Ugh… The job, house, wife, kids, dog, car and beer drinking all got together and staged an intervention, one that has finally got me to create a real budget.
I think in junior high, I was briefed (not really taught) on how to balance a checkbook. Sure, I stuck with it for a while until I was given an ATM card by my bank! So long checkbook, hello cash! Then it got worse. I got a debit card! No longer was I thinking about the money I was spending, but what would happen if I entered my pin wrong. I only cared about the balance when I was saving up for something or dangling dangerously close to a zero balance (and possible overdraft fees!). Then I got a credit card, but I was briefed about that as well (pay off the balance every month, get the rewards, don’t worry about the interest rate).
Well, like I mentioned, life caught up with me and the unthinkable happened, one month, I couldn’t pay off the credit card balance. It was okay, I managed to pay it off the following month. Wait, but then a couple months later, it happened again and again, and each time I had a harder and harder time paying off the balance without feeling uncomfortable about it. I finally went in search of the problem. Spending was high, unexpected expenses kept popping up, and I noticed we were house poor now that my wife left her job to raise the kids.
I was still in denial though. I just sold some stock to cover the unexpected expenses thinking that we will get back on track, start tracking everything on Mint.com, pay down the credit debt and carry on with smiles! Wrong.
Maybe I didn’t spend enough time with Mint.com to full customize it for my life, but I think the issue was that similar to that of my debit card growing up. I would only take notice of transactions and balances once the damage was already done.
We now have one main checking account where the income and expenses flow, and I am tracking it all in Google Sheets monthly budget spreadsheet I put together with some inspiration from others on the web. I am actually pretty proud of it. It could be better for sure, but it seems to be working well enough for us.
Anyways, nothing is cool when you are talking about spreadsheets and budgets but I think it has the things I actually used on Mint.com but without the distractions and it forces me to manually track every penny.
Anyway, I thought it was nifty enough and fairly polished, that I cleared it out, wrote some instructions and have made a share link so that folks can copy it and try it out themselves.
I think it is a little early to declare “Mission Accomplished,” (Oh George…). Of course, I am still treading water with month to month expenses, but I feel like I am in more control of my money and a little less surprised/worried when unexpected expenses pop up.
Feel free to COPY my budgeting template. View it here.