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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Thoughts on budgets

A couple of weeks ago, Michael and I finally sat down and worked on our budget. I've used Quicken before, but I just hate it. I think it's the mild OCD that I get from my dad. If you approach Quicken from an OCD perspective, it's a nightmare. You can literally sit in front of the screen for hours on end, itemizing every little thing. It's not maintainable for me. So, when we did the budget a couple of weeks ago, I used a simple budget spreadsheet template that I found in our Numbers program on our Mac. There is one section for monthly income, one section for monthly expenses, one section for planned expenses (like vacations, etc.) and one section that tracks savings each month based on the above.

I love my little spreadsheet, and I added a second page to track our actual expenses which I can then compare back against our plans. The problem is that Michael is now hellbent on complicating matters. First, he subscribed to the online version of Quicken and imported all of our bank accounts and credit cards (this literally gives me an anxiety attack). Then, he downloaded an expense program on his iPhone, which he wants me to reconcile against our budget. It's taking all of my energy to not get sucked into this morass of complication, but he's relentless, so we'll see what happens.

The awesome little budget that I made on the spreadsheet, though, seems to be quite effective. We put in monthly amounts for restaurants, groceries, entertainment and allowance, and are already seeing a difference in our day-to-day behaviors. Lunch comes out of our allowance, so we have both been bringing lunch from home (using the weekly grocery budget instead of our own money). I learned last week that poor menu planning will eat up our restaurant budget in a jiffy, so today I made a really firm dinner plan for the week. I also made an effort to include dinners that are good as a bag lunch the following day (see above). Tomorrow night's Asian chicken will be a microwaved lunch on Tuesday, and Tuesday night's meatloaf will be a sandwich on Wednesday.

I know that budgets are the new little black dress. How are you guys all doing it?

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