A friend of ours recently approached me about helping her establish a budget. While I was glad to help, a funny thing happened:
I had a really hard time actually helping her.
I created the budget for her in the spreadsheet my husband made for us, set her numbers, called her on the phone to explain how it works and how I have my formulas set but I couldn’t answer some of her questions about actually budgeting.
I’ve been really budgeting for three years now and I’m forever learning about it.
My budget is always changing but I am very much in tune with our spending. We’re sort of on a well-controlled auto-pilot. I totally forgot what it was like to be in those initial panic-ridden days when you have this burning desire to set the budget up and just make it work.
For instance, in our budget I input all of our fixed bills like mortgage, cell phone, debt but I do not have individual lines for stuff like groceries, gas, clothes.
When I first started budgeting I did, but we’re like a well-oiled machine now. I have become so proficient at knowing our spending on stuff like groceries and gas that I transfer the same amount of money every payday to our ‘’spending’’ account. I don’t bother inputting the individual amount, rather I budget a ‘’variable/personal’’ amount which I pay to ourselves in the form of the transfer.
Once the money is in the other (spending) account I do not track every penny like I do out fixed expenses but I do monitor it closely.
This system works for us but until I had to answer questions about it I didn’t realize how personalized it was.
It has taken us years of spreadsheet making and re-making to get good. We made many mistakes and learned from them. Eventually though we got the hang of things.
To an outsider, like my friend, we look like budgeting geniuses but it was a long road to get where we are.
It’s only been the last year that we’ve become really good. Like anything, budgeting takes a lot of practice. You can download as many Excel templates and make as many chicken-scratch budgets as you want- and I fully encourage you to- but only time and intimacy with your personal spending will make you a ‘’good budgeter’’.
I am all to glad to help my friend but at the end of the day I know if she wants to get real about her spending there are a lot of stressful days in her future, spending hours in front of her computer as she stares at Excel and her online banking. I just hope she sticks it out though because the personal satisfaction, and stress relief, that comes with living on a budget is life changing.
How long did it take you to get really good at budgeting?