Thursday, February 21, 2013

Learning to Budget

We have tried various budgeting methods in the past. And while they each worked because we were able to live within our means, I didn't love them.

Quite opposite in fact.

I hated recording receipts once I arrived home after running errands. I had groceries to put away and other things to do so I would just skip it. And my pile of receipts would continue to grow in my wallet. We will call this the "Good Intentions" budget.

Once I realized that stack of receipts was out of control and made it difficult for my wallet to close, I would take them out and leave them for Casey to find. I didn't want to deal with them. But I knew Casey would be annoyed if I just threw them away. So I turned it over to him and he would spend hours trying to decipher what I bought. We will call this the "One Does All" budget.

And then there is the "Look at Your Bank Statements Once a Month" budget, "Make a List in Excel" budget, "Pay with Plastic" budget, and "Sit for Hours to Discuss without Making Progress" budget.

Yup. We have tried them all. Casey even created a program to help us budget better. Yeah-- he is amazing and designed a computer program from scratch. But it still wasn't working for me. The program was amazing. I just hated having to spend time with my receipts typing everything in.

So one day I opened the App Store and just searched for budgets or finances. If it was free, I downloaded. I was not willing to pay money to find another budgeting method that I did not like and was not easy to use. I downloaded a handful of different apps and figured none could be worse than previous attempts.

To my surprise, I found one that I love. And it is available on the apple market, the android market, and we can log into it from a computer. Casey and I share one account. Any time either of us spends money, we record the transaction immediately so there are never stacks of receipts and it automatically synchronizes. We each know exactly how much money we have left and where all of our money is going.

If any of you find yourself in one of the previously mentioned (or similar) budget experience, allow me to introduce you to EEBA.

Easy Envelope Budgeting Aid.

Basically you make electronic envelopes for your pay period. You can choose how often to fill the envelopes. (For example: if you are a teacher and only get paid once a month, you might choose monthly. Or if you could divide your monthly paycheck in half and then set it to every two weeks, bimonthly, weekly, whatever you decide.) Each envelope is designed to be used for a different expense-- like one for groceries, one for rent (soon-ish to be mortgage for us), one for clothes, car, household items, eating out, etc. Then you take your total income and divide it out among the envelopes you created based on your needs and budget. Make sure that the total amount in all of your envelopes is equal to (or less than) your total paycheck.

And then it is simple. You can only spend money when it is in the envelope. If the envelope runs out, you stop spending until your next pay check. In my family finance class, the envelope method was definitely my favorite budgeting system. But it was not practical because no one carries cash stuffed in envelopes everywhere they go. Shoot. I basically never use cash. But this combines my favorite (and easiest to use) budgeting method with technology. (Watch THIS video for a more detailed explanation for how EEBA works.)

So if you are trying to pay off a loan, save for a dream vacation, or save for a down payment on a house (and then painting the house once we buy it, cleaning the carpets, buying some furniture, etc), this is still the perfect budget. Just have the total amount in the envelopes be less than your total income. And ta-dah. It is easier to save/ pay off debt with that money when you basically don't even see it.

(No, I am not being paid by EEBA in anyway. I just loved this app and thought I would share.)

4 comments:

Casey said...

We tried Quicken, which has a so called budget. However it is not user friendly at all.
The program I created wasn't ever designed to be a budgeting program. These programs were tracking all of our finances but weren't allowing us to budget. They worked great for reporting and learning (especially for taxes), but not budgeting.

EEBA uses the envelope budgeting method, which works great for us. We don't necessarily need a solution that tracks ALL of our finances. We just needed something that would help us budget the normal things, quickly and easily.

BeckieB said...

I like this app! I'd never heard of it before but I checked it out at your recommendation. We currently use Mint.com, which also has a mobile app, and I'm SO happy with it. I can check at any time how much is left in my groceries, or gas, or haircut budget. And whenever i spend something it immediately is tracked for me - no entering receipts, yay. I wonder if there's a way to incorporate both systems? Anyway thanks for the info!

Jonessa said...

I suggest www.mint.com
It is made from the makers of Quicken. It is secure and can be accessed on the computer as well as cellphones. What's great is that it will record your purchases for you. It will also categorize them for you. If you made a purchase at Smith's Marketplace it will categorize it as "groceries" You can override the category if you spent money on clothing. Or you can split the purchase.
It also gives a pie chart of what you spend on a month. It's a real eye opener, and FREE!!
Give it a shot as well right now. It's worth it!

Lisa said...

Everything you just said that mint.com does, EEBA does as well. And I *hated* using Quicken. I think that was the worst budgeting experience ever. I have looked at that website before while in my finance class at BYU and I was not a fan of it. I'm glad it works for you. But I love EEBA!!