I had a financial epiphany today.


Due to the tax man taking all our money, we were forced to talk a long, hard look at our spending over the last few months.  Realization:  we spend WAY more money than we make.  Um, duh.  Like a lightening bolt, it hit me.  If I want to do fun stuff (like eating out), something has got to give in another area of our finances (like less shopping)… or I will overspend.  BADLY.  Guess finances is kind of like healthy eating in that way.  It’s all about balance and moderation, huh?  In every area of life.


I’ve written numerous times on the blog how I don’t really know how to manage our money very well.  Well, I KNOW how, I just don’t actually do it. 


The Husband and I took a few hours out of our work day to sit down and get honest about our finances.  We created a detailed budget (that I actually believe we can stick to).  I insisted we budget in fun dinners out (once a week) and allowances because otherwise I KNOW we’ll break the budget and then it will all go to hell.  It’s kind of like going on a diet and swearing you’ll never drink or eat dessert.  It’s just not realistic.  I’ve just got to shop in moderate portions.  🙂


Does anyone else out there actually budget?  Help!


Due to the personal finances fiasco, I skipped all official workouts today, although I did walk James for about 25 minutes.  We walked at a pretty brisk pace! It was nice.  🙂


Maggie just ate:





And dinner was kind of random…


I made an eggplant and zucchini bake by combing several layers of sliced eggplant and zucchini, bread crumbs, and pasta sauce in a casserole dish and baking at 375 for 30 minutes.


It ended up tasting pretty good!


With a piece of toast and beans:


Going to massage the budget a little more!



  • holly @ couchpotatoathlete September 13, 2010, 8:52 pm

    Jason and I model our budget after Dave Ramsey’s plan — he wrote Total Money Makeover and his plan has been a lifesaver. While using his tips we have paid off over $30,000 in credit card debt in less than a year. Right now we are building our savings using his same techniques.

    I can’t recommend his technique enough!

    • elyse September 13, 2010, 9:06 pm

      I love Total Money Makeover. Even though I am 19 years old and not in debt it is a great savings plan and it has taught me so much!!!

    • Lauren September 13, 2010, 10:14 pm

      My husband and I just completed Financial Peace University that Dave Ramsey created. He seriously knows what he’s talking about. We really wanted to get serious about saving and just organizing our money and learning about different ways to invest (which I had no clue about before). We still have more to learn, but it is so motivating and helpful! I highly encourage going through that course or reading one of his books!

      • Christine September 13, 2010, 11:35 pm

        We are using the same system – we are a few months out from paying off $144,000 (crazy!) and have really learned to budget well. He has good recommendations for how to deal with income that varies from month to month as well.

        • eatmovelove September 14, 2010, 9:03 am

          Hmm…should I look into this? The frustrating thing for me is that I owe $130,000 in student loans/line of credit that are KILLING me :(…then a credit card with $6000, then car payments/insurance,etc for the next 4 years! (that’s collecting interest as well)…and to make matters worse – I hate my job and want out…not cool at all. Very overwhelmed.

          I also started work as a Contractor to Caitlin- and will have to pay in taxes next year and I’m scared to death. Everybody says to just put money aside every month – but that money should be going to my loans/payments. This SUCKS.

  • Cyndi Eggers September 13, 2010, 8:57 pm

    We budget – both for our businesses and personal. We review and plan at least once a year, maybe more if there is a change (good or bad.) Being knowledgeable is key.

  • Whitney September 13, 2010, 9:02 pm

    I’m an accountant and I’m horrible at managing money. We sat down recently and worked out our budget, as well as me handing all money responsibilities over to the hubs. It works out much better that way and I don’t stress over it. He tells me how much spending money we have (after bills, savings, gas and groceries), and we stick to it.

  • Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope September 13, 2010, 9:04 pm

    I do follow a budget. I make sure money is automatically deducted each paycheck and goes straight into savings (having an 8 month emergency fund is my ultimate goal…), and then of course money goes into my 401k. However, over the last few months, I’ve really screwed up my budget with being frivolous with certain aspects of life, as well as signing up for yoga teacher training for 2011. It’s a lot of money, but it’s what I want to do, and since I am always responsible with my money, I am NOT going to feel guilty. I agree that you need to give yourself allowances or you will not stick to the budget. I also feel that saving money is the most important because you never know what could happen and it’s nice to have an emergency fund.

  • elyse September 13, 2010, 9:05 pm

    I always make sure to budget a section for miscellaneous expenses [impulse buys etc]. I couldn’t figure out why I kept blowing my budget and then I figured out why… I was always buying stuff I didn’t need! Hope this helps you!

  • myra September 13, 2010, 9:08 pm

    Good you did realize about your spending(we all have to at some point). I use ace budget iphone app to manually enter what i spend so i get an idea of how well i’m staying on the budget , still have to cut down spending. it is simple but to start with it’s good ,a $2 app.
    The funny thing (sad thing) is whenever we plan on cutting down expenses something unexpected comes up, this month it was my dental bill which is $2200 we had to pay that out of pocket, even after religiously paying insurance for years( the insurance had numerous reasons not to cover that). i felt bad but again was thankful that we could afford it, after all Health comes First.

    • Caitlin September 13, 2010, 9:10 pm

      I agree!! That always happens!!

  • Stacey September 13, 2010, 9:17 pm

    I think there comes a time in every marriage that a budget is born 😀 I think it’s a great thing too! I used to be a huge spender…go out and a buy a shirt here, grab a coffee there..and before you know it, my bank account would be low and I’d be left grumbling the rest of the week! Not anymore! I only spend if I have to, and we allow $40 a week for meals/food eaten out (that includes iced coffees, date nights etc..) Good luck with your budgeting! I have a feeling you’ll do great with it 😉

  • Crystal September 13, 2010, 9:18 pm

    We have a loose budget and my husband and I each get an “allowance”. It’s nice to have money that’s just mine and I can spend on Starbucks without someone asking why I spent X amount on coffee this week. It makes it easier to stick to the rest of the budget too b/c I don’t feel deprived.

    • Megan September 13, 2010, 10:05 pm

      This is what I was going to recommend too! My husband and I do this and it’s great to spend “my own money” and not worry about having to tell my husband that I went shopping. The only problems are that occasionaly we disagree what’s from the allowance, and what’s from the combined money, but overall it’s a great system. We each actually have a checking account for our allowance money to keep it seperate. We call it our “fun money” 🙂

    • Angela September 14, 2010, 12:00 am

      My husband and I do this too and it has changed everything for us! We no longer feel guilty for purchasing something the other would deem “frivolous.” He tends to save for big things, while I tend to spend just as quickly as I receive it. It is nice to know we are meeting our long term goals through a very detailed budget and savings plan and still allowed guilt-free indulgences.

  • Christie September 13, 2010, 9:22 pm

    My husband and I combined our money last year after 2.5 years of marriage and 4.5 years of living together. It took some time to work out the kinks but we got our budget in line. We use KERF’s model. We want a new house and some babies so we had to get our crap straight and pay down our years of racking up debt.

  • Rachel September 13, 2010, 9:22 pm

    It’s a great idea to sit down together and budget – I commend you! You’ve done a great job of balancing your life, this is no different!!

  • Kiran September 13, 2010, 9:26 pm

    I know where you are coming from. The whole idea of budgeting can be a headache, but also a huge life savior! We do that here in our household, all the time 🙂 Good luck. I am sure everything would pan out soon. Just try to stick to the budget and resist temptations. Life is all about challenges, and I am sure this is one of those.

  • Clare September 13, 2010, 9:26 pm

    The wellness of personal finance is one of my favorite topics. Here’s what’s helped me:


    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 7:55 am

      hahah great slogan. i have champagne taste!

  • Sarah September 13, 2010, 9:26 pm

    The boyfriend and my biggest stressor/fighting point/pull my hair out topic is money. I am a saver, he is a spender and we cannot seem to find a common ground. We are not at the point of marriage yet, but we do live together and I know that something has got to give in the financial department or I may go crazy. I think we need to take your lead and get things under control!

  • Elizabeth September 13, 2010, 9:26 pm

    I work at a credit union and teach a Basics of Budgeting class. I’d be happy to send the powerpoint to anyone who might be interested. It’s got some pretty good tips in it.

    • Dana September 14, 2010, 9:41 am

      I would definitely like that!

      • Elizabeth September 14, 2010, 7:26 pm

        what’s your email address?

    • Rachel September 14, 2010, 11:21 am

      I would also be interested!!

    • Victoria September 14, 2010, 11:27 am

      Please send one my way!! vixktoria@gmail.com
      Thank you!!!

  • Bethany (@ NotUnlessI'mBeingChased) September 13, 2010, 9:27 pm

    Budget is my middle name. 😉 You’re right when you say budgeting is like healthy living — it’s financially healthy living. It takes a while to get the hang of, but after a while, you’re making “swaps and additions” and it’s turning into more green in your pocket and peace of mind in your conscience.
    Good luck and don’t get discouraged! You can do it!

  • Amanda September 13, 2010, 9:27 pm

    I track my monthly spending on an excel spreadsheet (which I would be willing to share if you are interested) and then I also keep track of my budget on my iphone using the app spend. I live on a graduate stipend, half of which goes to my rent so I know very well what it means to live on a tight budget and would be happy to help in any way I can.

