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More Thoughts on Keeping a Budget

Jessica Lanning

People often resist a budget because they think it is too hard to follow, too hard to maintain the commitment, feels restraining, conflicts with feelings of “I work hard so I deserve <fill in the blank.>”  A shift in perspective to keeping a budget because it’s an act of self-care is sometimes what cures this stumbling block to starting to keep a budget.

A few budgeting hints and strategies from the field

There are all kinds of ways to budget, from keeping detailed Quickbooks records to excel spreadsheets to pencil and paper. I thought I would share a few unique strategies that I have used and I have had heard clients use around budgeting:

  • Create buckets.  I’ve seen clients use what I’ll loosely call “the bucket system.” They open—I kid you not—10 to 12 bank accounts all linked together. They typically get them for free because they make contributions to them every month (from $25/month to thousands a month).  Because online banking makes it possible to nickname these accounts whatever you want, you can call them “new car” or “vacation” or “fun account” or “Jessica’s spending money” or “property taxes” or whatever you want. As the income comes in, the money is divvied out to those various accounts each month. No tracking.  It just happens. When it’s time to spend the money in one of these accounts, they spend it.
  • Make it fun. I know folks who have had severe salary cuts or have been out of work for way longer than they expected. Some of them are forgoing taking shirts down to the laundry and instead are taking up ironing.  What these folks say is that they keep it fun.  They scout out “free” things they can do with the family on the weekends at their place of worship, gym, YMCA, local library or neighborhood center. They iron in lingerie.  Or, they make the other spouse come up with three compliments for the spouse who’s doing the ironing. The result is that they save money for other family outings or for whatever it is they need.
  • Make it a game.  Along the lines of the above suggestions, I know couples who make budgeting a game.  They find good deals, they have competitions about who could get money to go the furthest, or they give bragging rights to the person who saved the most money.  Some couples love sitting down over their Quickbooks or spreadsheets and finding new ways to save or divvy up money amongst family members.  I know parents whose kids are getting a lot more chores done around the house.  The kids love earning a few extra bucks.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be a death sentence or a killjoy.  When it comes from a place of self-care and is created as a way to bring fun into your lives, it can make your savings accounts look bigger. These days, that’s a ton of fun.