Have you written your January budget yet? Nope, neither have I.
It's a little known secret among frugal people that one's monthly budget--and the will to save--is rarely set in stone.
As my family's spending manager, I need constant retooling and reinforcement. After all, the weakness of a budget is not on the paper, but in the human being carrying out the plan!
So get out your envelopes and calculators--here, for my own benefit (and maybe yours), let's review some budgeting basics.
1. Spend cash for all purchases. Mark an envelope for each category and put your stated allowance in each envelope. Spending cash hurts.
2. Keep track of every penny you spend, either in a small notebook or on your envelopes if you are doing the cash system.
3. Save all receipts and bill payment slips so you can total your spending at the end of the month and use this information to retool next month's plan.
Focus on tracking your money, not saving it.
Even if your paper budget reflects your current spending level, you will probably save money just by becoming aware of what you buy. Don't worry about developing a sophisticated computer spreadsheet unless you really want to.
In my case, transferring figures to Quicken was my downfall--now I use a paper planner with a pocket for each month. I put each bill as it is paid and throw in my receipts from various envelopes at the end of the month. At the end of the year I review totals on Quicken, but I no longer let monthly spreadsheet guilt slow me down.
Above you will see my envelope binder from Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University--I was tickled to find this (unused) at a yard sale, so I could quit using bank envelopes to separate my cash.
The side bonus of the envelope system is that you'll never have to hunt for a crumpled receipt again!