  • lynne September 13, 2010, 9:27 pm

    Mint.com! i’ve started using mint.com 8 months ago and LOVE it. it pulls your checking/savings/credit card transactions and aggregates it and it intuitively assings spending categories – of course, you can change, reassign or create categories too.

    it’s a visual representation of where your money is going. you can set budgets for things like groceries, rent, restaurants, insurance, etc. it’s really to see my budgets all in one spot and to be color coded (green, yellow = getting close, red = over budget). and since i’m on the computer all day and week at work, it’s SO convenient for me. there’s also an iphone app!

    happy budgeting!

    • lynne September 13, 2010, 9:31 pm

      and it’s free!

      • Stella September 13, 2010, 9:35 pm

        I also love mint.com!

        • Emily September 13, 2010, 10:07 pm

          Agreed. We are a fan of Mint. We’re actually still using a slightly-tweaked version of a budget we created together when we got married a little over a year ago. My first year out of college, I literally wrote down EVERY bit of money I spent. It was a little crazy, but it really helped me have a good idea of how much I spend and where I spent it. That made making a joint budget that much easier. We don’t sit down with our budget nearly as often as we should, so Mint is incredibly helpful to kindly remind us when we are nearing our set budget limits for certain areas.

    • elaine! September 14, 2010, 2:54 am

      It’s got a good iPhone app that lets you see how you’re doing in all your budget categories, too! Mint FTW!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 7:56 am

      I tried Mint.com and couldn’t get into it. I dunno why. Probably because I hate budgeting 🙂

      • Clare September 14, 2010, 10:48 am

        I could never get into Mint either, partially because my part-time job earns cash and I never deposit it so it never got tracked. And also because it yelled at me a lot. haha!

  • Morgan @ Healthy Happy Place September 13, 2010, 9:27 pm

    We don’t have an official budget, but we’re both pretty frugal so we don’t overspend. We eat out once a month or so, and that really saves money. We also have a hefty savings account so I know that if a major expense pops up, we’ll be able to afford it.

    Good luck with the budget, please share some of the details so we can all learn !!

  • Kristy @ KristyRuns.com September 13, 2010, 9:28 pm

    I think the key is to realize that a few dollars here and there really add up. Just $3 a day equals almost $1,100 in one year! …I’m still trying to grasp the idea of saving more and spending less, too. 🙂
    P.S. James is so cute!!!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 7:56 am

      James says thanks!

  • Amber from Girl with the Red Hair September 13, 2010, 9:28 pm

    That is something me and my b/f really need to do! I have quite a bit of money stashed away in savings but a couple upcoming things (big trip + car insurance) are going to mostly diminish that.

    For the first time we are living together permanently so I think merging our finances more is a must!

  • Haley September 13, 2010, 9:30 pm

    oh man, I wish my husband and I had savings. We’re both in grad school and are in serious student debt, but it kind of feels like everyone’s in debt nowadays, lol.

    I need just as much help as you do =)

  • Sara September 13, 2010, 9:31 pm

    I’m a budget queen! Not because I can stick to mine, but because I obsess over them 😉 I use an Excel spreadsheet for my personal stuff, and my live-in boyfriend & I split a Mint.com account just for the one checking account we share for all of our bills & other shared costs like eating out. We’re trying hard to stick to it, but between groceries (hard to predict how much the week’s menu will cost) and eating out (we often do it on a whim), it’s been difficult! We both also make less money this year after moving to California. I love reading personal finance blogs, however, and here are some of my favorite:
    http://www.punchdebtintheface.com/ (ridiculous name, funny guy)

    I also have read just a few books, as I found that they mostly sound the same so I stopped reading them (but kept the couple I have for reference) and just stick to looking additional stuff up online as it applies to me.

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 7:58 am

      hahah punch debt in the face.

    • Lindsay September 14, 2010, 9:02 am

      Thanks for these! I have been looking for some good budgeting blogs!

    • Clare September 14, 2010, 10:49 am

      I love all three of those blogs too! We have the same taste. 🙂

  • Scargosun September 13, 2010, 9:32 pm

    Honestly, I work for financial advisors who do financial planning and investing and it is even hard for me. They do a great job and their clients love them for their help but no one is perfect when it comes to this subject. 🙁

  • Tina September 13, 2010, 9:33 pm

    We certainly have a budget to be sure we don’t go into our savings too much. Especially since right now I don’t work besides tutoring a bit and whatever I make from blogging. We have a pretty strict one, but do allow for fun things too. Otherwise life would be way too unpleasant. We don’t want money to rule our lives…we want it to facilitate our lives in a reasonable manner for where we’re at now.

  • Marissa September 13, 2010, 9:33 pm

    Caitlin, I am the budgeting queen! I am a low paid teacher, my husband is a full time student (we pay 100% out of pocket for his schooling) and full time worker. We live on an insanely tight budget, but have still managed to re-do most of our house, and save a lil’ money too. If ya want some tips, email me, and I’ll be happy to help ya! I will say that it takes a tremendous amount of discipline!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 7:58 am

      wow i am so impressed with your financials!!!

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) September 13, 2010, 9:34 pm

    Oh Caitlin, that looks so sad that you ate beans and bread. Trust me, it is doable. I am 35 with 2 kids and we live on my husband’s pay and that is all freelance. Unfortunately, I have been looking for work for a year and a half just to help take the stress off of him and nothing has happened for me. There are good times and bad times with money, but at least you have a great family, a home and food. Past that everything else is extra. I hope you get it figured out soon. Definitely work out tomorrow…it helps with the stress. Have a good night!

  • Jen F. September 13, 2010, 9:34 pm

    We’ve drawn up a personal budget, the spreadsheet includes everything from a monthly grocery alotment, to car payments, mortgage, child care, licensing tags for the vehicles, insurance, basically every little bit of money we spend a month – it’s down and dirty! We also budget in family fun like out to dinner, movies, etc.

  • Chelsea at Striking Balance September 13, 2010, 9:36 pm

    I’m so glad you had your epiphany! I think you guys will do great with your budget since you built in planned “splurges”.

    I’m lucky to be a student in Canada, which isn’t nearly as expensive as the states. I’m even more lucky that I have really supportive parents that are helping me out while I go through school, so budgeting isn’t a huge pressure on me right now. That being said, I’m a saver and a bargain shopper at heart, so I always look for the best deal and try to only buy what I need, which isn’t always easy!

  • yummiee cupcake September 13, 2010, 9:41 pm

    good luck with your finance issue. you’ll pull thought this! you’re facing and dealing with your finances! a lot of people goes into debt because they’re in denial.

  • Alexa @ The Girl In Chucks September 13, 2010, 9:42 pm

    I’m lousy with budgets too. I really don’t make very much given the city I live in (San Francisco) is one of the most expensive cities in the country. My rent is outrageous and takes half of my take home right off the bat. After rent is paid, I pay the rest of the bills and then I have grocery money.

    If I lived just like that and used the money just for groceries, I’d be fine. But I don’t. I go out in the evenings with co-workers. Eat out when I shouldn’t. Buy too many pumpkin spice lattes when I could just make drip coffee at home. This last month was really hard. I’ve been broke for about a week. Really, a low point for me.

    What I have determined is that I am going to have to get real about how much money I make and stop spending so irresponsibly. I also have determined that adulthood blows! =P

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 7:59 am

      PSL = money drain.

      • Paige September 14, 2010, 10:16 am

        You can make pretty decent PSLs at home, you know! Put some canned pumpkin, pumpkin spice, vanilla extract, little bit of sugar, and your milk of choice in the coffee pot, then brew your coffee as normal (make sure to account for the extra liquid in your pot, obviously. No one likes an overflowing pot!). When it’s done brewing, stir it up and it tastes delicious and pumpkin-y. Not the same as the original, but still delish…and cheap.

        • Alexa @ The Girl In Chucks September 14, 2010, 10:45 am

          Hmm. Although I am essentially fanatic (as embarrassing as that is) about the Starbucks version, I will definitely give this a try. My wallet could use a break. Thanks for the recipe suggestion!

        • Alexa @ The Girl In Chucks September 14, 2010, 11:18 am

          Oh..heh…that was a comment left for Caitlin. Apparently threaded comments confuse me first thing in the morning.

          Oh well. I’m still thankful for the recipe! 😉

      • Alexa @ The Girl In Chucks September 14, 2010, 10:43 am

        PSL’s do equal money drain. And deliciousness. Pure deliciousness.

  • ashleigh September 13, 2010, 9:49 pm

    That zuchini eggplant bake looks yummy!

    I don’t budget.. I am too disorganized for it, maybe someday when I get my act together. But, I do try really hard to save money. I very rarely buy clothes, I don’t buy coffee out anymore, I make all of my own food (but allow for one night out like you!). Good luck!

  • Amy September 13, 2010, 9:50 pm

    I just started budgeting this month because a career change has meant I make way less money than I did at my old job. It’s hard to stop spending as if I’m still making more! I modeled my budget after Kath’s nerdkerf spreadsheet. I keep all of my receipts and carry a little notebook so I can keep track of my budget. It’s still a learning process and I’m not sure I’ll save a full 20% this month but I’m trying really hard. At the least, it makes me think twice before I buy something.

