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books, organization

Budget brain

With the upcoming changes in the credit laws, and the aggressiveness that my husband and I are trying to save money, I've been noodling around on money and the best way to make it hard to spend it without feeling cheated. I really don't want to go back to feeling poor - it always makes me spend MORE money instead of less. Some part of my brain hates feeling poor more than actually being broke.

I spent some time with the in-laws last weekend with all of this floating around in my head. My sister in law uses a cash budget. She actually pulls cash for the month and rations it out. I don't think I have the discipline to do that for an entire month, so we're going to try it on a weekly basis. I have the rest of the budget worked out, automated payments and all, so we're just going to pull spending money for fun/groceries/etc. We'll give it a month and see how it works. I don't know if parting with the actual bills will be harder, more awkward, or just dumb. At least its an interesting brain exercise. Money is so hind-brain.

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I've tried various budgeting techniques, some of which have worked better for me than others. I do withdraw a certain amount of cash from the ATM per week, but I find that I spend cash more easily than credit on frivolous things, because I don't have to account for it strictly. I never have to see the purchase show up on a bill, so it doesn't feel like I'm accountable for anything until moths are flying out of my wallet. The 'oh my gosh, I'm handing over actual cash for this, I'd better think about it' element doesn't really work for me.

On the other hand, I also enter all my credit card purchases on a spreadsheet, so I can see where my money is going (it helps me track the card and make sure nothing weird happens, too). Without being strict about numbers, the mere fact of having to record it keeps me me a little more responsible. (I also total up various categories of spending each month, but that's of limited use for me when it comes to personal indulgences. For household necessities, I do find it useful.) While I do set a particular maximum monthly budget for the credit card, it's pretty generous (basically my paycheck minus 10% for savings minus the regular bills, which we've averaged out for so long that I know what to put toward them); I don't focus on beating myself up if I exceed it so much as I congratulate myself for any 'extra' remaining at the end of the month. I track that as savings and it's very satisfying to see the number go up.

I suppose that all sounds like a lot of work, but it's harder to explain than to do, and it makes me feel a lot more in control.

I've been using Quicken forever, but we're not making as much headway as I'd like. I came up with a nifty plan last night for taking the "overage" and saving it up for the big fun stuff we keep meaning to get, but can't quite save properly for. I really hope this works out.

I feel the same way about cash. It's fake. I know that's kind of totally not true - but when I use it, it feels like play money.

It's brutal having to think about money. I loathe it. But we've had to talk and whittle and tinker and shave our budget over the course of the last few years. It's the downside to falling in love when you're already established as households with financial burdens - you don't get the honeymoon stage with which to be frivolous with your money. At this juncture, we've managed to get ourselves sorted, but we've got a lot of backexpenses from things like divorces, marriages, taxes, etc. Burn.

Blech. That sounds just unpleasant. My husband and I were fortunate in having decent jobs and very little in the way of debt to start with. But we're looking at changing our lifestyle, so more savings would be helpful right about now.

Changing your lifestyle? In what sense? Have I missed a post?

We're still exploring options. But reducing our income dependence is a big first step.

Alright, sister cryptic. ;-}

Not sure what changes are on your horizons, but you know well that Matt and I are planning to try and start a family. We just started dumping more money from checking into savings (we already dump enough in to mid and long term investments - several long term investments actually) to simulate having to pay some of the costs associated with a kid. We feel both poor and rich doing this in different measure depending on the day. I'm fine on a budget until I get stressed, then I find it hard.

Yes, that's exactly it. When things feel out of control, and the only thing I can control is money, I want to spend like crazy. Retail Therapy is such bunk.

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