When it comes to balancing the budget, I wanted something easy and realistic that I would keep up with on a regular basis. I cannot take all the credit as this budget system was originally inspired by Sarah from Clover Lane.
This system is mainly used to be able to look at our spending habits. I do not include bills like our house payment as those are things that are constant and cannot be adjusted. This is more for us to be able to look at on a month to month basis to figure out where we can cut back, if needed, and to refer to if we want to check back on a previous purchase. For example, we spend a lot more money at Dairy Queen and 7-11 over the summer because it is so darn hot (love me a slurpee). It is interesting to look back at and sometimes good to realize for our wallets and waste line that we don't need a chocolate dipped cone every. single. week.
Basically we keep all of our receipts and I log them into a notebook. I used to log everything in an excel spreadsheet but having a notebook was much easier for me to maintain.
Each month has it's own page and I break it down by food (which also includes basic household supplies like toilet paper or soap), gas, extra (anything extra outside of these categories), out (which is eating out or any kind of entertainment), and car related purchases (usually oil or car parts).
I then round everything up to the nearest dollar and log it in. By rounding up it makes the whole process that much easier but still close enough to the original price that we can look up specific purchases (like when we had an identity theft type issue and were able to go back and see that a purchase on our credit card was never purchased).
At the end of each month I total each section's purchases and then log it into a yearly page to compare individual and total purchases to see where we can cut back.
From the variety of budget strategies I have tried, this has been the simplest way to keep up with but also the easiest strategy to quickly compare purchases over the months and year. When I am really on top of things, it is simple to just pull out the notebook and log in the week's purchases before they back up.
But let's be honest. It usually gets pretty backed up. :)
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