  • Mary @ Running Wifle September 13, 2010, 9:51 pm

    If you have an iPhone or other smartphone, look into the Spend app. My husband and I just sat down at the end of last month to create a budget since we are finally going to merge our finances. We’re pretty good about living within our means, but I was completely unaware as to where our money went and was pretty sure we were spending unnecessarily. We set specific long-term savings goals and budgets for different categories (food, household items, pets, allowances). The Spend app has helped me keep really good track of what I spend, since I can just add it in as soon as I make a purchase. It also opened my eyes to how insane our grocery bill is, which motivates me to not let any of our food go to waste!

  • Erin September 13, 2010, 9:51 pm

    I really like using Mint.com to manage my budget. It helps give me an idea, especially week-to-week, of how much I can spend, especially on food. Eating out is my weakness but so is spending a lot of money at the grocery store. I like keeping a weekly budget better than monthly, actually.

  • Nicole, RD September 13, 2010, 9:53 pm

    We don’t budget….and we probably should. It’s just the smart thing to do! My main motivation not to spend is wanting to get my car and student loans paid off ASAP!! Usually keeps my spending in check!

  • emily September 13, 2010, 9:53 pm

    We had a budget worked out, but it was sort of ridiculous. My husband and I are both in school and unemployed but my school will only reward me $3,000 (what?!) so we are living off of the husband’s loans….for one person…the two of us. We were short but only by a little. And then we found out that the husband’s medical insurance randomly removed me (what?) and it cost $4,000 to get me back insured. So yeah. Now we have lots and lots of fun loans to pay back.

    Ok, but the point of that very long (sad) post is that I’ve done lots and lots of budget reworking over the year and would be glad to offer advice/help if you need it.

  • Ellen@FirednFabulous September 13, 2010, 9:58 pm

    I’m glad I’m not the only one with money woes! I’m TERRIBLE at budgeting, but honestly, I don’t HAVE a lot to budget. I pretty much never have wiggle room. And what I do have, I spend on little treats that keep me sane, like coffee and froyo 🙂

  • maria @ Chasing the Now September 13, 2010, 9:58 pm

    Kath made a really great budget video a while back, and since I’ve seen that i’ve been using her method, which is easy for me!

  • elyssa September 13, 2010, 9:58 pm

    good luck figuring out your budget, caitlin! as i was reading about your monday, i was thinking how often i fall into the trap of viewing the lovely ladies of the blog world such as yourself as leading ‘perfect’ lives. not that it’s nice to see you struggle, but in a way i do feel a sense of solidarity as we all grapple with the issues in our lives. it’s clear from your approach to food and health that you and your husband will be able to weather the storm!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:01 am

      oh girl, i am friends with many bloggers on a personal level and i promise you that no one is perfect! we’re just not going to necessarily write about our cheating boyfriends, credit card debt, infertility, dying parents, etc etc etc on our blogs. it happens to us all. 😉

  • Carly (Swim, Run, Om) September 13, 2010, 10:01 pm

    I am horrible w/ money, but I’m trying to learn. I’m sure you’ve already seen these, but there are two great Nerd KERF videos on budgeting. I actually set up a budget yesterday following her template and advice.

  • Camille September 13, 2010, 10:01 pm

    Eek, budgeting is no fun but totally necessary 🙁

  • lindsay September 13, 2010, 10:02 pm

    I love that Maggie’s tummy almost touches the ground! I have a budget and I try my best to stick to it – but my “eating/drinking out” (dinners only – I make and bring my lunch everyday) and “gift” categories always put me over! I feel like I am always buying wedding, shower, baby, birthday gifts…love to celebrate, but sometimes its hard to keep up!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:03 am

      She’s such a funny shaped pup. 🙂

  • mayct September 13, 2010, 10:03 pm

    I don’t budget as much as I carefully track money in/money out. At least I know bi-monthly if I’m spending more or less than I earn. If I’m spending more than I earn in one two week period, I know I need to cut back in the next.
    There are lots of great and useful personal finance blogs out there. Two of the very top ones are Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar. If you really want motivation and concrete tips, they are useful.

  • Kim @ Kim Lives Healthy September 13, 2010, 10:05 pm

    Budgeting is hard! For two people in our household we always aim for below $75/week for groceries, but then end up going over it for things like paper towels, dish sponges, shaving cream – how do you budget for dish sponges, really?!?

    You definitely do need to leave room for your social life or you’ll go crazy. I recommend looking at the stuff you spent money on last month that you could have gone without. Example: this weekend I spent an hour browsing through books in Borders looking for something specific, and found exactly what I was looking for, but rather than spend the $16.95 on it then & there, I went home and found it on the Orange County Library catalog – for free 🙂 So I still got the joy of perusing the bookstore shelves, but without the guilt of paying for something I can get for free down the street 🙂

    Sometimes spending money makes you feel good (like on froyo!) and sometimes it makes you feel bad/guilty – you just have to figure out what brings you happiness & try not to feel bad spending money on that. For the things that don’t matter so much (i.e. dish sponges) – buy them for as cheap as possible!

  • Kristina September 13, 2010, 10:10 pm

    I’m not a budgeting queen, but when we went from 2 salaries to 1 (with some extra loot, but not a lot), we made MAJOR changes. These days, we can count on one salary but not too much on the other, so we still track our spending closely. What has helped is not eating out very often – that was a huge expense for us! Seriously, we probably go out twice a month, and we don’t eat at extravagant places (usually).
    Also, we have monthly “family meetings” and we look at what we have in the bank and what expenses we have coming up. That is really nice because it keeps us aware of major items, such as new tires for the car.
    Finally, we have learned how to say “no” to friends and family. We certainly aren’t deprived, but we do set priorities on what we can and cannot afford, and we don’t make lavish purchases without a long conversation.
    Good luck – I actually wish that I had become more financially responsible 10 years ago!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:04 am

      I think I need to work on no.

      • Susan September 14, 2010, 11:55 am

        Yeah, it’s hard at first, but it does get easier. When the BF & I were saving up for our house, we shut down our non-essential spending by abount 90%. It meant not going out to post-run & post-bike breakfasts with friends on the weekends, which was really a drag because I felt like I was missing out on something, but we did allow ourselves a mid-week beer with them so we could catch up. I think depriving yourself completely will backfire…kind of like with food. Maybe allow one day a week when you can have a PSL? Now that we have our house, we don’t have to be as careful with our spending, but I still find myself asking if I really need something.

  • Beth @ Will Run for Books September 13, 2010, 10:12 pm

    I budget very strictly – I just bought a house, have a ton of student loans, and am saving for a wedding – all on a government salary.

    If you want any tips (or Google docs) I’d be glad to help you out – email me!

  • JenRD September 13, 2010, 10:12 pm

    Since the hubby & I have different spending habits, we decided a while back to save us much strife and aggravation by setting up separate “fun spending” accounts from our joint bank account. We each have a certain % of our paychecks automatically transferred each month to our individual fun accounts. That way, I don’t have to feel guilty about my more frivolous purchase (such as shoes, handbags, and name-brand cosmetics) coming from our bill-paying bank account. It is also nice to have that account b/c I can use it to surprise him with birthday, anniversary, and holiday gifts, which don’t show up on our joint credit card (there is a separate credit card for that account as well). In your case, since you don’t get paychecks, you could just set up one joint fun account, and have a certain amount each month deposited there to use for fun dinners, vacations, and such.
    We also try to keep minimal cash in our wallets–it makes those purchases like high-end coffee and fro you add up. We have a credit card with great rewards (the citibank master card) which we have used to cash in for Best Buy gift cards, buying a HD TV, and also at Macys to buy us a bedroom furniture set. While we charge 99% of our joint purchases on that card, we always make sure we can pay that account in full each month, so we are not hit with finance charges.
    Like you always say, take one step at a time, and you will get to better money management!

  • Laura (Starloz) September 13, 2010, 10:13 pm

    im terrible with budgets, terrible.
    i need to suck it up & make one

  • Amy O September 13, 2010, 10:14 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented, but I had to tell you: Mint.com and Ramit Sethi at I Will Teach You To Be Rich (http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/) completely changed my financial life.

    Ramit’s blog title sounds like a gimmick but I found it’s extremely straightforward and helpful. He’s all about the ‘big wins’ instead of nickle and diming (saving 50 cents by ordering a small instead of a medium, etc). His idea is just like what you said — spend money extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.

    Good luck!

  • Natalie September 13, 2010, 10:16 pm

    I agree about Dave Ramsey-you should check out his books if you haven’t already! Also, I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet but have you ever tried or heard of mint.com? I have been using it about 2 months now and it is amazing!! I have always had a budget but because this puts everything into categories and shows ALL of your spending through your bank account (and it’s totally legit and safe) you can actually see what areas all of those ‘other’ expenses are going to. It has really helped me to realistically see where we are over and under budgeting and what things can give and not. Like groceries-that’s one thing we under budgeted for and we felt like we really needed to change because it was just not realistic but that is a huge need for us-we barely eat out and want to feel good about buying healthy groceries-even if they’re a little more expensive. Anyway, I would totally recommend mint.com–it’s amazing! After the initial set up and a little maintenance it does most of the work for you! 🙂

  • sarah k. @ the pajama chef September 13, 2010, 10:17 pm

    you can do it! once we got into a budget routine, it’s really not too bad. we follow a modified dave ramsey plan & definitely have our own personal allowances so we can get coffee or shop or whatever without breaking the bank. good luck!

