Tuesday, September 22, 2009

money and budgeting

For 7 months now (since March) I have been tracking my expenditures obsessively. I have a system - I keep receipts for about a week, then sit down with my bank acct. webpage open, and my ledger in front of me, and I write down the ammounts and the balances. Then, I open up my handy spreadsheet that I got from Sparkpeople, and I then break down each receipt into categories. For example, I might spend $50.00 at Vons, but I write down if I spent it on snacks, drinks, fresh fruit, meat, spices, etc. I do this for a whole month, and then open up spreadsheet page #2, copy and paste the month's line items, and then sort by category. I then make it pretty so I can go down the list and see exactly how much I spent on what category. Then I open spreadsheet page #3, which is Months-Side-by-Side. This is so I can see trends over the months in my spending, by categories. I have a column where I find out the averages, and that's what I base my budget on. For example, if I end up spending 200 during December for gifts, but I don't spend any the rest of the time, then I am trying to spread out that 200 over a year, so I fit the average in my monthly budget.

My first few months it was a success for me to a) just track everything. It was not an easy habit to get into. After tracking, I was able to see that I was spending way more money than I wanted to on a few clear categories - eating out, for example. I think that first month I tracked I spent nealy $175.00 on eating out. The next month it was much easier to just be conscious of that, and I cut it down to about $70.00. Now I have a $30.00 limit for eating out each month,and I can usually stick inside of that.

This month I am now concerned with saving money - and that I can't seem to do that. So I have taken every one of my averaged categories, and made a whole new page where I figured out my ideal spending budget for each thing, I put that at the top of a chart, and as I spend, I can subtract to find out how much less I have for the month. Kind of the same idea as when I used to budget by putting actual cash in envelopes - that way if I ran out of one, I had to literally borrow from another. I was a very visual person. In any case, so now I have my list! I just have to stick with it. And hope that no emergency happens, because I don't really have an emergency contingency plan yet. Ack.

So my categories and budgeted amount per month are
Art Supplies: 15.00
Clothes: 40.00
Dinner Out: 20.00
Fitness: 5.00
For Adam: 25.00
Groceries: 300.00
Household: 60.00
Hygeine: 12.00
Lunch out: 30.00
Medical: 50.00
Pets: 40.00
Recreation: 30.00
Rent: 733.00
Savings: 300.00
Student Loan: 53.00
Vehicle: 290.00
Garden: 10.00
Gifts: 20.00
School: 40.00

I would so love to have a separate bank account for each category. But I suppose I'll just have to be smart enough to do it all on paper and keep track of it. This month I am doing pretty well - I blew 30 dollars extra on clothes at the beggining of the month, so I've had to borrow from some other categories, and I have to pay off my root canal - which I am able to do just a little at a time.

My other project is to sell things I make, of course. It was so much fun to do that at the Good Vibrations Conference, but now I need another publicity boost. ;)

Anyways, if you have a different way of budgeting, let me know. I am always trying to make my system better.

I'm just so very tired of being broke. I feel anxious without savings. I like having a plan.


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