Budgeting Hurts my Brain

Our current envelope system. I’m going to change it for envelopes that have zippers to keep change in and change gas (which we do through debit at Costco for cheaper) to entertainment (which I forgot to include).

I’m serious. My actual brain throbs. It doesn’t make sense, but I swear the feeling is there.

So, as I’ve talked about in the past we’re doing the debt snowball method to rid ourselves of debt, I’m awful with money, blah blah blah. Everything kind of got put on hold with having a baby. I didn’t even track our spending for a month after she was born, which is something I’ve done for the last two years. It felt like we were back at that place where we were a few months ago where we couldn’t put a full tank of gas in the car for fear of not being able to buy groceries before the next paycheck. It’s not a place that I like to be.

So I decided to do something about it. I never did start up our cash envelope system that everyone recommended. I still didn’t start it until the 20th of last month (one of the days my husband gets paid). I kept thinking that if I took our income and subtracted the bills, we’d have a number for spending and we’d just put it where it needed to go at the time. That just wasn’t working. Every. Single. Paycheck. we’d end up spending into the next before it came in. I was constantly worrying if we had enough. I was avoiding doing the math on my tracking sheet because I knew that we’d be in a deficit when I did it. Something had to change.

That’s when I saw this post by That Mama Gretchen. Probably nearing a year ago, when I finished reading Total Money Makeover, I made copies of all the sheets at the back of the book that you’re supposed to write your money information on. I put those copies on my desk with the plan on filling them out in the near future. I’m living proof of why that first page where you say when you’re going to finish each page is important. I just never did them.

After reading Gretchen’s blog post, I finally decided to take the plunge. Wow. Some of those numbers were terrifying. Seeing on paper how much we’re “worth” was horrifying. Even if you don’t count in the mortgage, it was an awful number. On the other hand, some of the pages were amazing, like the one where you take your expenses over a year in categories where you’ll end up paying a lump sum and divide it by 12. How did I never know to do that?!? I feel like I’m budget illiterate. It amazes me that this sort of thing isn’t taught in schools. I need this much more than I’ll ever need algebra (though I still think we should learn that too).

An example of the ledger I keep in the envelope to tell how much we’ve spent and where.

The most important form, in my opinion, is the monthly cash flow plan that Gretchen mentions in her post. It was difficult determining exactly what we needed where. And I’ll be honest, I’ve messed up in multiple places. I forgot my student loan payment (since I took spring semester off and one of my loans is through a different company with a weird policy, I didn’t have a grace period) for April, thinking that we wouldn’t pay it because I was starting school again and therefore would get deferment again. Yeah, school doesn’t start until May. I also didn’t expect to make some money from selling diapers and one of my secret shop companies. I also entirely forgot to put spending money in our entertainment category. Like that’ll happen!

So things have been modified along the way. I’ve had to take money from one envelope and move it to another. I’ve been wrong on how much we’ll need in one category from this paycheck versus the next paycheck (obviously you can’t put all of your cash into your envelopes at the beginning of the month if you’re paid multiple times a month). Things have been changed around a lot. I’ve gotten frustrated¬†a lot. I’ve literally called my husband near tears telling him I can’t figure out where such-and-such money went. With work and determination though, it’s worked out.

I’m proud to say that we lived through a whole pay period without overspending. Beyond that, some of the envelopes still had money in them. We made it through two weeks without overspending. It may not be much of an accomplishment to some people, but it is to me. And we managed to pay an extra $155 to our credit card as part of our debt snowball too.

I’ll continue sharing our financial journey with you all. I know that budgeting may seem off topic for this blog, but it’s an important part of parenting. Other moms often tell me that they could never be a stay at home mom because they need the income. This world is truly not made for one income families anymore and I understand that. It’s a battle every day to make ourselves survive on less and, beyond that, thrive on less. For our family, it’s important that I’m the one here raising our children. I know that not every mom has the ability or want to do that and I have no problem with that, it’s just a priority for our family. It gives me the opportunity to do many of the things that I talk about on this blog, such as breastfeeding, gentle discipline, and so on. I also know that working moms can do a lot of those things too. That’s not my point here. My point is that budgeting does fall in the realm natural parenting because in my world, part of natural parenting is surviving on one income in a two income world. So I’ll continue to share in hopes that it helps some of you out there thrive on less money.

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