  • alison September 13, 2010, 10:21 pm

    We have a budget, but it’s pretty loose. I just like to know where our money is going. It’s a good idea to budget for extras, like eating out, because deprivation only causes us to do things we’ll regret. I’m definitely the saver in the family, but I also get a lot of pleasure from shopping. In the past I’ve put myself on a self imposed “shopping diet” and stayed completely out of stores (especially Target) for a few weeks at a time. Cold turkey was the way to go for me. Anytime I feel like I’m just mindlessly shopping to occupy my time or fill a void, I go back on my diet.

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:05 am

      I feel like I shop for emotional reasons. Isn’t that horrible?

      • alison September 14, 2010, 8:41 am

        I know! I do it all the time and it’s a really bad habit. Shopping is my perfect escape….add an iced coffee to the mix and I’m one happy girl. Sometimes I get mad at stores for creating such beautiful displays because they pull me in and make me think I’ll be happier if I have whatever it is they’re selling. Which, of course, is their job. I’m such a sucker for pretty packaging!

  • Kim September 13, 2010, 10:21 pm

    I use budgetsimple.com to track our budget. I have set up a really good budget after a few months of trial and error. The key for me is to record my purchases daily in my budget tracker. If I wait until the end of the month, or even the end of the week to enter in my expenditures, I find that the amount of receipts overwhelm me and I lose my motivation. So everyday, I enter in what my husband and I have spent. That way we know how to adjust as the month goes on.
    Good luck in setting up your budget, and expect that it will take a few months to really figure out a reasonable, personalized budget.

  • Tanya Kummerow September 13, 2010, 10:22 pm

    We follow a budget, and try to stick to it as best as possible. You are wise to budget in an allowance and for fun dinners out. It will really help you stick to it. We took a Dave Ramsey class a few years ago and it helped us learn to budget. One of the best pieces of advice is to budget to 0 every month. If there is leftover money in the budget it will inevitably get “lost”. Give each dollar a name and make your money work for you instead of working for your money. Great advice!

  • mindy @ just a one girl revolution. September 13, 2010, 10:22 pm

    Several have already suggested it, but I ditto the mint.com sentiment! It is a great and easy tool to really keep track of where your money is going!

  • Courtney B. September 13, 2010, 10:28 pm

    A couple years ago I freaked out about budgeting, made an extensive one and it failed. I tried little tricks and things and those failed. It all seemed so complicated. Then I found an article on reverse budgeting. It’s so simple and far less complicated.

    I have my regular reoccurring bills, and savings deposits, mapped out so I know which ones I pay each pay period. As soon as I get paid, I pay these. Then what’s left over is how much money I have until the next paycheck. At the end of the pay period, if I have money left, it goes into savings or toward paying off debt. I don’t currently budget food as a bill, but I’m thinking about changing that, as I think we spend too much.

    I also have two savings accounts. One is named “Big Egg” – no money comes out of it unless it is an emergency, or a big expense I could justify, like taking a class from the local college that would benefit my career. The other one I named “Event Savings” – and I can take money out of it whenever I want. If I know I have a big vacation or trip coming up, I try and have more money left over each pay period to put in the “Event Savings.” So far it’s worked really, really well for me.

  • Marg September 13, 2010, 10:31 pm

    I liked Suze Orman’s book Young, Fabulous, and Broke. I’m honestly too cheap, so I guess it’s a matter of finding that middle ground of what are your needs and wants. Like going to Starbucks vs. making coffee at home.

    Also are you writing off every thing you are allowed as a business owner?

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:07 am

      I loved TYB!! It answered so many questions I had about credit cards. I am VERY proud to say we are credit card debt free and it makes a huge difference in our life.

      And yes we’re writing it all off.

  • KJ September 13, 2010, 10:32 pm

    It’s funny you mentioned this. I’ve just been budgeting and organizing my finances this week.

    I highly recommend ‘The Smart Cookies’ they have a book and a website (http://www.smartcookies.com/). They’re women in their 20s and 30s who have paid off debt, paid for their weddings etc. all while living within their means (which weren’t terribly high salaries) and still having an enjoyable life.

    Good luck! All this budget stuff will be worth it!

  • Meredith September 13, 2010, 10:34 pm

    I’m a HUGE believer in mint.com It’s a fantastic website that helps you budget, as well as figure out where your money is going month by month. It also helps you come up with a financial goal, and helps you plan.

  • Wei-Wei September 13, 2010, 10:36 pm

    Ah, budgeting. I think I ought to do that with my “allowance”… hard to do since it changes every week. Heh.

  • Lauren September 13, 2010, 10:36 pm

    I’ve kept a budget more & less strictly depending on my “financial health” 🙂 Earlier after college, I kept spreadsheet-based budgets in order to plan & track spending, and have transitioned more to using Mint.com as my money-tracker. I like Mint, although sometimes having a spreadsheet that you can track on your own can be helpful. I also follow the I Will Teach You To Be Rich tip of setting up separate accounts for common but irregular expenses, e.g. self-employment tax (in my case: Car Insurance & Maintenance, “Stupid Mistakes”) to help “plan” for those things that are larger payments that are not on a monthly basis. I’ve found this incredibly helpful in order to cushion my monthly budget from those larger periodic hits.

  • Jaya September 13, 2010, 10:39 pm

    One of the best things about having a budget is that it keeps us focused on what celebrating really means. We love third-wave/single plantation coffee, amazing food, etc. but only having it every few weeks or months makes it feel like a really special occasion. We get dressed up (even if it’s just out for some tapas or pizza) and make a real date of it. When I was a kid, we always associated sweets and dining out with celebrations and I used to relish those occasions. We eat out once a month, or else we go somewhere really special every other month. So many of our friends want to save as well, so we have potlucks and picnics when we can. Honestly, you are so right about it being an integral part of healthy living. How can you be well in your life when you are stressed out about money?! The most important/best part is that you guys talk so honestly about it. I think that the big reason couples struggle with money stuff is not the money itself, but the lack of transparency about how it’s spent and what that consumption represents. Less is more!!!
    You guys are going to be ok. You can do it!

    • Jaya September 13, 2010, 10:41 pm

      Oh, and I just want to add that you should definitely call all of your service providers and demand better rates. I always get discounts just for asking! We even got a better interest rate on our credit card (which we pay on time judiciously), switched to a no-fee banking system and I re-negotiated all of our internet/home phone to better deals. Companies don’t want to lose you and they will almost always give you a better deal if you just ask! Also, we don’t have cell phones or cable TV and those are major money savers!

      • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:09 am

        This is a good idea.

        I wish we could reduce our cell and cable but I’m just not ready to do it yet.

  • kristinp September 13, 2010, 10:41 pm

    HA! My boss and I just had this discussion the other day. I mentioned something about how her wardrobe shopping was going to blow her clothing budget and she laughed because she thought I was joking! After a minute we both stopped laughing because we suspected the other person wasn’t laughing for the same reason and she said, “you don’t *actually* have a clothing budget do you??” and I said “you don’t *actually* live without a budget do you??” and we both started laughing again.

    I budget everything – I guess I have to, I’m a graduate student, but I think it’s a really good habit to get into. I’ve actually managed to pay off a credit card while in grad school, which is pretty impressive if I do say so myself.

    The only time I’ve lived without a budget is when I received a raise at work (pre-grad school) and decided I no longer needed to worry about where every penny went. As a result I suddenly, somehow had less money at my disposal than ever before. Once off duty I had started spending in ways I had never thought of before and blew the *new* money I was making. Took me about 2 months to get back on the budget and I haven’t looked back.

    Good luck with everything!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:10 am

      haha that’s a cute story

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing September 13, 2010, 10:41 pm

    I am the WORST at budgeting and over-spending so I can definitely relate!

  • Cyndi @ Weightless Life September 13, 2010, 10:42 pm

    We use mint.com to help keep our budget in check. It sends us email alerts when we get close to over spending. When we first sat down to work out a budget I was worried we’d have to give up everything fun, but we didn’t have to do that. Good luck!

  • Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter September 13, 2010, 10:42 pm

    I took a quick seminar at my University about managing my finances. I’m very lucky where I have an account for my studies and grocery shopping and another for personal spending. Its easy for me to understand. When I have to start paying for insurance, my car, house and everything its definitely going to get tricky!

  • Stephanie September 13, 2010, 10:50 pm

    I’m a CPA so I guess it’s just in my nature to be pretty detailed with our budget, not saying we always stick to it 100%, but I think overall we do pretty well!

  • Jean@RoastedRootsPumpkinSpice September 13, 2010, 10:52 pm

    I definitely budget. I make sure a part of my income goes into my savings each month and make myself stick to a certain amount when it comes to groceries, drinks, and clothes. I don’t always stick to it but it’s good to have a guideline of some sort.

