My husband and I find that we really like maintaining a budget in excel. Once a month, we set aside about an hour to fill in our income and expenses for the month. We do a very detailed analysis and discuss why we are over in any categories and if needed, how we can try to cut back some of our costs. Throughout the month, we always discuss significant purchases with each other that way we avoid surprises when the credit card statements come or when we sit down to discuss our budget.
A few things my husband and I learned after creating a budget:
- The first two months my husband and I utilized our monthly budget we had spent $655 and $846, respectively, in groceries and $1,267 and $814, respectively, at restaurants. This was just for two of us. My husband and I do not have any kids or roommates and we were spending between $1,500 and $2,000 a month on food, which is truly a little insane. There were no special occasions or parties or anything during these months that warranted those expenses.
- After a few months, we decided to really drill down on these costs and split out the cost of alcohol (FYI this was not the majority, but alcohol is typically more expensive than individual food items, so we wanted to monitor it separately) and coffee. We were spending over $150 a month in coffee. I don’t like to point fingers, but I don’t drink coffee, so this was entirely my husband. He was buying 2-3 coffees a day! Now, I completely do understand that coffee at home or in the office does not taste the same as Dunkin’ or Starbucks; however, 1) consuming that much caffeine is not healthy (he was ALSO having it at home) and 2) buying coffee out isn’t exactly a necessity.
- We didn’t realize how many things we were buying on a monthly basis. For example, I love shopping and (apparently) purchase some type of clothing/shoes every month. I am not, and was not, addicted to shopping, but I wasn’t really monitoring how much I was spending or setting limits for myself.
- We needed several more lines than we originally thought and we continue to add new lines to our budget to ensure we are able to analyze appropriately, rather than simply grouping things randomly and not truly seeing the picture. As mentioned above, we broke out coffee and alcohol separate from groceries and restaurants. Another example, we created lines for vet bills and grooming, even though these things are not done on a monthly basis. This way we have the expenses planned for and know we can afford them if need be. If he doesn’t go to the groomers that month, it’s a $0 in the actual column, but still planned for in our budget column.
- There are so many items in our budget that we had no idea about how much we were spending each month. Some of these items include Amazon expenses (damn that Amazon Prime!), our dog walker (we pay her in cash), gas for our car, dry cleaning, and treats/toys for our dog (he’s spoiled).
- The most important thing we learned by creating and maintaining a budget was that we weren’t saving for semi-annual bills, such as our tax bills, nor were we allocating enough to savings accounts for emergency or vacation.
Below is a screenshot of the budget template we are currently using (numbers adjusted to make it a little less personal).