Over the years we have tried many different methods for controlling our spending and working on a budget. By far the most successful method for us is to work in cash. I have worked out what we need each week and I withdraw that amount of money.
The following are our ' cash categories'.
Scarlet Ribbon ( clothing shoes etc)
You can see in the photo that I use resealable plastic bags with the category and the amount written on it. Each week I go to the bank or post office and I have a little card in my wallet that says " 3x $50, 4 x $10 etc and get the exact breakdown. When I come home I give the cash to our young sons and they go through and put the amounts into the bags. Then, when we want to do something like hire a DVD or buy a present etc, we just go to the appropriate bag.
Having the money in cash is great for a couple of reasons. When you have cash in your wallet you are much more careful about spending it. My sons have also learnt the value of money because they control it. We are also empowered by the fact that we have money in advance for needs that may arise.
I call one category 'scarlet ribbon' because of the proverbs 31 woman who has no fear for her household for when the winter snows come her household is clothed in scarlet. It is a very old proverb but one that has always stuck with me.
I have also calculated how much we require for bills. You can do this by looking at what your bills are over a year and dividing the amount by 52 or 26 depending on when you get paid. Then I transfer that amount into an account we use for bill paying.
So.... what do you do when you finally sit down and add it all up and the results are frightening ? When I did this the first time I was totally shocked at our living expenses. Son number one was about 12 months old and I was faced with the prospect of going back to work. I was a school teacher then and was going back to work just two days per week. I hated the thought of it! So, we sat down and worked through everything in a huge amount of detail. I called it my " Plug the holes audit". By this, I meant that I thought the ship ( our house) would sink by the little holes that were in it, not the gaping big holes. So I set about saving money on little things, $2 here, $1 there. I changed phone plans, shopped for cheaper insurance, worked out a price book to track specials and calculate unit pricing, worked a cash budget etc etc. The results were amazing and I gave up teaching at the end of that year.
I often hear people talking about how difficult it is to make ends meet ( while they are watching pay TV and smoking and eating take away food). My answer is to be totally honest with yourself and live within your means. Take control of your money so it doesn't control you. It is such a wonderful feeling to jump in the car and go for a holiday with the freedom of knowing that you have the cash for it all and you won't have to face the credit card bill when the holiday is over.
If you can't be bothered with the hassle of micro-managing it all then you will need to be happy with staying in debt and having no money and having lots of stress. The choice is yours to make, so which path will you choose ?