There’s a reason, it’s because I suck at money.
Not in your typical way, I don’t have expensive habits or tastes that cause me problems. I get my hair cut a few times a year at the walk-in place next to Target, I only ever wear mascara and I only do that about once a month. I carry purses that cost $30 – but when I have splurged for a fun Fossil bag – I carried it for 3 years. I don’t have “money problems” in the typical way.
My way is actually so atypical, it’s hard to explain. The first round of issues occurred when I got divorced a million years ago. Single Mom in College with Credit Cards is what I like to call that phase of my life. I used a Scarlet O’Hara technique in money and just kept telling myself, “I’ll worry about it AFTER I graduate and get a real job.” That was when you first started being able to use credit cards for groceries and while that helped feed us, it caused me TONS of issues later because the debt I was in after graduation was excruciating.
So that was a huge issue, but then I spent 10+ years not doing a great job managing our family finances. I had this very simple budget and carried around receipts for weeks and when I finally entered everything in nothing ever balanced and we spent every month struggling.
Donnie finally took over a couple of years ago and things have only improved since. BUT! That’s not what this entry is about! This entry is ACTUALLY about budgeting tools. When Donnie took over we started with a Google Spreadsheet budget. He entered in items that were connected to the budget and the numbers would edit accordingly. He felt like this was a little archaic though, and would have liked to not to have to enter in all of the transactions, so we tried Mint for awhile. Mint synced with cards/accounts automatically, but you still had to go through and put their categories in the budget. And a lot of the “auto syncing” didn’t really make things easier. It actually made things more confusing. Especially because we were using one credit card for bonus so Donnie needed to make sure the cash from the bank was set aside to pay the bill every month, and it was tricky since that meant we were accounting for the same purchases twice. Mint did NOT like that.
So we went back to the spreadsheets for awhile. The spreadsheets were just so easily edited to suit our needs. Yes, it felt archaic, but it was also something we could easily manipulate because it wasn’t something so robust like Mint. The MAIN problem with our spreadsheets was that it was SO EASY to make a mistake. So, Donnie was still on the quest for something with a little more protection from stupid errors.
THAT is when he discovered You Need A Budget. It is, for all practical purposes, a really robust spreadsheet. It has suited our needs PERFECTLY. It has an app on our phone so, as soon as I get gas, I can enter it into the “transactions”. Gas is tricky because it doesn’t show up on our bill for the “real” amount until it clears, so Donnie would basically have to worry about that item for a few days longer than most. Same with anything that required a tip. He still rectifies with the bank account and the credit card every day.
It does take a bit to set up, get your budget in place, set it up for different accounts so you’re tracking when/if you spend on credit cards or from your bank. But here’s something I learned, it should take time to deal with your money. It’s important and managing it shouldn’t be easy or an afterthought. I still suck at it, luckily, most of it’s out of my hands.
But once it’s set up, it’s just tracking your spending and making sure your purchases are put in the correct category. He checks every day and things that come through like grocery purchases from Publix, he just adds those transactions because he knows what budget category they are. But anything weird that I purchase, I add and categorize either from my phone or from my desktop. And I can add notes on each purchase to show what it was because somethings are not obviously one category and I need his feedback on where it should go. I can also split up a receipt and show that $40 of that Publix purchase was cash for a babysitter which falls under “entertainment” in our budget.
The splitting of receipts is KEY. So many purchases at, like Target, are for more than one thing. Birthday gift PLUS groceries. Or clothing PLUS groceries. Being able to split a purchase into two budget categories was something we couldn’t do easily with Mint or with basic spreadsheets. But YNAB makes it SO EASY.
We’re still a work in progress. It took a bout a year of monitored spending to really settle in on what our budget should actually be. When I was in charge we ate out several times a week. Now? It’s only once a week. BUT! We budget money for coaching because, in the big picture of our lives, that’s more valuable than a few meals out. We also budget race fees and kid’s sporting costs. These are all things we spent money on before, but I just kinda lumped into one under-funded category. It’s hard to sit down and make a perfect budget if you don’t monitor your spending. We’re about two years in of Donnie being in charge, and it took us one of those years to really work out the details of our budget.
Anyway – I’ve never talked about money before because I suck at it. I could still tell you horror stories involving me and finances, but I won’t. Because I’m actually really embarrassed about it. Instead, I’ll tell you some of our saving graces. 1) My husband, you can’t have him. 2) YNAB. It costs money if you want the connectivity between several devices, but it’s the best money we’ve ever spent.