I would start off each pay period with the best intentions. I promise I did. I even followed my own advice and used my Cashless Budget Tracker, budgeted for expected expenses and tracked spending in each category.
Yet so many times I would come up short and have to dip into savings or rack up more credit card debt to get us to the next paycheck.
So, what was happening? Sabotage. Self-sabotage. Ugly, messy, make you want to kick your own ass sabotage.
The one thing that kept my budget train hurtling off the tracks was my failure to plan.
Each pay period I start by (1) paying all our bills due within that pay period and a few due within the next pay period to even out the month. (2) Put a little away into our savings account. And (3) divide the rest of the money into expense columns:
- Dry cleaning
- Dining out & entertainment
That last one, dining out & entertainment, usually gets the short end of the stick and whatever money is left over. It’s usually not much, which isn’t heartbreaking because we rarely eat out anyway.
Seems like a fairly level-headed budget right? Wrong.
What’s missing? Life.
- My kids have a growth spurt and literally grow out of their school uniforms overnight
- They have a blowout in their only pair of sneakers
- Birthday parties
- 5K race registrations
- Summer camp enrollment
- School book fair
These are all real life examples of things that have come up that have waylaid my budgets.
So, I had to start getting real and start planning better. I tried to budget for anything and everything that was headed our way in the next weeks and months.
It’s not an easy process, you must:
- Make a good financial calendar and keep it up to date with all upcoming events. The moment something comes up, you have to write it down. Right when you get the birthday party invitation or book fair flyer.
- Consult your financial calendar each time you plan your budget and pay bills.
- Take that money out of your hands and put it somewhere safe until you need it. Put it in savings, stash it in an envelope, write it off of your paycheck balance so it’s ‘out of sight & out of mind.’
Another thing that’s really helped me with the bigger goals is this Short & Long Term Savings Goal chart.
This is where I track the things coming up that, if I didn’t plan ahead and save up for them, would go on the credit card. And when you’re already working on paying down credit card debt, the last thing you want to do is add to it.
And the long term savings goals are where you really stretch. I have to be honest, if you look at mine below, you might notice I haven’t had the courage yet to put a target date on either of my long-term goals.
But at the very least, they’re on paper and the more I look at this, the more motivated (guilted?) I will be to start contributing to them.
And check out some of my other printables to track your budget, pay down debt and teach kids how to be smart about money:
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