No. of Recommendations: 3
It's like, since I've done all the thinking and work of putting together this budget and I got it to come out in the black, I'm done with that task, no further effort required. Then, without any further effort, we're living on the credit cards again! Even though my pretty little budget says we shouldn't need them this month! All my thinking is directed toward a fine activity (the budget) but then shuts off when it comes time to make decisions that affect whether or not the budget gets carried out.


Truthfully this was the big obstacle for me for literally years. I did these extremely pretty budgets (look at this gorgeous budget!) and then at the end of the month I would fill in the actual numbers which bore no relation to the budget! And, I would shrug and go to the next month.

I truly think that I saw the budget as something to hope for rather than as a plan that I was really supposed to follow.

Truthfully I'm still not as good at it as I would like to be. I have improved. Here are a few things that helped me:

1. I have a spreadsheet with the budget in it and I put in my actual spending in each category on at least a weekly basis, sometimes more often. That way if I am getting out of whack in an area I can at least know it and work on cutting back for the rest of the month. I also track spending almost daily in Microsoft Money.

2. If I use a credit card, I use one with no balance on it and I immediately transfer the amount spent to a separate savings account so that I can pay the full bill when it comes in. Yesterday, I received an almost $5000 Master Card bill (all things related to us moving and buying our house) and I paid it immediately. I was able to do that because I had set aside the money during the past month.

3. I have started to regularly put some money into a separate account for those pesky irregular expenses. I had about $1600 set aside for this from when I started this last fall (this amount has now been totally blown through as we had a $1900 car repair this past month).

4. Unaccounted for cash is allocated to either my or DH's personal spending account. We each get a certain amount each month that we can spend freely for whatever we want. The catch is that if I can't for example account for any cash I've spent it is assumed to have been spent out of my personal spending money. This encourages me to records everything I spend.

5. One reason my old budgets never worked was that they bore no relation to reality. I had a tendency to not want to put into the budget those kinds of expenses that I didn't really want to have or that were boring. So I would budget for dry cleaning something that was half what it had been for the past year -- but didn't change how I bought or wore my clothes. Or I would budget assuming we wouldn't have any major car repair -- but somehow we always do. My current budget is actually calling for more spending than many of my past budgets....but it is a realistic budget rather than simply being a fantasy.
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