How To Set Up A Budget and Stick To It! - Living Rich With Coupons®Living Rich With Coupons®

How To Set Up A Budget and Stick To It!

How to Set Up a Budget and Stick to It!

Saving money at the grocery store is an awesome way to free up extra cash to spend in other areas or to just make ends meet.  As we have seen, cutting your costs on groceries is definitely doable.  If we work hard enough at it, we can really save a bundle. However, freeing up lots of extra cash and having the money just disappear elsewhere is not the best way to manage it.  And, that brings me to my next biggest passion.  Budgets.  I am now a firm believer that we all need a budget.  If we make $20,000 a year or if we make $500,000 a year.  It does not matter.  We all need to start a budget and stick to it.

For many, many years my husband and I worked and spent, worked and spent.  As our incomes increased, so did our spending.  Now the problem with that is that I can not even tell you what we bought.  But, I can tell you that it was truly nothing that we needed and it was definitely stuff we could do without.  Had we been on a budget, we would have been in a much better situation when my husband lost his job a couple of years ago, a much better situation now that we have 3 kids in college and a much better situation while we actively plan for his retirement.  That is not to mention our children’s weddings that might be in our near future.  (Oh please kids, give me about 5 years!)

So, here are some ways to help you manage your money and plan a budget for your family.

1. Go through your income and expenses.  Look at every single bit of income that comes in and every single bit that goes out.  Write it all down.  Everything.  Every gift, every fast food purchase, everything.  Once you have it all written down, start with the items that are due every month and can not be changed (at least not right away).  Then make a list of the bills that you can adjust.  So you should wind up with 2 outgoing expense categories: Fixed Bills and Variable Bills.

  • Fixed Bills:  mortgage/rent, car payments, phone bills, etc.
  • Variable Bills: groceries, gas, dining out, entertainment, clothes etc.

2. Write your budget: Get to work setting up your budget.  If your mortgage/rent is $2000 and you are budgeting every 2 weeks, then $1000 per paycheck gets put aside for that.  Go down the list and account for everything.   If you don’t have enough then you will need to make adjustments.  That is a must.  Your outgoing cash MUST NOT exceed your incoming cash.  If it does, then go to your variable bills and start cutting.  If you have extra money leftover, then that should be used to either pay down debt, add to your emergency fund, savings account and/or retirement account.

3.  Emergency Fund: If you do not have an emergency fund, you need to add that to your budget line.  Get yourself $1000 saved up as quickly as possible.  If it means selling off some stuff on ebay or at a garage sale then do it.  If it means, eating out of your stockpile for a month or 2, then do it.  It’s very important to at least have a small emergency fund so when something goes wrong, you don’t have to pull out a charge card to pay for it.

4. Cash Envelopes: We follow the Dave Ramsey system where we use a cash envelope system.  Every 2 weeks (because that is how my husband is paid) we pull out cash from the bank that we have budgeted for a select few items.  We place the budgeted money in the envelopes and use it over the 2 week period.  If we run out, we have to wait until the next paycheck.  Here are the cash envelope budget items we use:

  • Groceries
  • Gas
  • Clothes
  • Haircuts
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Blow Money for my husband
  • Blow Money for myself

Blow money is just that, money that we each can put in our wallet and spend on whatever we want.  At $25 each, every 2 weeks, we are not getting very far with it but it’s nice to have some extra cash in our wallet.

5. Virtual Cash Envelopes: My biggest problem, when we first started on our budget, was not with the money that we pulled out for the cash envelopes but with the money that was budgeted and left in our bank account.  I didn’t want it to just sit in one account, all together in one big small lump.  I wanted it to be assigned an envelope. But it was in the bank which became a challenge to organize it.  So, I decided, since we use Quicken to track our banking, that I would set up separate accounts in Quicken and “transfer” the money out of the main Quicken checking account and into each of the budgeted separate accounts.  How I did this was by setting up other “bank accounts” within the Quicken software.  Each new “bank account” was named the budget item such as Mortgage, Phone Bill, etc.  My money still stays in 1 account at my bank, I just show it, in Quicken, as moving from the main account to it’s budget account.  So, when I go to pay my mortage, buy a present or have the car repaired, the money has already been accounted for.  I simply deduct it from the money that accumulated in it’s budget account.