  • Leslie September 13, 2010, 10:55 pm

    Hi! I budget and I use http://www.mint.com because I am a visual person and they make nice color coded graphs and bar charts. I find that it has helped make me more aware of where all my money is going.

  • Jessica September 13, 2010, 11:00 pm

    Luckily my husband and myself are both accountants 🙂 He actually keeps financial statements for our family. A realistic budget is necessary, and also don’t be afraid to adjust the budget if you find areas that need adjusting after a few months.

  • Katherine @ Left Coast Contessa September 13, 2010, 11:19 pm

    I’ve been budgeting myself for year. In fact I wasn’t allowed to have an allowance unless I came up with a budget. My father, the uber saver, always taught me to budget with only 90% of my money (including money to put into saving and emergency money etc). That way you always have 10% left over no matter what.

  • Heather (Heather's Dish) September 13, 2010, 11:27 pm

    i know exactly what you mean about knowing HOW to budget but just not DOING it! it’s definitely a continuous struggle but worth it when you can do it!

  • Catherine September 13, 2010, 11:29 pm

    I am also dealing with a financial crisis, and after tracking my spending habits, I realized that it was the little expenses that were killing my bank account. It’s easy to say “I won’t buy those $150 shoes because they’re too expensive.” But when it’s small, daily expenses, it’s harder to reason with yourself. For example, I was getting coffee from Starbucks every morning, which didn’t seem costly at the moment I was buying it. In reality, it equals about $100 each month. That’s also the equivalent of buying 8 pairs of those $150 shoes each year, but you don’t see it until it all adds up. My point is that I’d rather have 8 pairs of nice shoes 😉

  • Amanda (tomboy that wears makeup) September 13, 2010, 11:35 pm


    I was brutal with my money, but this money management system saved me-

  • Nicole - yuppie yogini September 13, 2010, 11:38 pm

    I’m pretty cheap by nature so I don’t formally budget, but I do try to keep a tally of little expenses like coffees, eating out, etc… Those really add up. I also try to keep things in balance. If I’ve been eating out a lot, I’ll have more pot-lucks and dinners at home for a few weeks. Somehow it works for me.

  • BethT September 13, 2010, 11:43 pm

    First of all, give yourself a tiny break because your husband just finished school AND you just moved and started a new business. It’s hard to be 100% financially solvent when all of those things are added together. It took us a year after having a similar situation to be fully on our feet. This is what helped us:

    – Now that you know what you’re expected to pay in taxes, put that money into savings (plus more if you can) every month. We were hit with a similar huge tax bill when we moved to CA, and while it stinks to know that money is headed straight to the tax man, it’s better to be prepared.

    – If you have credit card debt, pay that off before you put additional money in savings each month.

    – Look very seriously at what “extras” you truly want, and which you can live without. Can you downgrade your cell phone plan? Your cable TV plan? Beauty routine, i.e. hair and grooming services? Little extras like coffee out? Like you, I find occasional dinners out to be a priority, so I have trimmed my grocery budget (i.e. no $10 nut butters) and I get little splurges like Starbucks only occasionally. I also do a lot of grooming stuff on my own and no longer buy super pricey shampoo, face soap, etc. We also VERY rarely get alcohol out. I know that sounds like a fuddy duddy thing to do, but it is a huge expense.

    – Give yourself the allowance…but don’t feel like you have to spend it each month. If you have a surplus, put it into savings.

    – If at all possible, avoid using credit cards until you’re back on your feet. Sounds like a no brainer, but trust me…it’s harder than it sounds, and it helps if you stick to it.

    • ms September 14, 2010, 3:01 am

      i really need to follow this advice..

      • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:11 am

        that was great advice!!

  • maricel September 13, 2010, 11:53 pm

    Hmm this post reminds me of my budgeting too. I am an impulsive buyer so I avoid going to the malls and boutiques where I know are so tempting.
    So whenever I go out, i just carry cash that I need. Unless I’m out for some serious shopping. I will try to list all expenses everyday, and at the end of the month, I can evaluate where I spend most.

  • Sarah September 14, 2010, 12:03 am

    Dave Ramsey is a genius! The two greatest things I took away from his Financial Peace University: 1. Cash Envelopes and 2. Debt Snowball. I would SO recommend looking him up! Even on a really limited income I have been paying off my loans, have no more CC debt and don’t feel deprived! All because I budget well!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:11 am

      I tried Cash Envelopes and they did not work for me. I just spent the money LOL and then withdrew more.

      • Julia September 14, 2010, 9:35 am

        The same thing happened to me. The envelopes work for so many people but I would end up spending all of my grocery money for the month in like two weeks!

  • Dominique September 14, 2010, 12:07 am

    When the BF and I were months away from moving in together (close to this time last year), I had to admit to him that I had a hefty amount of debt to pay off before we could actually move in together. He helped me figure out a realistic budget and within a year I’ll have paid off all my debt! There was one setback: quitting my crappy job and being out of work for 3 weeks, but it’s been manageable. My budget allowed for spending money so we’ve been able to take one vacation (a weekend away) and do extra things (dinners out, movies, etc).

    I haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey or Total Money Makeover but it seems to be pretty popular and effective. I think I might check it out for some money saving tips.

  • Jessie C September 14, 2010, 12:12 am

    Ergh, I got very bad $$ news last week and I semi freaked out. And then I got over it, and made some plans. Basically I had been paying off a small debt and was getting on top of it.. then found out that due to my stupidity, I now am back to square one and then some.

    Going through this now and making the commitment to get out of debt will hopefully make me more financially responsible than I have been in the past. I even set goals (ie. holiday, house) for the future so that I can see there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Jamie September 14, 2010, 12:21 am

    Mint.com, as mentioned above, is really great. I have never been good at personal finances either, but this year I really needed to buckle down and stick to a budget. I needed something easy to use and free because I work full time and I am a part-time grad student. Mint has met all those requirements for me. I have used Mint since March of this year, and it has helped a ton with tracking my finances and saved me a lot of money. It is also easy to use, and sends you text messages when you are close to meeting your budget. Plus, it sends weekly e-mailed finance updates. My best friend who is CPA uses it for all her family budgeting too! The other site I would suggest is wisebread.com. This is a nice and very usefully website with articles on saving money in sometimes odd and often entertaining ways. Because of one article I read I stopped buying bath salts and body spray and began blending my own! This one little change has saved me almost $100 this year! Good luck!

  • Laura Ann September 14, 2010, 12:55 am

    Thank you so much for posting this! It really inspired me and I love everyone’s great advice!!

    Sometimes I read these blogs and see all the expensive nut butters and superfoods and bloggers working out twice a day and it seems like fantasy land. So, it’s nice to see the others side of it too. It seems more balanced when you also talk about your struggles. Thanks for opening up about this!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:12 am

      Youre welcome. I try to keep it real.

  • Kimberly September 14, 2010, 1:20 am

    I’m definitely a hard-ass when it comes to budgeting… mainly due to the fact that I am a full-time grad student without steady income. It’s actually pretty easy to avoid spending money if you make the effort! My city (San Francisco) is a great one to be poor in, since you don’t need to own a car and there are tons of parks, hiking trails, free cultural events, cheap ethnic food, and other low-cost entertainment options (check out the Events section of your local Yelp.com for ideas!) Instead of dining out or getting take-out every day, my partner and I have learned to love cooking dinner and opening a bottle of wine at home. Netflix is a lifesaver, since movies are my addiction and the $19 a month saves me from going to the theater three times a week. Food is the easiest expense to cut out, by meal-planning and sticking to it. I do NOT do the once-a-week, free-for-all grocery shop; rather, I stop by the market every couple of days and buy only enough for the next few meals. This way I eat fresh and avoid over-buying on food that either spoils before I can eat it, or gets shoved in the freezer and forgotten about for months.

    • ms September 14, 2010, 3:03 am

      i really like the idea of going to the grocery store every few days!

  • Kailey September 14, 2010, 1:42 am

    I saw your operation beautiful post in Glamour!!! Our sorority has something called a “positivity board”. Where we post positive and encouraging quotes. I posted “You’re Beautiful” and then put operation beautiful’s website at the bottom 🙂

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:13 am

      Yay I love it! Take a pic and email it to me!

  • Meagan September 14, 2010, 2:44 am

    I don’t live off a budget currently, because all my bills are paid for by my employers and the only thing I have to do is grocery shop and arrange trips. If only it was that easy for everyone right?!

    When I did have my own bills, I lived off a budget. I was trying to pay off a house, a car, and living alone. It was hard at first to fall into a routine of managing my money and not just spending when I had it. The best thing you can do is be aware that you need to manage you money! You will become more conscious of your spending habits. I use to plan to make less money then I did, and if I had extra money it would go into savings or a nice night out.

    I think you are being realistic in allowing for one dinner out a week. Like you said in would be unreasonable to cut it out completely, especially if it is something that you are use to.

    Oh and on a very side note I have you a blogging award on my blog. I really love reading your blog and have been lurking for a long time. You taught me the benefits of biking with a helmet! (although I should have known since age 5!), I fell in love with your Operation Beautiful concept, and I have gained inspiration from your recipes and marathon updates!

