What Budgeting System Works For You And Your Family?

by Hank Coleman

How to set up your first budgetThere are so many different budgeting tools and systems that you can use to help you manage your finances. We often get pigeonholed into one favorite system or another. Or, we only consider one option as the “right” way to budget. But, what budgeting system works best for you? How do you balance your checkbook?

Balancing Your Checkbook Through The 1-800 Number

I had this amazing conversation with a coworker last week, and it struck a chord with me and inspired a little bit of a revelation. I used to always joke with my wife. When I met her over 14 years ago in college, she was balancing her checkbook not with the typical register and reconciling method that so many people use every month. Instead she would simply call the 1 800 phone number of the bank to check her balance. Now, keep in mind this was before online banking was so prevalent. But, I have to admit that the system worked for her. She knew exactly which checks she had written or when she had used her debt card. She kept track, although not on her check register, which checks had cleared and which ones still needed to post. The system worked for her. It was unorthodox, but it worked. I cannot remember a single time where she ever bounced a check.

Balancing Your Budget With A Credit Card

I have mentioned several times on Money Q&A and other websites where I have guest posted that my family and I do not have a traditional monthly household budget. We do not use the envelope method. We do not have strict line items that we spend on certain categories each month. Instead, we have several fixed expenses like rent, mortgage, electricity, and others that we pay throughout the month. And, we also have several categories for variable expenses for things such as entertainment, groceries, eating out, and the like. We have brought categories and a set amount allocated to be shuffled around for all our variable costs. We try to put as many items especially those from our variable costs on our American Express rewards charge card which we pay off every month when the bill is do. We religiously check our credit card statement every day or two in order to help us monitor what we are spending our money and to keep track of how much we have left to spend in our budget for these discretionary variable categories.

There Are Many Ways To Skin The Budgeting Cat

There are so many ways to plan out your monthly budget. Do you use the pencil and paper method? Do you have envelopes and cash for your different spending categories? Do you use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to help you keep track of how much you are spending every month? Have you found a hybrid method like my wife and me that works for you? Like so many financial planners and bloggers have said before, the beauty of personal finance is the personal part of it all. There are so many different ways to skin the cat. There is no right answer to this problem. While many other financial topics and problems offer rules of thumb or strict guidelines, setting up your family’s monthly budget is not one of them. There is a lot of flexibility if you need it to help you build not only a good budget but also one that you will follow. Find what works for you.

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Do you have a unique budgeting system? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below.

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 581 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason

I’ve used to different excel budgets over the past 5-6 years. I have one that looks at the entire month (on an average) basis: all income versus all bills/expenses = disposable income. I then have a 2nd budget which breaks down the first budget into particular paychecks and due dates. This budget generally runs from the first payment of each month to the first paycheck of following month. It’s quite detailed, but it’s really easy for me to upkeep. I imagine I spend about 20 minutes on it a month.

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Marie at Family Money Values

We never had an official budget. Most of the time, we only had enough to cover necessaries and if we did by chance have something leftover, we’d shove it to savings.

Now we kind of budget our cash on hand needs – but not our daily expenses. What I mean is that we have certain pools of money laying around to handle certain things. A pool for paying estimated taxes, a pool to replace the yukky old van when hubby decides to get his new one and etc.

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Suba Sreenivasan

Nice about the monthly household budgets, for more information you can see my recent post also

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