I do this in Quicken, but you could do this in Excel or even use the free software Mint to manage your budget. Some bank accounts now offer this right online as well. Or even if it’s just old fashion pen & paper. Whatever works for you and your family.  Here are some of the virtual envelopes that we have:

  • Mortgage
  • Phone
  • Car Payment
  • Car Repair
  • House Repair
  • Hospitality
  • Gifts
  • and more (unfortunately)

6. Sticking with it. Once your budgets are set, the key is to stick with it.  It’s easy to pull from one of your budgeted accounts one month to pay for another budget that has run dry.  The typical thing to do is to say I’ll pay it back next paycheck.  Well, trust me when I tell you, 9 times out of 10 that won’t happen.  The money never gets back to where it should be and before you know it, a little hole has been dug that you are having trouble climbing out of.  What happens next?  Those credit cards come out to pay, not for fun stuff, but for the stuff you had on your budget that you can no longer keep up with.  So, STICK WITH THE BUDGET.

I am not going to lie.  When we first started, the first 3 months were torture.  They really were.  I thought it was a hopeless cause but I knew if we kept plugging along that we would be in a better place.  And, it did get easier.  It really did.  And now, I am so thankful that we are on a budget.  Being on such a strict budget is actually such a freeing feeling.  I know that sounds weird but we (including the kids) know our limits now and easily stay within them.  And, the funny thing is, our budget has not changed since we started it.  But, when we first started, I thought I was being squeezed and would never be able to continue with this tight budget.  But, now, I have no desire to change it.

Do you keep a strict budget?  If so, how do you do manage it?


  • staceypunk

    These guides are very similar to Dave Ramsey. I started my Total Money Makeover at the end of March of this year. I have paid down one thrid of my credit card debt- about $8k!!! Before TMMO, I would pay a hundred dollars over the minium on each of my 3 cards but I would also use those cards for “emergencies” like vet bills, car repairs, and even christmas. Some months I would come out ahead (actually paying down some credit debt) but if you look at it year by year, the balances were steadily rising. I have not charged a damn thing since April and we have managed to cash flow things like vet bills, gifts, unexpected things, etc. I have a wicked excel sheet that I use to track EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR of income that we bring in. It is not easy, but it relieves so much stress and gives you hope! I plan to have no credit card debt by December 2011. One more year! Thanks Cindy, because this site helps me cut my groceries and drug store bills by about $50 per week!

    • Dora

      Where did you get the wicked Excel spreadsheet? Can I find it?

      • Sandi

        I got a good spreadsheet off of Iheartcvs.com, scroll down and it is on the right hand side. It says Cvs spreadsheet, but I input all of the store I shop at and it’s great.

    • Melissa

      So staceypunk….are you debt free??? :)

  • AJ

    While we had tracked our spending for years, this is the first year my wife and I actually set up & regularly used a budget. I am a big supporter of the YNAB software (stands for “You Need a Budget”) and I encourage anyone interested in setting up their budget to take a look. It’s been a tremendous help in getting our budget set up and it’s paid for itself many times over in the last 7 months. It operates off of the same premise as described in this post – “giving every dollar a job”.

  • Kelly

    We live like no one else, so we can LIVE like no on else. It is a Dave Ramsey thing. I have always be VERY orgainized (maybe to much if you ask my husband it is the bookkeeper in me) I use excel and have the item we pay on the left and the months on the top. Everything totals. So we know what we spent and saved for the month and what that item totals for the year. When we first set this up a couple years ago. I thought we were where we should be. WELL I saw just how much that coffee at where ever cost for the month and some other things. $2 here $5 there adds up and fast. I do not like to call it a budget. I like to think of it as knowing where my mony is and what it is going to. Also at the end of the year it is GREAT for taxes. You have everything right in front of you.

