In 2016, our family’s one and only new years resolution was to begin and maintain a budgeting system. Armed with a lot of head knowledge and different tools, we decided on a zero based budget and wanted to use the free EveryDollar App. So it’s June now – how have we been doing?
The two Hiccups to Budgeting so far
January and February were great. March came along and I was paid 3 times versus 2 times that month. I’m not usually one to complain about more money (who is!?!), but the fact that it was out of the ordinary for our monthly budget means that it completely threw me off.
I didn’t exactly know what to do with the excess, so I ignored it. That, of course, threw off my numbers for the next month and it wasn’t a zero based budget at all. We were in the black, though, versus the red, and so I just pressed on.
At the end of April, I took a trip to the Grand Canyon with my mom and two sisters. I worked those numbers into our budget after the fact, using some of the excess from March.
It’s June now and we’re back to doing an actual zero based budget.
I recently finished Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin. One of the points she makes is that any change can trigger a “stop” to the habits we’re trying to begin and maintain. I experienced that with the extra pay period in March and the vacation in April.
Rubin advises to pick a specific date or time to begin a habit again if one is faced with an unavoidable stopping point. She also encourages us to make “If, then” statements before we begin a new habit. She writes, “Another reason to avoid stopping a good habit is that, sadly, starting again is often far harder than starting the first time.” (p. 113)
My new habit of inputting our daily expenses into the budget app was fragile after only two months. The change in monthly income and the vacation triggered a “stop” for me for a few weeks. Thankfully, EveryDollar sends you an email to gently remind you that you haven’t put in any data for the month, or that you need to set up a new budget for the upcoming month.
My “if, then” statements for budgeting have become:
“If I forget to put in my expenses for the day or week, then I will start again tomorrow.”
“If I don’t know how to budget this ‘out of the ordinary’ line item, then I will continue to input my daily expenses.”
In other words, I won’t throw my hands up and give up altogether when out of the ordinary line items come my way. Also, when I do get out of the daily habit of entering expenses, then I will start again the next day. As always, my mantra with all habits rings true here – progress, not perfection is the goal.
Things to work on in the next 6 months
When I first set up our budget, my husband and I sat down to take a look at it and make any adjustments necessary. We haven’t been doing that on a regular basis. Keeping a budget when there is only one person spending is a lot easier than when there are two!
So these are the things we’ll be working on to make budgeting a success in our household:
- logging daily expenses made (figuring out a good way for my husband to be able to log in the expenses he makes)
- weekly spending reviews together as a couple
- monthly budget meetings to think through special events or expenses for the month
Did you make any resolutions this year? How’s it going 6 months later?
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