Yesterday, I talked about how to eat real food on a budget. But, there are two key words to making it happen: a budget. Do you have one? To my surprise, many married couples do not keep a budget. With a little time and effort, you can easily begin a home budget planner. Consider this your budget planning guide!
Please don’t hear this as condemnation, but rather, genuine curiosity. I am not sure how freedom exists if one is never sure of how much money there is at all times! I personally used to get anxious at the thought of money management because it just seemed so overwhelming to me to keep track of every last penny. God knew my needs because He sent me a man with a plan.
When we were first married, Blane created a budget worksheet. For two months, we tracked what we spent for each category. Yes, that means we entered every single receipt! We needed to know about how much was spent in each category in order to budget the correct amount. So, since about two months into our marriage, we have used a budget planning spreadsheet. I LOVE it.
Simply having a household budget planner is not enough, however. There are a few key ingredients to making a budget work. Here is what we’ve learned:
1. Both partners need to be 100% committed to sticking to the budget. This is a must. You have to come at it with a steel determination to honor one another and not spend more than you have in a category. There have been times, such as when we moved, when we did go over in a category to switch services. Things like this are unavoidable, usually. Wanting something really badly is not reason enough to spend more than you have. There have been times when I have done a poor job of managing my grocery budget, and we ate very simple meals until I had more money to buy groceries. We didn’t starve and were content, albeit without some of our favorite foods! The point is: I didn’t go over just because we “needed” food. We had plenty of food in our house. Maybe no vegetables or fruit, but plenty of other foods. This is probably the biggest aspect that holds people back from budget keeping. It’s similar to natural child birth. Unless a person absolutely committed and will not be moved from your decision (unless of course in the event of an emergency!), she likely won’t follow through. Choose to rise above the easy route of giving up when it gets hard (or tedious) and be committed to getting on (and sticking with) a budget.
2. Both parties need to be in agreement about how much goes in each category. Now, there have been times when we have disagreed on amounts but have compromised. Being on the same page will prevent resentment or other conflicts!
3. Remember that it is adjustable. I don’t mean that you can stick to the budget only sometimes, but I mean that you can adjust the amounts in any category within the budget planning worksheet at any time that you find you are lacking or have too much. For example, when we lived in KY, Blane lived a mile from work. We did not need nearly as much money in our gas/oil category because he only filled up about once a month! When I began buying more organic, we added more money to our food category. We have simply shifted money around as needed. Life changes and financial needs change, too. But, whenever changes are made, let the adjustments be a team process. Both the husband and wife should be in on the decision making process so that everyone remains on the same page and in agreement.
4. Enter every receipt into the budget planning worksheet. Whether you choose to use our free budget planning worksheet or not, it is helpful to keep track of every single receipt that you spend. Otherwise, how else will you know where your money is going and how much of it is going there? Keeping a budget is excellent accountability. You just might see bad habits or be surprised to see how well you or your spouse do at being frugal and saving! (Instructions for using the budget are available in video form and PDF form at the links at the bottom of this post)
5. Have very specific categories. You’ll notice in our spreadsheet that we have a separate category for “Eating out.” We do not draw from our “food” budget if we choose to go out to eat. Since we don’t do it often, we only put in $15/month (it just got bumped up from $10!). Eating out is expensive and often times, unhealthy and we just prefer to eat at home. Also, my food budget is for just that – food. I don’t buy toilet paper, aluminum foil, or other household items or toiletries from this section. We have a “supplies” column under the “household” tab and a “toiletries” column under “miscellaneous”. By having specific categories, there is more accountability, and you know how much you’re spending on those types of items.
6. It requires monthly maintenance. In addition to receipt entering (I do this at least once a week), at the end of the month or the first day of the new month, each category within the home budget planner needs to be updated with the monthly deposit. This will give you the opportunity to see how you’re doing, where you might be lacking, or where you have an abundance. This is the time to adjust accordingly, if needed. You might wonder how time consuming this is. When receipts are entered regularly, it doesn’t take me more than 10-20 minutes at a time (it all depends on how many receipts I have to enter!). When we update the spreadsheet monthly, it takes about the same amount of time, unless we sit down with each other to evaluate things, in which more time is spent on it.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of a home budget and the blessings and benefits you will reap from keeping it. Peace in marriage, freedom from anxiety, freedom from debt, freedom to give generously, and many others! If you don’t keep a home budget planner currently, I’d encourage you to prayerfully consider talking with your husband about it. He will probably be so thankful that you are willing to exercise wisdom with your finances. If he is not on board, continue to seek the Lord in prayer as to what you can do on your own that will bless your husband. Ultimately, we want to honor our husbands, and there are ways to do it even if he’s not on board!
I would encourage you to download the free budget planning worksheet and watch the video tutorial that my husband put together for it (or download the PDF instructions). Please let me know if you have any questions about it!