  • Christine

    We too live like no other so we can live like no other. We have scrubbed down the budget so we can hit our expenses as hard as we can. We are firm believes in the cash envelope system for groceries, gas, gifts, clothes, car repair and personal (like hair cuts and occasional pedis for myself :) We have also shut off our house phone and turned off the cable. In the short time we have been following Dave Ramsey (1 year next month) we have paid off my 2 college loans and paid off our car. We now just have the house. Like Cindy we were working and spending and had nothing to show for it. We panicked a little when I was leaving my job and becoming a full time stay at home mom. But now that we follow our budget it’s amazing how much money is really left over at the end of the month. I also have a spread sheet on excel with expenses as well as a the Quicken program where I can keep track of additional expenses that may pop up. Creating a budget has brought peace to our minds that we have a plan and are not living pay check to pay check.

    Cindy I also have to thank you, you have no idea how much your website helps me stay on budget with Groceries. Thank you for all your hard work, your awesome and you always get us great deals.

  • Deanna

    I think these systems are all great, Dave Ramsey, envelopes, etc. The one problem we have is how do you get started on any system when you are already so far behind the 8 ball. For example, if I had an envelope for electric, phone, gas etc, this week when I get paid I will use my entire check to pay bills that are already double bills. How could I possibly start an envelope so when next months bill comes in there is already money to pay it when there is no money left at the end of this check. The check is not even here yet and it is already gone. Help!

    • Cindy

      Deanna, I totally get what you are saying. I remember when we started. It was brutal. It really was. That is the honest truth. To get ourselves going we cut everything. I don’t think we spent a penny (except for our bills) for about 3 months. Nothing except for gas and we even cut back on that. We only drove to work and back. We cut everything out of our budget to get ourselves on track. It hurt and it was hard. It really was but I would do it again in a heart beat. After about 3 months we could begin to breath and then it really turned into this wonderful place where, as Christine said, gives us such peace of mind.

      You have to put everything down on paper and start working it that way so you can really see where you are and where you need to be and what you need to do to get there. It paints a complete picture and makes you see things a lot clearer. It is hard, but it will be worth it.

    • Jen

      I have to say I felt exactly the way you do Christine, I thought what the heck can Dave Ramsey do for me when I dont have enough to get by how can I ever get ahead. Then I read his book Total Money Make Over, He suggested selling things on Craigs List, havign yard sales etc to just get enough money to get back on time, and start paying off debt as fast as you can, Now I have paid some credit cards off, not alot but I am getting there, and I am not behind in any bills. His book is definatley worth the time to read, and I hate to read, probably the only book I ahve read cover to cover in the last 5 years.

  • christine

    Hi Cindy,

    Great article. If you have not read them I would recommend 2 books for you Savings on a Shoestring and Investing on a Shoestring. You will need to order them on Amazon and they should be really cheap since I believe they are no longer in print.

    I have been in finance for the past 15 years and recently decided to stay home for a few months with my children. The coupons will never replace the salary I was making but your site has helped us dramatically reduce our spending and I have more items in my pantry then I have ever had going to the box stores!!

    Thank you for all your advice and hard work. I have recommended your site to many others and hope they will give it a try.

    Christine

    • Cindy

      Thanks Christine. I will have to take a look at those books.

    • Melissa

      I have a copy of Living on a Shoestring by the Tightwad Twins….I think I may go re-read that book! Thanks for the reminder.

  • Lisa

    I just got myself Quicken. how did you set up the account for Virtual Envelopes?

    • Cindy

      I have 2009 Quicken so I’m not sure if it’s set up the same. But, once I set up my checking account, on the left there was a spot to “Add Account”. I just picked checking as the type of account and skipped the part about adding bank info. Then the next page asked for an account name/nickname. I named it the budget item such as Mortgage or Car Payment, etc. I did one for each of my budget items. Then I used my checking account as the main deposit account. So, when a check is put into the account, it goes to the checking first and then I transfer any amount that is suppose to go into the budget account. Then I can see a running total on the left of all my budget account. So, if I want to buy a gift, I can quick look to see how much is in my gift account. When I make a purchase with my debit card, I deduct it directly from the budget account.

