Thursday, September 03, 2009

Beautiful Slab

I love our new front porch! But the pretty white railing and comfy patio furniture are going to have to wait.

Early in my college career, I briefly considered being a math major. After a few semesters I settled on English because my grades were better in Composition than Calculus. Paul is an engineer who took lots of math and accounting and used to work for the Economics department. But somehow, between the two of us, we can't balance a budget!

We sit there in front of our computer screens, spreadsheets and pie charts and how-to books and more than a decade of adult experience all around.

"Huh," one of us says, looking at the other. "I don't get it."

"We're missing something," the other replies. "It just doesn't make sense."

So: a hold on home improvement and moving to a cash-only budget for a while!

Apparently we'll have to live like no one else right now, so later we can live like no one else.

Which means . . . stay tuned for homemade Christmas presents.


sarah said...

My husband and I are big savers, because of the 'dream' that we will be very comfortable later in life, but mainly because right now it feels good and safe. It feels better than a brand new car would. At least I think it does ;)
What's your favorite budgeting book?

Sarahlynn said...

I wouldn't say it's our favorite (I think the guy's tone is very annoying) but right we're working through Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.

Our problem is that even though my husband has a great income and we live relatively modestly - no fancy electronics, no HDTV or digital cable, no daily lunches out, etc. - we have a hard time balancing the budget. Our usual method is not to worry too much about that and catch up with periodic windfalls (annual bonus at work, tax refund, etc.). Bad plan.

I think I need a new budgeting book . . . preferably one that comes from the library!

RobMonroe said...

Maybe we should talk about Christmas gifts sometime soon, as we are in the same mode but even without project-spending....

Happy Weekend!

Sarah said...

The book that helped us the most is called 'America's Cheapest Family" by the Economides. The chapter on how to write a budget in particular. We too relied on periodic windfalls to balance our budget, now, our windfalls are just that. They aren't sucked up by daily living expenses. The only thing that was odd was their opinion on investing, mentioned at the very end of the book, for a few sentences. So just take what you like and leave the rest.
Oh, and I checked this book out at the library

Kathy G said...

Your budget sounds like ours did back when we had three small children and one income. Some months I had $50 left to last two weeks after I did the grocery shopping. Our "big nights out" were take-out pizza and movies from the library.

However, keep plugging along with your budget. You're teaching yourself good habits that will work now AND in the future. (Even though my kids are gone and there's no reason for me to live so frugally, I still do because it's what I'm accustomed to; I've found I can pay cash for most purchases, because we're actually able to save money each month.)

Sarahlynn said...

Sarah, our local library has a copy! I'm off to get it now. Thank you!

Kathy, so there's hope! Since we have never been good budgeters, we have always underestimated how expensive kids are. "We feed the kids what we eat." "Toddler clothes at Target are so cheap!" etc. And many expenses are just folded into the grocery bill (cute hair clips, FORMERLY diapers).

But: gymnastics for two isn't cheap. 4 seats on an airplane isn't cheap. Ordering 4 meals - with drinks - at a restaurant isn't cheap, even if it's fast food!

flatflo said...

Long ago, before online banking was so accessible, I used a simple spreadsheet to balance my checkbook. Since then, I've gone to online bill pay (only time I write a check is to the dry cleaner and hair stylist)and found that Quicken was very cool. It downloaded info from not only my bank accounts, but also Dave's and our investments. That way we got a pretty comprehensive picture of our budget and where our expenditures could be trimmed.

Mustang Sally said...

This site was recommended on several financial news shows/magazines and I LOVE it.

Very slick. And free!

It downloads your bank info and does a budget for you, and is smart enough to know that common transactions like "McDonalds" belongs to Fast Food. Though you need to assign categories to vendors it doesn't recognize.

Then you can set up email or text message alerts when your bank acct is getting too low, or if you're going too far over budget in any one area, etc.

Sarahlynn said...

Rob, I have an idea for Christmas!

Flatflo, I hated money with a great passion before online bill pay. (So much so that I rarely balanced my checkbook and sometimes paid bills late.) Now I love the paper-free convenience and ease of online banking, but even more than that I love that Paul loves it and has taken over bill pay! We used Quicken for a long time - great program - until we switched over to Mint. I find Mint even more user-friendly . . . and free.

Mustang Sally, we LOVE Mint! A friend of mine recommended it months ago (thanks, Gretchen!!) and we use it like crazy. Getting the weekly emails with all of our In/Out and calculated net worth was wonderful motivation.