Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I don't usually like to talk about money, but...

Whew! I just finished doing our taxes. Usually I rush to the computer to do my taxes the second all of our W-2's and other tax forms arrive. There's something about filling in a form that floats my boat. I don't know...

Anyway, I decided today was the day. I sat the kids in front of Dora and went to town. So I'm just going to be honest here. Doing taxes for me is almost like a cleansing of my financial soul. I have to go through all our bills and statements to see where our money went. I cringe, and then cringe some more. Really, did I buy that much fabric this year? Did we really eat out that much? It's really eye opening for me. And I need it...every year. I beat myself up and then work out a great new budget that "I am definitely going to stick to" and continue on my way. I do great for the first few months, and then lapse into my old habits. I know this about me. It's not the big things I struggle with...buying new cars or big toys or houses when we can't afford it. It's the little things that get me in trouble. But the little things eventually add up to big things. Money burns a hole in my pocket. It's a disease.

The visiting teaching message this month is on managing our resources wisely and staying out of debt. As some friends and I were discussing this we shared our tips and tricks. Or I should say, they shared their tips and tricks with me. And after pouring over our financial records I am so excited and motivated to try a few. Maybe you could share your tips with me too?

One of the methods that I have tried (and when I stick to it it really works) is the envelope method. The amount that I budget for groceries, gas and household items gets split up into their corresponding envelopes each month and I only spend from those envelopes. When the money is gone, it's gone. For me, using the debit card makes the money intangible, and therefore harder to control. So having the physical money right there helps me stay within the budget. Here's some info on that. That's one method I've tried. What works for you?

A fun tip that one of my friends shared is that she has a shoe box or can that she tapes up really good so she can't get into it. She puts a hole in the top and she writes on it the date she starts saving. Into the box/can goes all her change and loose bills. She forgets about it after she puts it in. She said that when she went to get into it there was over $500 in it that they used on a vacation. I love that idea! So today I did it. Meet my new friend:

She's really nothing special, just an old shoe box that I taped up really, really, really well (I don't want to be tempted to get in) and covered her with a paper. Easy peasy. Then I went around the house and gathered up the piles of loose change. I couldn't believe how many piles of change we had. It's embarrassing really. But I'm excited because, like I said, money really does burn a hole in my pocket. If I have a $5 I'm thinking, "Now, how can I spend that?" I know, I'm sick. :) But this way I can shove it in the box and forget about it. And then, later on down the road we can go do something fun with it. Like a skiing trip next winter! (The Olympics have inspired me. :))

Money talk usually makes me uncomfortable, but I figure that I can't be the only one in the world who struggles with budgeting. And I know that there are a lot of you out there who are great at it. So, share your wealth of knowledge. Get it, wealth of knowledge? Hee hee.



Ha, ha. For the longest time, I kept thinking, "We'll save once we get our credit cards paid off." But it never seemed to happen, 'cause we had to put things like gas and groceries on the card sometimes. I realized we'd be spending that money on those things whether we put it on credit cards or not. So I just don't worry about it anymore. I decided we need to pay ourselves first instead. Since we never seem to have extra cash at the end of the month, why not put money in savings at the beginning of the month instead? We still won't have extra by month's end, but we'll have a few more bucks in savings.

Jill Manning

Oh my gosh, are we the same person? I don't trust myself with a debit card either, the number of times that I have overdrawn is ridiculous. In my own kind of way I do the envelope idea, that works the best for me. It gives me the perfect balance of structure and freedom with the budget. Way to go with the box and saving your change, I have been meaning to do something like that for years, I have yet to actually do it. I hope your tax returns help to make all the cringing worth it.

Jared and Nicole Haws Family

What a great topic! Everyone needs to evaluate often. I love how you are so open about your thoughts on the topic. We began a new system a few months ago to budget strict for Christmas... it worked so well we've stuck with it. It's kind of like the envolope system. Using the card makes budgeting impossible, but with cash I can physically budget which helps so much! Then I try to have left over $ for future purchases, go into a savings and save up for bdays and Christmas's earlier this year. I guess this way I realized I don't have "extra" $ to spend, instead it goes to something else.