      It sounds confusing but it’s really easy to run. However, it did take me an entire weekend to do my budget, go over my budget and set up my Quicken. But, once I did it, it was easy.

      I put in everything for the whole year. In November, I will go back in and do the whole year of 2011.

      That was my systems so hopefully that will help you to get started with your own.

      • Amy

        Hi Cindy,

        My question is regarding balancing in Quicken with the budget accounts. I use Quicken currently and download my info directly from my bank. Are you able to reconcile your bank account using this system. I would think that the account balance in your main checking account in Quicken wouldn’t match the bank record (which would have a higher balance) – do you just add all the budget accounts together for balancing purposes?

        • Cindy

          Yes you are right. Doing it this way I am not able to reconcile the regular way. I do add all my budget accounts together to get an idea of where I am. It’s not perfect but, for us, it has made a huge difference. It has helped us to keep on budget. So I was willing to give up the ease of reconciling my account.

  • http://www.maggie965.blogspot.com Margaret

    Thanks for the great article. My husband and I are just beginning this journey so it should be interesting. Quicken cam with my laptop so it’s good to know I can use that to keep track of everything. We are giving up our bankcards too, that will be the hardest for us!

  • Felicia

    I’ve cut back from spending over $1,00o dollars a month on groceries to maybe about 5-6 hundred for my family of four, and now I hit the sales and I have a small stockpile. I keep hearing people say they budget $50 a week to $200 a month. What do you think is a decent weekly/monthly grocery bill for a family of four would be?

  • Lyn

    The thing I have a hard time understanding about having a budget is how do you account for the unexpected/occasional things like a wedding, christmas, etc?
    Thanks

    • Cindy

      Lyn, we took a good hard look at what we had spent over a year and determined how much we spent for each category including gifts, hospitality, etc. We divided that number by 12 and put that amount into a virtual envelope and keep it there until needed. Some months we use it and some we don’t. So, when we do need it there should be money in there to pull from. If we say we are going to spend $1200 a year on gifts, then we put $100 a month in there. If we do not buy gifts for 2 months, then need to buy something in the third month, there should be $300 in there to draw from. Hope that helps to show you how we do it for those types of situations.

    • Lady J

      For a while, I’ve been using online places to earn cash to help pay for Christmas. But this past Christmas, the goal was to not pay anything out of pocket for Christmas, and I did it! I made up a budget – which was about $1500, and that was for everything, even miscelaneous items. I didn’t spend that much though, because I hit some great sales, groupons, etc. Everything I spent was paid for 3 ways. 1 – by MyPoints, Swagbucks, etc. Every year I try to add an etc or two. 2 – gift cards I got throughout the year. Whenever I receive a gift card, I put it away. Then I spend whatever that amount was wherever I want. (On black friday I shop with a stack of gift cards) 3 – And whatever that didn’t cover, I used credit card bonus points that I can trade in for cash back to cover the rest. I should note that we pay everything on credit, but we are very good at paying it back in full and on time. I don’t recommend this for anyone that can’t. Credit cards are really only an alternative to cash and should only be used by those who don’t carry a balance from month to month.

      I find it odd that people get surprised by Christmas (I know you didn’t say that). Christmas and birthday gifts aren’t really a surprise. They come up every year. You can get thrown off by a wedding, but you can put money away every month for Christmas, and money away every month for gifts.

      Also, keep an eye out because sometimes the grocery stores have great deals where you can buy gift cards and get catalinas back, making the gift card cost less than the face value. And then you have a gift for someone (or a gift card to buy something for someone).

  • Luis

    I’ve been a visitor to your site for some time now and this is the first time I’m commenting. First and foremost thank you for your advice(and your wonderful posts). I’m 27 years old and over the past few years have devised my own savings system. I rent(altho looking to buy a condo in the near future and will follow the 30% monthly housing expense of income rule) and have no kids. I will however read up on the Ramsey system to help tweak my savings and get a better grasp on ‘budgeting’ as I currently only use rough estimates for monthly expenses based on prior 3 month averages.

