Trying to do a better job at keeping track of where our money goes!
I’ve always admired those of you who keep track of every penny spent. Although in 2017 I felt we were very good at avoiding unnecessary spending, admittedly, keeping track of every dime spent in every category wasn’t a strong point. I have set out to change that for 2018 by tweaking our cash envelope system and also writing down what I do spend in a small notebook.
For 2018, we have started off with six categories. Here is the monthly breakdown:
- Grocery $400
- Gas $200
- Hubs $500
- Pets $75
- Clothing $50
- Miscellaneous $100
A bit more about the breakdown.
- Groceries also include meals out, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. We live in a remote area so groceries are more expensive.
- Gas also includes what we need for the snowblower and lawnmower. It also has a higher dollar amount so that we are better prepared for when we need to make a trip to see our elderly parents.
- Hubs is away from home for weeks at a time, hence a hefty budget. He receives $25 for every night out from his company which helps offset this amount. Although he seldom spends $500 a month, this also provides a cushion for his irregular expenses that aren’t always covered by his company.
- Pets. What we spend often depends on how much food and cat litter is left over from the previous month. I know, you’d think this would be far more consistent!
- Clothing. All depends on the month/season. My Summer office clothing is in need of an overhaul, so I know I’ll spend more when the weather changes. For Hubs, a pair of steel-toed boots can cost $100+.
- Miscellaneous. Covers items such as stamps, oil changes, entertainment, blow money (which we seldom spend), etc. It also serves as a mini-emergency fund.
An unofficial end-of-the-year goal of mine is to have each of these envelopes eventually reach at least a one-month surplus. Had we had this in place when Hubs needed a month off last Fall, I know
our my stress level would have been greatly reduced. With this goal in mind, I am also pushing myself to spend less to reach this sooner than later.
As to why we don’t use our debit card for these expenses, we have learned that we do indeed spend more money with plastic. Even though the money is budgeted, using cash makes us think about what we purchase. We saw this with Hubs spending, too. It also helps him keep better track of what he spends as he knows his money has to last! Since he didn’t look at the statements to actually see what he was spending, money had a bit more of an “endless” feel. For the record, Hubs does carry a credit card for emergencies. Although he rarely has used it, he has been in a situation where a debit card was not accepted. There are times when “going somewhere else” isn’t always an option.
Do we worry about having so much cash on hand? Not really. For one thing, I don’t keep all this cash in my wallet. I generally know when I need to go to the store or need to get gas and take an estimate of what I think I’ll need. I also keep a “just in case” $20 tucked in my wallet should something come up. Additionally, I have a debit card to fall back on. When I do travel outside of my usual surroundings (which is rare) I do also carry a credit card. As for Hubs, he doesn’t keep all of his cash in one place. Generally, he keeps around $40 in his wallet with the rest safely tucked away.
One of the many things I have learned during our journey to get out of debt is that a budget can always be tweaked. Needs can sometimes change. We saw this happen several times last year. One prime example was when one of our dogs was put on an emergency diet which, for a month, was ridiculously expensive. Would I have not gotten him what he needed just because the money wasn’t in the envelope? Of course not! We simply made an adjustment and made it work.
Do you budget specific amounts of money for your variable expenses and how do you keep track of what you do spend?