Making The Budget Work

Robert wants to know how to get on the same page with his spouse when it comes to budgeting and finances. Dave thinks it’s time to adjust the budget.

QUESTION: Robert in Nashville wants to know how to get on the same page with his spouse when it comes to budgeting and finances. He’s been trying for a year and a half, they’ve made some changes, but any leftover money isn’t going toward debt like it should be. Dave thinks it’s time to adjust the budget.

ANSWER: Doing a budget isn’t magical. It doesn’t make you stick to it. That involves you and your wife holding hands and looking in the mirror and saying “Stop it.” The people in the mirror are the problem. It sounds like you are both willing to do a written plan, but you’re not sticking to it.

If you bring home $4,700 a month and you spend $600 a month on groceries for a family of five, you are about $200 a month low on your grocery budget.

The first time you do a written budget, it’s not going to work. You’ll have things that you missed or forgot, and you have to sit down and adjust the budget. You have emergency budget committee meetings throughout the week until you get the budget to where it’s working. The first month, you’ll have 20 of those meetings. The second month, you’ll have 10. The third month you’ll have about four, and by the fourth month you’ll have the budget polished up and working pretty well.

There is no perfect budget month from heaven. It’s this month’s income and this month’s bills. Next month you won’t have clothes to buy for school, but this month you did.

If you want to use the envelope system, it doesn’t cost you any money. Just write a check to yourself, cash it and put the money in an envelope. You guys are brand new to the budget process, and you suck at it so far. It will take you a little time to get better at it. Go back and write down what you want to spend in each category of your budget. Every dollar has a name and you both have a vote.

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