    My system is perhaps unorthodox and probably insane by some standards as it requires a high level of self control as its heavily based on using credit cards. However, I have followed it for the past 2 years and it has worked quite well.

    I keep a buffer of at least $1000 in my checking account at all times. Just so there’s liquid cash readily available. Once a week, about 95% or so of my take home pay is auto transferred to my ING Direct savings account earning 1% or so interest.(How I miss the pre-2005 interest rates of 4.5%!!) This savings account has become my “accounts payable” account for expenses.

    I have shifted ALL of my daily expenses to credit cards to utilize the perks and cash back bonuses. This only works of course if each and every credit card is paid off at the end of every month. I have 3 credit cards. American Express Blue(no annual fee), Discover, and Mastercard. All of which are setup to automatically pay themselves in full, directly from my savings account each month. Hence no finance charges, late fee’s, etc. I DO NOT USE MY ATM/DEBIT CARD FOR ANY PURCHASES. Since there’s so much credit fraud, the ATM card is specifically used as an ATM card and nothing else. All purchases are done with the credit cards to help protect cash in the bank and to maximize cash back bonuses for typical expenses that I otherwise would be paying anyways.

    I try to use the Discover card for most purchases whenever there’s a perk for that particular category. For example, last month it was 5% cash back on buying groceries. Same thing for the month of June. 5% on Gas, Movies, Theme Parks, & Hotels in Jul-Sept. I also use the Discover network, for example, 20% cash back on Groupon deals(on top of the 50% or so savings for each of the deals). The 20% cashback for 1800flowers.com came in handy for Mothers Day as well.
    If there’s no way to get cash back on something, I’ll put it on my Amex to gain points. If for whatever reason that merchant does not accept Amex, I fall back to my Mastercard which gives 1% cash back for all purchases. For example, our electricity company allows payment by credit card. There’s no cash back for this on Discover, so I put it on my Amex to gain points for an expense I have to pay anyways. Not all expenses allow this, for example my car insurance does not allow CC, which is deducted directly from the savings account.

    There is a drawback to this system which I can fortunately say has not affected me much*knocks on wood*. You have to stay on top of your credit card statements(which you should be doing anyways) and constantly check for unauthorized charges. Since they’re all setup to auto pay every month you can easily auto pay for something you never charged in the first place.

    I hardly ever splurge, and through tweaking over time approximately 25% of my income stays in the savings account every month(after all expenses) sitting there accumulating interest and because of this, there’s is always enough money in the savings account to cover all the credit card auto payments. The cash back perks, points, and savings interest is gravy on top of the 25% savings which stays in the account gaining more interest.

    I do understand that 1% interest doesnt even cut the average 4% yearly inflation which is why I set some of it go into my IRA and Investment accounts.

    Feedback is always welcome :)

    • MARY

      Luis, I have been doing pretty much the same as you and I own a home & we are a family of 6. I too use credit cards that make me money and hardly ever use cash. I have a little post-it note in my wallet with what cashback bonus is in effect for each of my cards. I do not carry any balances on my credit cards – if I dont have the money, then I dont charge it. I use my 1 Amex card strictly for groceries because I get 6% back on every purchase.

      As you said…having self control is a very big part of budgeting/saving. If it’s not on sale and/or I don’t have a coupon, we don’t need or want it.

      I have been couponing for about 30 years which has helped tremendously.

  • Denise

    mint.com is awesome for setting up budgets

  • Diana

    Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” book completely changed our lives. We’ve been on the program for 2 1/2 years (I hate calling it a program, it is our new way of life!), and by following his “Baby Steps,” we’ve paid off all our (non-mortgage) debt, fully-funded our emergency fund, and are only 5 1/2 years away from paying off our mortgage that we contractually have 25 years left on. :)

  • Anonymous

    Found all the comments very interesting and insightful. Going to try this system and see how it works for me.

  • jessica

    this is a free downloadable excel template that helps track accounts and spending. it’s very nice to have!

    http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/monthly-household-budget.html

    • http://chavezies.blogspot.com Jessica

      http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/budgets.html

      Sorry I linked from my phone! Here is the entire list which includes Christmas templates, yearly budgets, savings goals etc!