    • Caitlin September 14, 2010, 8:13 am

      Yay for helmets and thank you for the award 🙂 Thank you so much.

  • Orla September 14, 2010, 4:28 am

    I have just this last weekend had another financial meltdown. I have just renegotiated my mortgage payments for the next 4 years (it will mean more surplus for me in the long run but the first couple payments always take a while to get used to)
    My partner is super organised and is debt free. I am not. as well as a mortgage I am paying down college debt but am getting there.
    It has to be done. Unfortunatly it is a necessary evil. I have a bills account and then a spends account. I have ally of my bills/mortgage/insurance etc coming out of one accoutn and that is the one I get my salary into. I transfer a certain amount each month into my “spends” account and the theory is once that is gone, it is gone.
    While this doesnt work *all* the time, it is getting easier!

    And as was pointed out earlier, you have just moved house, started a new business and the hus as just finished school. It will take some time to get used to new incomings/outgoings etc.
    Hope it becomes clear!

  • Rachel @ Suburban Yogini September 14, 2010, 4:51 am

    Before I met Himself I never budgeted. I lived completely hand to mouth and although I didn’t spend more than I made (I was working as a paralegal then so even I had difficulty spending more than that salary), I ended every month on £0 and had no savings.

    Himself introduced me to his magical Excel budget sheet. It changed my life. It changed my life to the point where I was able to teach yoga full time (thus cutting my income by about two thirds) becasue I knew how to budget. It’s such a simple spreadsheet, just money in and money out but seeing what you spend and what on changes your attitude to money completely.

    The thing is it all depends on priorities. I didn’t want to work the paralegal grind anymore but to be able to live the life I wanted I had to give up on a lot financially. For instance we eat out about 3 times a year (unless my dad is paying of course!!), we have no car, we haven’t been on holiday for two years. That sounds grim right? But it isn’t because we have each other and the life we want and every time we feel it’s miserable we remember how misreable we were when we both went into an office every day (I used to cry myself to sleep at night – haven’t done that in a long time!)

    The hardest thing I’ve found about working for ourselves in taxes. In the UK if you have a “proper job” you pay tax as you earn so it comes out of your salary before the salary even goes in the bank. Now we have to pay our taxes every January. It’s really annoying when that bill comes through….

    Good luck with everything. I always find if you really want something you will get there. It’s just a case of re-prioritising and remembering why you are doing this! 🙂

  • Marika September 14, 2010, 5:39 am

    Thank you so much for this post! I also sometimes idealize the lives of bloggers, so I love it when you write about something so real. I have some debt and I’ve picked up some great tips and resources from the comments!

  • Emily September 14, 2010, 5:43 am

    I always use a budget. I know what my essentials cost, then have a limit for buying food (and I plan all my food so I can meet it), and then have leftover money for entertainment, clothes etc. I draw this money out and keep it in cash rather than spending on cards, because if I spend on cards I lose track.

    I couldn’t manage without a budget. I like buying things too much.

  • Kimberly September 14, 2010, 6:56 am

    My husband and I have a budget of sorts but the best thing we did is having an allowance. Each month, we get a set amount of money (taken from the ATM) that we can spend any which way. He can buy Blu-rays and I can go out to lunch with friends. He was kind enough to give me a separate coffee budget for when the latte urge strikes. We also don’t use credit on a very, very rare basis — not even for our wedding. Or the new wardrobe I wanted from Express this weekend. We find that we don’t feel limited as long as we go out to eat once a week and have that allowance. Good luck!

  • Therese September 14, 2010, 7:06 am

    My husband is in grad school and working very part-time, so we’re mostly living off of my income, which isn’t huge. What helps us is that a set portion of every paycheck gets direct-deposited to a savings account and never touches our checking account. The other thing is, we take our “grocery”” and “entertainment” budget out in cash every two weeks when I get paid and it’s much easier to re-think a purchase when the tangible money in your wallet is dwindling.

  • KatyRuns September 14, 2010, 7:23 am

    My husband and I began budgeting when it was 7 months before our wedding and we didn’t have any money saved for it! Once we budgeted we were able to save $1000 (we were seriously throwing our money away at stupid stuff that we didn’t need). With the help from our parents, we didn’t incur any debt from our wedding. Since being married, we’ve been putting that $1000 extra towards our debt every month. We’re planning to be debt free in 2013 (dang student loans!) and then start saving for a down payment on a house. I honestly believe that we wouldn’t be so focused if we didn’t have a budget. The budget also forces us to talk about our finances and agree on what our money will be used for.

  • Keri September 14, 2010, 7:46 am

    My husband “built” an Excel spreadsheet that we use every month. Each month, we enter our income amounts into it, and it calculates everything else for us. For instance, we know each month how much to save, give to our church, donate, etc. And it’s all based off of what we make.
    I highly recommend paying yourself (even if its a little bit) each month(we call it the “D” fund, or discretionary fund). This keeps us sane! It is to be used only for something we want, and we each get our own money. If we want something more expensive (like I wanted a new camera) then I have to save for it. In addition, we also “save” each month for future computers, cars, and a house down payment. We essentially “pay” ourselves for these things so we don’t have to make payments to someone else later (plus interest).
    Good luck! It’s a pain to budget, but once you get in the habit, it’s not so bad. I have to keep in mind: short-term sanity and long-term goals!:)

  • Alina September 14, 2010, 7:47 am

    This month, I am using the Spending Ban method. However, in general, I am a pretty big fan of the cash-based envelope method. If you overspend in one area, you have to cut in another. You can set up online envelopes as well via separate accounts for different categories, and then you can also digitally track your spending. But it’s always a good idea to set aside a monthly contribution to your future tax payments, as well as an emergency fund. I have a bit of an emergency fund now (started a year ago) and that feels a lot better than not having one.

  • Kim September 14, 2010, 8:15 am

    I love budgeting – probably because I’ve had to climb out of debt a couple of times and I’m determined never to go back!

    I’m not sure if it’s been mentioned in other comments but I highly recommend Gail Vaz Oxlade’s website. She has lots of tools you can use and her blog is always interesting too. It was by watching her show and following a lot of her advice that budgeting and finances finally ‘clicked’ for me and I’m forever greatful for that!

    Good luck.

  • Halley (Blunder Construction) September 14, 2010, 8:18 am

    Mint.com is cool, but something about trusting a site with all my personal banking information is unnerving. But, it is a good way to see exactly how you are spending your money.

  • Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope September 14, 2010, 8:22 am

    The reason that I don’t like Mint.com is it doesn’t allow me to put in all of my resources, like some of the sites won’t work for my car loan, etc., PLUS, i don’t want a machine to do it for me. I want to be able to do it myself and understand it.

  • Crystal (Bye Bye Fat Pants) September 14, 2010, 8:23 am

    My fiance and I just decided to do up a cash budget because we were spending way too much money, and it was mostly on things we didn’t need. Our budget is pretty strict but we did schedule in money to use towards dinner out, entertainment and an allowance each. We have our budget set so that there will be money left over in our chequeings account as well as $100 being put into a Savings account and another $100 being put into an Emergency Savings account.

    Check out Until Debt Do Us Part … I downloaded the budget file off that site and it’s really helped!!

  • Jess September 14, 2010, 8:24 am

    I highly, highly recommend the book “I’ll Teach You To Be Rich.” While the title sounds like a silly scam, the book is actually all about getting a handle on your money in your 20’s. My boyfriend gave it to me to read after I was freakin’ out about having no idea how to handle my finances.

    The book is broken into chapters with really simple to understand tips. At the end of each chapter it gives you three to four action items to do immediately to get a handle on a certain aspect of your finances (credit, debt, your savings account, etc.)

    By the time I finished reading the book and completing all the steps, I’d set up a realistic budget and still managed to find money to sock into savings. The author’s take is something is better than nothing and knowing even a little bit about what you’re doing will pay off huge in the end.

    I seriously can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s friendly and easy to understand and yea it pretty much completely changed the way I look at money.

  • Bee Goes Bananas September 14, 2010, 8:27 am

    I’m still in school, so it’s hard to balance spending and income seeing as I don’t have an income! I just have to make sure I’m careful with what I spend money on. For instance, I don’t go out to eat or do activities that cost money very often, so sometimes I splurge on really good quality organic groceries.

  • Heather @ Side of Sneakers September 14, 2010, 8:31 am

    I am absolutely awesome at making a kickass budget and then never looking at it ever again….. 😉

  • Kathryn September 14, 2010, 8:32 am

    The key to a healthy financial life (for me!) is to be very clear about what is a NEED and what is a WANT. Mindless spending occurs when you start thinking that every want is a need! Nothing wrong with spending on a few wants, as long as you realize that something else will have to give.

  • RhodeyGirl September 14, 2010, 8:51 am

    Do you use something to track your expenses?

    We don’t have a real budget or anything, but I do know approximately how much I have to spend each month. My husband pays all house bills (mortgage, electricity, cable etc) plus dinners out and I pay for everything else (groceries, wedding gifts, clothes shopping, travel, etc). I know how much I can spend and how much I am supposed to save and when I get close to that number I start scrimping a bit until the end of the month (usually about 4-5 days before the month is over). It took about 6 months to get into the right range (I overspent a LOT in those first months) but now I have it down pat!

