Monthly Budget Woes

Oh the monthly budget.  What joys you bring to me each and every day and month.

Part of living on your own involves being a big girl and paying attention to your spending… okay maybe that’s also part of having money to spend but once you live on your own you reeeaaalllly have to pay attention to it.

I’m someone who has a hard time visualizing things and need something tangible to relate it to.  For example, telling me that a room is 12X12 doesn’t help me.  Telling me that it is a similar size to my bedroom at my parent’s house is something I can wrap my brain around.  People ask me the square footage of my apartment.  I do have that written down somewhere but it’s easier for me to look around and say “um, well it could fit inside this room… twice.”  My budget is no different.  Sure, I have an anally designed spreadsheet that my Dad helped me with which lists each category and the amount allotted per month. 

And I took it one step further to try and help me and made a separate tab where I add up everything I spent in each category and then subtract it from the budget to see where I went over and under. 

And then I took it another step.  The top is a portion of the section where I record my actual spending and the bottom is the portion where the differences between actual and budgeted are calculated.

I needed something tangible.  Just plugging in the numbers at the end of the month doesn’t help.  It just shows me how much I failed.  I need something that will be a constant reminder each time I’m shopping.  I thought about taking money out of the bank each month and putting the exact amounts in a multi-slot envelope and using that as my spending money.  But I like to see my purchases on my debit card each month since I’m not the best at keeping receipts.

I don’t know if there is an app for this but if there isn’t, hit me up Apple, I’m ready to design.

I thought about putting my design on my iphone but knew I would constantly forget to check it.  So what I did was this.

Voila!
(It’s repeated because I printed out multiples)

This is my tangible budget.  I shrunk my full-size budget spreadsheet down and deleted the lines that are fixed numbers (rent, student loans) and only included lines where I would actually spend on.  I kept the amount I budgeted in the second lines so that I know exactly how much I have allowed myself.  I then expanded the third column to give me space to write in each time I spend in that category.  That way I can see as I’m spending exactly how much closer I am to my cut off spot.  I’m going to tape each sheet on a cute little notebook I’ve had forever (no spending there!) and always have it with me.  I already carry the notebook around (I carry multiple notebooks around actually) so that won’t be a habit I’ll have to develop.  The only habit that will need developing is writing the amount down PRIOR to spending it so that I am sure I have enough.  It’s basically an update on the check book registrar.  Remember those?  Back before debit cards.  They don’t even come automatically with your checks anymore.  You have to ask your bank for one!

I know this might be too much work for some people and is even too much for me, but I need it.  My budget is tiiiiiiigggghhhhttttt and I just added a lot of money to my flexible spending account to get Lasik in 2012 (I can use my FSA to pay for the Lasik… score!) so the budget is even tighter now.  Not much wiggle room.

If you’d like me to send you my spreadsheets I’d be happy to do so! 🙂
Just request one in the comments below!

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