    • Lydia

      Thanks so much for the link! This monthly household budget is exactly what I was looking for.

      • Pamela

        I love this spreadsheet, I use it faithfully. Thank you for the link.

  • Mary Ellen

    Thank you very much for this article! I have been watching y0ur ‘grocery budget’ envelope updates since the 1st of the year and finally took the time today to see how you were accomplishing the overage. My husband and I have been tightening the budget and were feeling pretty good about having NO credit cards, being on time with bills, having money at the end of the month, and having a little saved. However, after reading your article and the comments of so many others, I KNOW we can do better! Now, I’m on a mission! :) I have been THRILLED with the $ saved just from couponing (THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO ON THIS SITE!!!), now my mission will be to pay off the car and then it will be the mortgage! My only hope beyond that will be to pass budgeting on to my children (24, 21, 19 & 15) before they find themselves digging out of a hole!

  • Pamela

    I just want to “Thank You So Much Cindy”. With all your help on learning how to live with coupons ( and we are living pretty well now) and the information about setting up and holding to your budget my future looks so much brighter. I took all your info about a budget (which I so wanted to do but just couldn’t figure out how to start) and put it into action this past December 2011. I know it sounds like a really bad month to start, but I used it as the starting baseline to get ready for the new year. It helped me maintain my Christmas expenses and when January 2012 came around I was ready to roll. I just made the first payment where my house is now current and everything is falling into line. I have my budget and I stick to it. My husband is really excited and I told him other than our home (which will follow) we will be debt free by mid 2014. Yippee !! Thanks again

  • Lisa

    I would really, really, really like to have a budget, but my husband is a carpenter and our icome is VERY variable–it is now Feb. 19 and if he’s received 3K income in that time I’d be surprised. Then, he might get a big check and we will be playing catch-up. We are trying to correct that. I really wish I had one month’s salary up front to put into envelopes. Does anyone have any experience in how to set up a budget on a variable income? I’ve tried, but it’s too wild for me to wrap my mind around.I’ve been using our AGI as a general guideline, but reality, again, is that our income is higher than that, as are our expenses. I’m tired of flying by the seat of my financial pants, so if anyone can help me get over the variable budget start-up, I’d be grateful. We are having a Crown Financial study starting Mar. 1, so maybe I’ll get some help there, but if any of you have traveled this path, please do share your travels! Most posts are from folks that have a steady paycheck, not variable ones.

    • Pamela

      I’m not sure if this will help you, but what I had to do because my husband’s paycheck can be very small sometimes (when he has no overtime) so what I did was set up my budget with the concept that I would receive the minimum of income from him and I adjusted accordingly. I will tell you that once I did that I realized how much money I was really in need of and where I needed to make cuts. When he receives a larger check, which I call the feast or famine, I can add to a bill or place it in the reserve emergency fund. I hope this helps a little.

  • Jessica

    I would love to have a budget and stick to it but although myself and my kids are on board my husband is a compulsive spender, he not only spends his entire paycheck but will raid my wallet and purse for “extra” cash if he gets strapped. So the envelope system will not work for me. Any ideas on how to deal with my problem (outside of divorce) would be greatly appreciated.

  • Zoe

    How do I start my grocery envelope? I have a family of three(me, the hubby and a 17 month old).
    My husband and I get paid the 15th and 30th of the month. What is a reasonable amount for a small family AND when do I add money to the envelope?
    Also…do you actually use envelopes to keep the money in? Thanks everyone!!!!!!!!
    I love this website.

