About twice a year I sit down to review our budget, and every single time I think “gee, we really should be able to save a lot more money than we are”. Only, I’ve never been very good at tracking our spending in the past, so the budget is basically useless.
This month I decided I was going to set up a budget and then very carefully track our spending through Mint. It took me a little while to get a feel for the site and how to best set up our budget categories, but now I am able to look and see exactly where we are in every spending category.
A little detail about how I’ve set up our budget, and how I keep it simple:
BILLS – I have a budget set up for each of our monthly bills (including Savings & Charity). Only electric is variable, all others are static.
FOOD – I have 4 food budgets set up (groceries, scott lunches, patti lunches, eating out)
GAS – self explanatory.
SHOPPING – All purchases which do not fall under one of the above categories gets labeled “Shopping”. It seems pointless to me to set up budgets for things like clothing and oil changes and haircuts and birthday presents and household purchases, etc. because they vary from month to month. So I have budgeted a large amount to cover this umbrella of general spending, and this is the category I watch most closely throughout the month. Mint has a little bar graph for categories, and so I try to keep our spending somewhat close to where we are in the month (i.e. halfway at the 15th, etc.)
I’ve been doing this for a grand total of 20 days so far, but it’s working really well. I absolutely feel like it’s causing me to think more closely about my purchases, and we’re on track to save a good chunk of our income this month (which will pay off the new computer I bought last week).
It sounds cliche, but doing this has shifted my mentality toward feeling like I am in control of our money rather than the other way around. I am happy to answer any questions about using Mint or how I set up our budget if anyone is interested. Once I got it all set up, it’s been super easy to manage. I just log in once a day and categorize any transactions that have come through. It takes less than 5 minutes a day to manage.
As part of setting up our budget, I decided that I wanted to set a certain amount aside for us to donate to charity. We are currently donating monthly to the Human Rights Campaign, but it’s not much, and we’re not consistent about donating regularly to other organizations – we’ll just send a chunk here and there to causes we want to support. But it makes sense budget-wise to have a certain amount set aside each moth, and I like the idea of deciding as a family what organizations we want to help. I feel like this will be a great learning opportunity for the kids, and a good habit to start now.
I thought it would be fun to post each month about what charity we’ve selected. This month’s charity was actually chosen only by me, because I came up with this idea after I’d already made a donation, but I’ll share it with you anyway.
CHARITY OF THE MONTH – FEBRUARY
The Freedom from Religion Foundation
The organization’s statement of purpose: The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.
The president of this organization is a former pastor and the author of Godless, a book that was pivotal during my time of spiritual seeking and really helped me feel more comfortable and confident in declaring myself a non-believer. I believe in their mission, and appreciate their work.
I am being harassed by my children to get off the computer already, so if you want more info on FFRF you’ll have to visit the site.