    Good luck!

  • Erin September 14, 2010, 8:54 am

    My husband and I work really hard on making our money go further. We follow some of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Plan (you should sign up for Financial Peace University. Best $100 you will ever pay) and it has really helped up reign in the spending on food and entertainment. We use envelopes (cash) for food and entertainment and then try to monitor the rest of our spending. I highly recommend him because he helps you understand the behaviors needed to reduce debt and start saving. Plus, he always recommends building in a catagory for “blow money” in your budget because it isn’t realistic without it. Hope that helps!

  • Juli D. September 14, 2010, 8:54 am

    I’ve had a few breakdowns about our finances over the years too and we had to start a budget to get us on track, so I can completely relate. When you’re stressed take a big breath because it WILL be okay. If you want an example of a monthly budget (not that we do it perfect, just what works for us) we each put 10% in retirement before taxes, 13% goes to liquid savings, 25% goes to mortgage, 25% goes to bills (car payment, student loans, tv/internet, phones, insurance, electric) and that leaves about 25% for living (food + shopping). Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Nikky September 14, 2010, 8:56 am

    I am HORRIBLE at money management. As is the fiance. Both of us were raised by single moms, so we grew up pretty poor (me more so, my mom had 5 kids). Both mom’s have since lost their homes. So we didn’t have a lot of money guidance.

    Since living together (4 years now) I’ve made right around 125,000,000 different BRILLIANT budgets (mostly to get out of debt, since our first year on our own we went through a “holy crap! We can afford stuff! WE DESERVE THIS!” thing). By far, the most effect one and the only one we managed to stick to was this:

    I made a list of all our bills that remain the same every month, as well as savings. Then I made a list of things that WE control the spending on and about what we spend on them (groceries, gas, shopping, etc). I over-estimated our bills and spending (rounding up each amount to the dollar, then adding $5 to the total). I rounded down our income. I figured out our total montly bills and savings and divided by 4. We put that amount directly into our bank accounts. I took the leftover and subtracted our other expenses, divided by 4, and we draw that out in cash every week and pay cash for groceries, gas, shopping, blah blah. This includes eating out. Then, once the cash is gone, it’s gone period. We don’t touch the bank except to pay bills. We both also got an allowance out in cash to save or spend however we wanted.

    It’s super easy because it doesn’t involve heavy budgeting. Cash is cash, long as we have it that’s what we can spend… we don’t have to worry about “okay, we’ve spent $35 of our $80 grocery budget and $15 of our $25 gas budget blah blah”

    • Nikky September 14, 2010, 9:00 am

      “I figured out our total montly bills and savings and divided by 4. We put that amount directly into our bank accounts.” that should end with “every week” 🙂

  • Verna September 14, 2010, 8:59 am

    I’m glad we aren’t alone!! We’ve been trying to save for a house and we haven’t been doing a lot of saving!! We’ve gotten VERY serious about our budget and though it’s hard, we’ve been doing better. Allowance really has made the most impact, especially in our marriage!! No more fights about excessive shopping!!

  • Lindsay September 14, 2010, 9:09 am

    We recently dug ourselves out of a huge hole (over $10,000 in consumer debt, plus loans and other things), only to have another one on the horizon (moving, boat repair, and baby coming all in next 6 months). We are handling it differently this time by moving 50% of our money to savings the day we get paid, as well as having bills due that pay period scheduled to run that day. rarely using the credit cards (less than 100 dollars, paid off within a pay period of being put on). Then, by the day after we get paid, we only have left what we are letting ourselves spend, when it’s gone it’s gone. If there’s left over (normally I can get a few hundred to stick) then it gets moved to the savings account as soon as next pay check shows up. Just staying on top of it, you’ll get it back together! I NEVER thought we would be saving so much.

  • Jillian@ ReshapeYourLife September 14, 2010, 9:10 am

    I am terrible at budgeting… Any tips you get would be greatly appreciated!!

  • Amber - Blonde and Balanced September 14, 2010, 9:14 am

    Yeah, I totally budget my brains out. 🙂 he he, I’m a CPA so it kinda comes natural.

    BUT, you are SO good with balance in healthy living, I know you’ll do great when you get the hang of the budget. It just takes a bit of change, but once you get it all figured out, it’ll stick. You can do it!

    My blog is all about striking a balance in life, health, and money so I talk about some of this stuff on my blog! 🙂 It’s difficult combining my two favorite things – health and money – but it seems to be working out. he he. Good luck, Caitlin! 🙂

  • Jessica September 14, 2010, 9:15 am

    My husband and I just recently went to a cash budget for our grocery money and spending money. He gets a certain amount for the month, I get a certain amount for the month, and we have so much to spend for groceries. The cash goes into separate envelopes that we keep in a safe. We do still use our debit cards for gas in our cars, but that’s really all. It seems to be working pretty well, although it may be a little too restrictive. For example, we’re only half way through the month and my husband’s already out of money! Oh well, he knew that was all he had to spend, so he better not think he’s getting any of my money! Even if we do use the debit card for some things, we’re a lot more careful of what we buy b/c we’re more aware that it’s not really in the budget.

  • Jen (Life's Too Short to Eat Fat Free Cheese) September 14, 2010, 9:22 am

    I do follow a budget. Pretty much religiously.

    First, I set up a direct deposit to my savings. I do the same thing for non-monthly reoccuring expenses. I stash it in my money market so it earns a little interest until the expense comes up. This is stuff like haircuts/color, vet expenses and car insurance, car maintenance.

    For the rest, I budget using Quicken software. The planning feature is really helpful. You set your budget amount and then you can easily download your transactions from bank accounts, credit cards, etc. So, it shows me how much I’ve spent so far in each budget category and how much I have left to spend. Mint.com does the same thing, but I don’t like that it stores my passwords.

    This wouldn’t work as well if you prefer to use cash. But if you use credit cards/debit cards this is really easy way to see where your money goes.

    The benefit to my penny pinching is that I can afford to pay off my car more than a year early. Gotta love that!

  • Paige (Running Around Normal) September 14, 2010, 9:22 am

    Luckily, the husband is amazing at budgeting. He won’t let us spend any more on a credit card than we can pay off that same month. I don’t even use a credit card, because I know I will (and have) go nuts with it. I’m very grateful he’s obsessive about it, because I’m not! I keep track of my finances for my own personal business, though, and I do a pretty good job of it (in fact.. I rarely pay myself so maybe not so good a job;) lol)
    I’m sure with this budget things will be underway. We got ahead by living well UNDER ours means for a good three months. I’m talking only shopping at Aldo and Wal-Mart, no clothes shopping, cut back on cable, and only 1 dinner (not expensive) out per week. It helps a lot!

  • Brittany September 14, 2010, 9:26 am

    Sounds like you have a lot of great ideas from folks.

    The one thing I do is have a budget spreadsheet on Google docs that I literally reference daily. It goes out for like 10 pay periods (i’m paid biweekly) and my categories are crazy specific. I found if I just put “bills” then I’d screw with the amounts depending on what I wanted for eating out budget, etc. So every single bill is a line item, savings is a line item, etc. I pay them the minute I get a paycheck.

    I also keep my money away from one another. My “fun” money (eating out and misc buys) is what my debit card is linked up with. So when I use my debit card, I know i’m not spending “bill” money.

  • Kelly September 14, 2010, 9:27 am

    I used to be awful at budgeting, and maybe I still kind of am, but I put $800 a month into my savings account, which really doesn’t leave much in my checking account to blow. I have enough to cover my school loans, cc bill, car payment, insurance, cell phone and computer credit card, and then usually like 100-150 a week for fun stuff.

  • Carrie September 14, 2010, 9:27 am

    I had a VERY similar financial realization!!

  • Amanda September 14, 2010, 9:31 am

    Splitting up my money between accounts helps me budget so much! I have a savings account that get a set deposit to every two weeks. I NEVER touch that money. I don’t even remember the account most of the time and when I do I’m always surprised with how much is in it. Then I have another account which is my emergency savings that I dip into when I really need help. My regular checking account is for my bills and spending money. In my mind, when the checking account is empty I am “broke.” I also recommend paying off credit cards every month. If you don’t have it don’t spend it. Spending money that you know you don’t have is a bit like stealing in my mind. With the exception of a home, I intend to always pay cash. I hate to owe money to someone.

  • Heidi - apples under my bed September 14, 2010, 9:32 am

    We budet really well, and have been able to save for a big trip last year & travelled for 7 months on our savings.
    Now we are saving for a house. It just requires you to be a bit strict.
    I put a limit of $20 for clothing – i wont buy anything over $20 at the moment. I dont NEED anything so it really limits unnecessary purchases.
    We only go out/get take-out once a week & limit spending to $30. And we stick to under $120 per week for food/groceries & $70 a week for petrol (we are in Australia, so the conversion changes things). Other things are factored in too, and we just DO IT. we stick to it. occasionally we will blow the eating out budget, like for a special occasion or if we are trying a new restaurant with friends.
    Being consistent is the key. Really stop & think before you buy things – do you NEED it? It also stops you accumulating all types of unnecessary goods.
    Hope that helps!
    Heidi xo

  • Stephanie September 14, 2010, 9:34 am

    I set up a basic budget when I graduated from college, I have followed it, and it works great. Just like you said, you have to give yourself some flex $ or you will blow it one day and then the system falls apart.