  • heather

    Everyone has a different way to budget. We got rid of the Debit cards and saved SOOO much money! If you are on a tight budget to begin with, the potential overdraft fees because a $1 pending gas charge is $60 and not the $10 you thought is very costly over the course of a year. Also, not everything posts immediately. We use cards with cash back rewards, best buy and paypal. We drive 10+ year old cars so there’s no car loan, and I do not officially work. I am a full time student and stay home with our daughter while doing odd jobs, couponing for others, and caring for family members. The perk to remember here is that it looks like we make next to no money. I am not talking about decieving the gov’t, but when the school looks at my FAFSA, their calculations show I can contribute next to nothing to my education, so I get grants and scholarships and minimal loans. Some semesters I even get a check back to cover the transportation and book expenses. I don’t buy books, I find them in local libraries. It’s cheaper to pay a overdue fee than $100 for a text book you can’t sell back nine times out of ten. Couponing is definatley a good start to getting on track financially. I find that I am more manic than most because my couponing supports us, my neighbors, my mother, grandparents, and our local food pantry. In one week alone, I saved over $3000.00 That was an amazing feeling. And realistically, we make just over the state cut off for assistance, so no help with child care or anything, and if I were to go get a full time job with my two bachelors degrees, I would make just enough to give nearly my entire paycheck to a daycare. It is better to have the gov’t see we make less so that I don’t have all the educational expenses plus I get to have an amazing bond with my daughter. (although 4 years old is proving to be very challenging thus far… haha) I will have my masters by the time she is in school all day and hopefully things will improve by then. However, to be 28, have equity in our home even after the bubble burst, and only a few student loans isn’t a bad place to be. We too, use credit cards for everything and pay them off weekly. I love watching the cash back add up! That becomes our “splurge” money. Another thing, when it comes to gifts and the holidays, shop year round. I refuse to spend more than about $500 and it covers nice, thoughtful, requested gifts for about 25 people.

  • Lee

    My husband and I never had debt, but we needed to have more of a long term savings. That is where you helped us out so much Cindy. Your site has helped us to be able to save more for retirement.

  • Melissa

    I was hoping that Quicken had a app for the ipod touch. We only have one computer so if my husband is on it at night it’s easier to keep track of spending with the ipod touch. I was trying mint.com and they have an app. Also, how do you budget for the unknown things (like car maintenance and buying a new car)? I have seen Hyundai Accent GLS going for like $99 a month with a lease. So I am wondering if you buy one with low mileage and trade in your old vehicle what would it cost? Also, has anyone put there purchases on a rewards credit card and gotten cash back? Is it worth it?

    • MARY

      If you check Dave Ramsey’s financial advice, he says a lease is THE most expensive was to drive a car. Rather, save up for the car and pay cash. If you have debt you are trying pay off, then this means a $1000 ‘beater’ car. Drive that and continue to save for another car then sell the beater + your additional savings and get a better car. Repeat the process as needed until you get where you want to be with a vehicle.

      • Cindy

        Yep, you are exactly right Mary. We now have 2 ‘beater’ cars. Each car has close to 200,000 miles on them but they are all ours :)

  • Anonymous

    I have a budget I use on excel but with 2 children, one being under a year old, it is very difficult to get on the laptop…I do most everything on my iPhone. I would like to switch over to the “envelope system” and was wondering if anyone knew of a good budgeting app for the iPhone?? I seem to get behind at times because I spend lots of time on the road taking my oldest daughter to and from school and to her many extracurricular activities, gymnastics, etc. and it seems like when I am actually home, I log on to my budget to enter data and something ALWAYS happens that causes me to stop in the middle of what I am doing and turn off the computer. I do, however have some free time I spend waiting: waiting in the car line at school, waiting for gymnastics and dance classes, etc. does anyone else do their budgeting primarily from their phone or other mobile device?? What is a good iPhone app for this? Thanks so much!!

  • Elizabeth

    What is a good iPhone app for budgeting??? Thank u for your help!!

  • MARY

    Check out the Gazelle Budget on mytotalmoneymakeover.com. I have seen a link for mobile app but don’t have an iPhone so I haven’t tried it.

  • jasmin

    Hi i didnt know where to ask this but does anyone have any helpfull ideas for medical insurance. I have horrible health insurance from my job high deductibles then they only pay 80% i put into fsa enough to cover ded’s but can never figure out how much to budget after. it seems every year we need more and more care and its killing us. this is where any extra and all our $$ is going.

  • Kent A

    This would be a lot easier if my income was more than 95 dollars a month ha.






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