Budgeting: The Realization
It was the week of Micah's 3rd birthday, and my husband and I were going over the budget (or lack thereof) for his party that weekend. We were inviting his preschool classmates as well as friends and family, so we decided to avoid the set-up and clean-up at home and booked a very reasonable birthday package at a favorite local play place. It was a late morning party, so we only planned to provide the basics: pizza, drinks, veggie tray, and cake. Nothing that we were doing was extravagant, I had booked the venue 5 months earlier. There were no surprises, and yet we were stressing over finances.
It had been a common issue for us lately--we hadn't been paying enough attention to our budget, and it was really starting to hit us. All of our bills were paid on time, but we hadn't been monitoring our savings or watching our spending, then we acted surprised that we were living barely more than paycheck to paycheck. We knew better than that, and had been in good shape financially before having kids. I realized I had been making excuses and let us become disorganized.
I miss the days of always knowing what's for dinner, what options we have for other meals, and having everything written down on our command center, so everyone in my house can be on the same page while we're on the go. I miss not feeling like I have to apologize for the state of my home when guests come over with little to no notice. I'm not looking for a quick solution, I'm looking for a lifestyle change. Being neat and organized does not come naturally to me, but both qualities are important, and I want my kids to learn while they're young.
It would be easy for us to simply say we were going to make some changes and be more mindful of spending--we had certainly said those things before--but we were motivated. Jared and I sat down and combed through our bank account to log every single purchase we had made and put them into either the “necessary” or “extra” category. If a purchase fell into the “extra” category, we weighed how much it enhanced our lives. For example, our Netflix subscription is worth every penny, but the DVD add-on? Not so much. We rarely keep track of our queue, so either a movie we don’t want to watch shows up, or none at all. Once we finished this step, it was time to get specific with our budget.
I started researching and downloading different highly rated budgeting apps to see which would be the best fit for us. After looking through several, we landed on Dave Ramsey's EveryDollar app, and we love it. This app connects to your accounts to help you quickly and easily set a realistic budget and holds you accountable for every last cent. I have to say, the first month of using EveryDollar and following our much stricter budget was pretty eye-opening. I was happy to see that (with the added pressure of having to log each and every transaction) we stayed within our budget in almost every category, but we went way over budget on food. While much of that was covered by money left over from other categories, we still weren’t able to put the amount into savings that we wanted that month. For me, the disappointment of losing that extra savings and the money from our entertainment rollover fund is enough to get back on track with our food budget. More on that in our next budgeting post!
This post is the first of a series on our budget overhaul. To be informed when Budgeting: The Food is available, please subscribe below.