52 FEATS – NUMBER 39 (Doing a Budget)

1 Oct

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.


This has been one of my favorite Feats so far!  After quite a bit of research, I still couldn’t find budgeting software that I really liked, so I made my own spreadsheet.  As is required in zero-based budgeting, I assigned every incoming dollar to do a job.  It’s working great!  I don’t feel constrained at all by my budget; instead, I feel more powerful and in control.  It’s an amazing feeling.  I just have to make sure I enter all of our spending every day or two.

I did change the dollar amounts in a couple categories based on our spending since we started the budget.  I realize that this is NOT what you should do in a perfect world.  But since we’re still getting our feet wet with this whole concept, I wanted to be a little bit forgiving during the first month as we get used to doing it this way.  Also, I wasn’t sure when I started if the category amounts were exactly what they should be.  Next month, I will have a better idea.

I can’t wait to do this long-term, when we can really see our savings grow!


The last few years have been financially tough for my husband and me.  I don’t want go into details – let’s just say that it was 99% NOT our fault.  But there’s no sense dwelling on things – obviously we would have made some different choices if we could have seen into the future, but that’s not the case.

So now we’re really trying to straighten up our finances.  The most important thing?  Starting a budget.  We’ve never really lived on a budget, at least not the kind that I want to be on.  We’ve always planned out how much is coming in and what bills need to be paid, but then we just spend whatever’s left.

I just finished reading Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover.  It’s an enlightening book.  Ramsey also has a radio show, and legions of fans.  It’s easy to see why – he’s passionate about helping people with their finances, and he makes you believe that you CAN make things better.  He wants people to get “fired up” so that they will work hard to get out of debt and take charge of their financial futures.

Ramsey advocates doing a zero-based budget, meaning you assign every single incoming dollar a job.  Before you even get it, you have a plan for everything.  Even if that plan is to blow it, you have already decided exactly how much you can blow before you get paid.

Ramsey has a very specific plan for financial success.  (If you haven’t heard of him, check out www.daveramsey.com.)  I don’t know that we’ll follow his plan exactly – I think we’ll use it as more of a jumping-off point.  But he gives very sound advice about how to change your attitude about money, along with tips on saving for college and retirement.

I also like the idea behind the software program You Need A Budget (YNAB).  You save enough to get ahead one full month of income, and then you’re using last month’s income on the current month’s bills.  Gives you a nice buffer, and makes it really easy to plan out an entire month at a time (which can be hard for us to do since my husband gets paid every 2 weeks and not twice a month).

So off I go to start my budget!  As Dave Ramsey says, the important part is that everyone has to agree to it, and stick to it.  No deviating from the budget without having an emergency meeting.  Yikes!  But if it gives us financial peace in the long-run, it’ll be worth it.


6 Responses to “52 FEATS – NUMBER 39 (Doing a Budget)”

  1. momequity September 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    I love Dave Ramsey! Used to listen to him all the time until he got switched from afternoon radio to 2am here in Atlanta. Anyway, I’ve read The Total Money Makeover and it took us years to get on a budget. I started doing Mint.com about a year and a half ago. It’s the only financial software I’ve ever been able to stick to. Super easy to create budgets and goals and categories. It takes a few months to really get the right categories down for your family but it’s so worth it. Now we have a realistic budget that we re-visit every month. Good luck!

    • Jen September 28, 2011 at 1:52 am #

      Thanks for the tip on Mint.com – I’ll have to check it out! I’m glad to hear that Dave Ramsey worked for you, and I’m also glad to hear that it took you a while. I’ve been worried that we won’t be able to stick to it 100% right off the bat. I guess the important thing is to keep trying!

      • momequity September 28, 2011 at 11:40 am #

        Yay! I think the most important thing is not to give up – the first few months were definitely up in the air for us. I really think most people don’t realize how much it actually costs for them to live every month, once you make a realistic budget you can really get a handle of that stuff. Plus, nothing EVER slides by you like bank fee mistakes. Keep us posted on how you do!

  2. Anne September 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Jen! We are Ramsey people, have been for a couple years. It has helped us very much to have the lifestyle we want now, and begin preparing for the lifestyle we want later. Lifestyle now = one of us stays at home with the kids every day and we spend as much time together as possible having free family fun in this awesome city, abstaining from marketing-influenced “needs”, spending our money on healthy food and not “stuff.” Lifestyle later = rich, hopefully. 🙂 What you said about getting a month ahead is right on. We were able to wrap our heads around it all when we finally just took a month’s worth of money out of savings, put it in the checking account, gave it all a name, and followed the plan all month. Waiting for checks and planning for money that will be there later just isn’t as easy, and kind of gives you an out to be loosey goosey with decisions and spending. Put the month’s money in the checking, stare it in the eye, tell it all where to go, and feel great about yourself. We are amazed every month that we didn’t go over budget, even with 2 new tires for the VW, etc. We have gotten in the groove and it is easy now, and we can’t BELIEVE how much money we used to crap off every month. Hundreds of dollars, on nothing. We are happier and more satisfied now than we ever were. The only problem I still have is Target, where I go with a list of 4 approved shopping items and come home with $150 worth of stuff. But I’m down to about once every other month, whereas I used to do that a couple times a week. This was too long, should have messaged you. 🙂

    • Jen September 28, 2011 at 2:04 am #

      Anne, I’m so glad to hear that you’ve used Dave Ramsey’s method! It speaks volumes that you guys feel so happy about your budget, and that it’s really giving you the peace he talks about. I tried to be as realistic as possible about our first month’s budget, because I didn’t want to set us up to fail on the first try. I put in plenty of money for blowing and miscellaneous stuff – hopefully in the future I’ll be able to cut that down some so we can waste even less.

      • Anne September 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

        That’s right on. We started with a fat envelope for miscellaneous and fun… and it has been decreased several times. It is true that you start feeling so good about what you are doing, that you want to spend less wherever you can.

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