A reader sent me this question in an e-mail....
My problem is that I get disorganized and that's when I spend. By
nature, I love to organize, but as you well know life with 3 small kids
is chaotic and exhausting. So, tell me your plan. Do you do the
envelopes? Do you pay cash for gas? Do you order anything online? Any
suggestions would be appreciated :)
First I must confess, I have yet to perfectly execute my budget.... EVER. Things come up. Life is unpredictable and staying perfectly organized is a real challenge.
When it comes to organization and spending, I believe it is important to understand that maintaining your budget is ongoing. You can't set it and forget it. Checking in every couple of days (or everyday) is the only way to know your standing and stay organized. If you are really in a mess, make it your hobby. Work at it like you would a part time job.
I mentioned in a previous post that I only
do the envelope system for groceries. I put gas on the debit card. I
order tons of stuff online and work work work to keep up with it all by writing it down on a piece of notebook paper. (There are so many wonderful apps out there that track your spending. I just love paper!)
are some other tricks I've learned to stay organized with
my spending (with three small children). I'm writing to you, but
by you I mean ME.
-Stay organized in general. If I know
what I have, then I know what I need to buy or if I have an excess
supply. A few years ago I did a complete overhaul of all our belongings. I
sorted, organized, threw away, and gave away so much stuff we didn't need, stuff that was weighing me down in our 1950's built home with tiny
storage spaces. I try to have a big clean out once a year, usually in January.
-Automatic draft. I put as many bills as I can on automatic draft. This saves me time, postage, and brain power.
-Plan ahead (for everything). This has
been my mantra lately....plan ahead, be prepared. Plan your meals so you
don't run out of food and order out. Plan for birthdays and holidays, so
you aren't running around last minute buying gifts. Stay stocked on
toilet paper, diapers, wipes, so you aren't forced to make an emergency
purchase at the most expensive but convenient store. This has been an
area I have learned the hard way after many desperate trips for last minute costly items. I have learned to keep inventory and
keep us stocked up on supplies. I love subscribe and save on Amazon.
-Allow for an occasional splurge. Designer
jeans, good wine, Aveda shampoo, a meal out. Those are just a few areas I (we) splurge on
occasionally. Unless things are super tight, there is room for luxury in your life without being overindulgent. Budgeting is not about depriving yourself,
but being about being responsible. There is freedom in the fence. Planned splurges are good because they allow you to have a little fun without blowing your plan and making you feel like you've failed.
-Give yourself a
limit. This is obvious, but let's just look at an example. Say you love
children's clothes. So do the math and ask yourself how much
can you can afford to spend on children's clothing while meeting all other financial goals, priorities, and staying out of debt. You may be
able to budget enough money each month to fully fund your children's adorable wardrobes.
On the other hand, maybe that number is not as high
as you would like it to be. Maybe this is a source of tension between
you and your spouse. Put a number on it and either find freedom in the
parameters of you budget or find a way to buy less expensive clothing
(consigning, eBay, hand me downs from friends). If you have
an area of weakness then this may be an area
for splurging or an area where you need more self control or a
combination of both. It's tricky. But do the math and spare yourself the
guilt that comes with impulse buying.
-Make time. If you feel disorganized
financially and don't have time to deal with your budget - if you are
struggling to meet your goals - or you're arguing with your spouse, then change
something. Take something off your plate and make room in your life to deal with your money on a regular basis. Hold a family
budget review meeting every week and serve cake! Make time. Set an alarm
to remind yourself. Sip on your favorite drink every afternoon and get
out your calculator. Just do it. The goal is peace not drudgery.
to be content with simple things. Acquire a taste for
good books, a cup of tea, a walk on a pretty day, time with good
friends. Invest in relationships, not stuff. That's my advice to myself
and anybody with young children. Parenting is tough. Let us
learn to not fret.
I'm reading an advanced copy of a great book right now, and I came across this quote.....
Wealth consist not in having great possessions but in having few wants.- Epictetus
I wish I would have come up with that....
So how do you stay organized with your spending?
Our Getting Out of Debt Story
Budgeting: The Heart Issues and Whys
Creating Our Budget