    I give myself a grocery budget which makes me think twice about buying the random foods I don’t need and only buy what I do. I have an eating out budget (that I give myself per week) And I take it out in cash, so when the cash is gone, its gone, no more eating out! I leave my debit card at home when I go out to eat or to the bar, I never feel deprived, and I don’t spend $ I don’t need to.

    I also give myself a “paycheck allowance” Each paycheck I have $100 to spend on whatever the hell I want. If I want to splurge on a fancier dinner out, hit up target, buy clothes, register for a race, etc, then that is my $ each paycheck that I earned to do with it how I please, after all I am the one that worked for it. I never ever feel deprived, but it does make me evaluate what I want to spend it on becuase I know when its gone its gone.

    Hope it all works for you! I think you definitely have the right idea

  • Laura@FindingAHealthyBalance....after a 100+ Pound weight loss!!! September 14, 2010, 9:38 am

    YES, I have a VERY STRICT budget as I was a single mom for years and then after I got married my husband was unemployeed for 2 years and even though he is working now he isn’t bringing in much a week so all the household finances are on me……………I have a Excel Spreadsheet I use every monthly to track what needs to be paid and when and what paycheck I will use to pay it and also plan for extra things like bdays, trips, etc. in there….it is all mapped out through the end of the year so I can feel comfortable I will never not enough enough to feed my family!

  • laura September 14, 2010, 9:39 am

    For a while I was yoyo spending. I would get myself into financial gain and then I would take years to clean my act up again. After the last yoyo catastrophe I decided I was over it! I guess I had to learn sometime. I have a spreadsheet of all of my bills, amounts due, interest rates, how much in total I owe, how much I am bringing it each paycheck and how much is going into savings. I sort of like know what I am doing. Before I knew where all my money went, I tracked my bank statement and realized the month before, I spent 700 on books and coffee! In just one month. Starbucks was doing good that month! I also liked Dave Ramsey’s book Total Money Makeover. If you would like, I can send you over a sample spreadsheet I used to get it all together.

  • Cindy September 14, 2010, 9:45 am

    Living on umemployment means I know exactly how much I get all in. I’ve been living on less than $1000 per month for some time and rent was more than half of that. The last 2 months I was living in an apt I didn’t have any money for groceries as all my money went to rent and utilities and transport. It was very stressful and I was was very lucky my mum was able to provide for my food. I’m about to leave for grad school abroad and I think I will have more money to live on there than unemployment was paying me here in the US. It is very sad when you are expected to live on appx $200 per week. I know it is a reality of the economy right now but being highly educated I had hoped to be financially secure by 35 (which I will be in 23 days).

    Good luck to us all!

  • Jenny September 14, 2010, 9:46 am

    I use Suze Orman’s budget worksheet! While I’m not sure how I feel about her general outlook on some things, I think that the budgeting worksheet is amazingly helpful in outlining everything that is going in and going out of my bank account. http://www.oprah.com/money/Suzes-Budget-Calculator

  • Emily @ Run Emily Run September 14, 2010, 10:16 am

    I need to budget! I’ve been a bit of an overspender since college and when I started working full time last year I suddenly felt like I had all the financial freedom in the world. Unfortunately, I don’t, and I have a little bit of debt that keeps hanging over my head. Thanks for being so open about your finances! You motivate me to get my act together. (My family doesn’t talk about money and it’s therefore an issue that makes me sort of nervous.)

  • Megan September 14, 2010, 10:20 am

    I’m definitely a budgeter. I think the most important thing from your post seems to be that you and the husband got honest. My friends who have had real troubles seem to struggle with the “come to jesus part.” It is important to be honest with yourself, and with your partner if necessary. And, putting yourself on too restrictive a financial diet is destined to failure. I was fortunate to be brought up in a very frugal household, but other friends were not. I never mind filling them in on my practices and advice, but it is still up to them to put it into play.

  • Amber K September 14, 2010, 10:45 am

    Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University really explains it all. My husband and I went through it all and it is some really sound financial advice. He listens to Dave on the radio, too. We have already paid off most of our debt and have reined in our spending. Although we aren’t as strict as Dave says to be.

  • whit September 14, 2010, 11:23 am

    i have a weekly budget that i stick to. it works for me, and i set it up every month. i can do that though, because i get a weekly paycheck that is is salaried. I imagine it would be MUCH more difficult if I were not salary or getting a weekly paycheck. I had to have a come to jesus moment myself to even get to where I am though. Now I am dedicated to my spread sheet and mint, I account for every purchase and I PAY OFF my credit cards instead of just putting stuff on them that I can’t afford. I’ve realized I do not have to have everything I think I do. There are a lot of things that are on the back burner ‘for later’.

  • Sara September 14, 2010, 11:25 am

    In some ways we are lucky since we didn’t start off with student loans (live in Canada with amazing parents) and also with universal health care and benefit plans we never have to worry about those sort of expenses popping up.

    But we really don’t live beyond our means. When we bought our house we ensured that all of our fixed costs could be covered by my hubby’s salary since he works for the government. And since owning the house I have spent 2 6 week periods looking for a job and we did so without going into debt – so that plan really helped out. We also bought our house in a location where we could be a one car family like you so that helps. But we just don’t spend too much. Instead of going out to eat (we do that maybe 1/month tops) we do date nights at home with a nice dinner and a nice bottle of wine. We make our lunches to take to work (and eat out 1 day per week to stay sane). We buy a lot of stuff in bulk – our freezer and pantry is always packed to the gills! I did use to spend alot and have just learned over time to cut back – like you I love to shop and it does make me feel better but I’ve learned that it is actually the simple things that make me happiest vs that pretty dress or pair of shoes.

    I just heard today that 60% of Canadians live paycheck to paycheck – I do feel that North American really has to look at their spendings and feelings of “I deserve” in order to really step out these poor economic times.

  • Sarah W. September 14, 2010, 11:26 am

    I can’t recommend Dave Ramsey enough

    I also love love love mint.com.

    I have sub accounts in ING that are great for budgeting, “new car” “house maintanence” “medical” etc.

  • K September 14, 2010, 12:57 pm

    I work in the complicated financial world… but created the easiest excel spreadsheet for my personal budget. I am crazy about knowing where my money goes and always having enough to do whatever I want. Example: move to Spain 🙂 Email me if you want me to send it to you.

  • Tracey September 14, 2010, 2:08 pm

    My husband has been budgeting his money for years and he swears by the Quicken software. He says it is the only way to go.
    Since we’ve gotten married we now have all of our finaces on Quicken. It really does make it a sinch to figure out where your money has gone and what spending trends are taking place.

  • Lisa September 14, 2010, 2:28 pm

    It’s hard getting out debt. Things always pop up and you’re right back to where you started! Car needs brakes, the garage door breaks and needs to be replaced, suddenly you need to buy a wedding gift…Ugh it never ends!

  • Meghan September 14, 2010, 3:38 pm

    I put a reoccurring budget in place that last two weeks (how frequently I get paid). As soon as the money hits my checking account, I move the extra money I need to save from my budget immediately into my savings account. It forces me to be conscious about what I’m spending and since I manually have to move money back into my checking if I want to go over budget, I have some time to think before I spend.

  • Jen September 14, 2010, 4:31 pm

    I’m sure someone must have told you about mint.com, right? It was a huge wake up call to what I’m actually spending. I log in everyday.

  • Gree September 14, 2010, 4:47 pm

    What a great post, not only for the epiphany but also for all the great comments, I am picking up some of those tips right now!

  • maiada September 14, 2010, 4:49 pm

    i’m a little ocd about keeping a budget. i keep 2 excel spreadsheet pages each month. one has a general total estimate on how much i am going to spend for each category (food: groceries/coffee/eating out, car: gas/payments/insurance, etc). then in another tab i log in what exactly i spent my money on EVERY DAY. this helps me keep myself accountable and realize when i am spending way too much on something in particular (gotta give up that flavored latte habit… :(), and keeps me in line when trying to decide whether i really can afford that new pair of shoes.

    at the end of each month i enter in my real total spending habits compared to my estimate. this way i can adjust my estimated budget for the next month based on what i’ve been spending my money on in the past. if i don’t keep up with this i tend to spend money without thinking until it runs out – and if it runs out a week before payday then i am in trouble!

  • Lauren @ Team Giles September 14, 2010, 5:32 pm

    Caitlin, give Mint.com a try. You can download the app for your iphone. Quite savvy. Its a pain at first to get everything set up. My husband is the brains when it comes to budgeting, so we worked together on this. But it really does help, its “in yo face” kind of budgeting. You get alerts if you go over a certain category for the month (e.g. Clothes, or Starbucks). You can also roll-over certain categories, for example I have “hair salon” that rolls over, because I don’t get my done cut every month. its truly genius!

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