in our checking account, so we don’t dip into our savings. We keep the savings account for true emergencies.
Long introduction today 🙂 In this post, I cover three items. First, I review why checking in on your budget is so important. Next, I discuss how to budget. Finally, I review some software tools available to aid in budgeting.
Checking in on your budget
Monitor where you are at a few times during the month. If you are married – talk with your partner. My wife and I try to sit down each week because it is important to spend time on your budget.
Knowing we were going over during the month of March, we did make some adjustments. One time we were out all day, and we needed a quick meal. So, we went to Taco Bell and left spending only $5 and some odd change.
Developing a plan if you go over budget is important. Everyone is going to go over budget at some point, but what is important is developing a plan after you go over budget, so you don’t keep making the same mistakes. Making these same mistakes is how credit card debt piles up and eventually causes a lot of stress.
How to Budget
Funny that I should be discussing “how to budget” with the title of my post being how I blew my budget. Creating a budget is important because you can’t check in on your budget until you create one!
One of the first posts I wrote on this blog is titled How to Get Your Finances Under Control. I developed a five-step plan to get out of debt and begin investing, and I share the five steps in this post.
- Track the money – know where each dollar you spend goes
- Create a budget
- Build an emergency fund
- Double down on your spending – find any savings you can and implement a debt snowball or debt avalanche
- Begin investing for the future
If you aren’t motivated to create a budget, I highly encourage you to take the first step – track the money!! I guarantee there will be surprises, and they will likely be in the food category. Just speaking from experience 🙂
Finally, if you are budgeting and have student loans, check out this post. There are potential avenues available to help you reduce the cost of student loans in the form of refinancing.
Budgeting Software Tools
You need a budget (YNAB), Mint, and Every Dollar is budgeting software tools available for you to start tracking your expenses.
I use Mint, and for the most part, I like it. I’ve been using Mint a number of years for budgeting. I like how you can create budgets and track all of your expenses in one spot. Mint creates fancy looking pie graphs or bar charts so you can dig into your spending. You can even compare your spending month over month or year on year. Another nice feature of Mint is that you can track your investment accounts. This feature is great to monitor all of your investment accounts in one spot.
Another nice feature of Mint is that you can track your investment accounts. This feature is great to monitor all of your investment accounts in one spot.
Everydollar is a similar software tool available for budgeting. If you are a Dave Ramsey fan you are probably aware of this tool because his company developed it. What I don’t like about this tool is that you have to pay for the integration features – $100 per year – that Mint provides for free. I tried out the tool, but because I have everything synchronized with Mint I didn’t feel like exhausting the effort in Everydollar to do the same.
You need a budget (YNAB) looks pretty cool. I haven’t used YNAB myself. From a cost standpoint, they meet in the middle between Mint (free) and Everydollar ($100) at $50. What I like about YNAB by looking at their website is their learning feature. They have classes, podcasts, newsletters, etc. The founder of YNAB is a fellow personal finance blogger and it seems like they “get it.”
I’ll keep everyone posted on how April shakes out! Cheers!!