Budgeting - the bane of widowhood, or just plain living alone. Bah humbug. I don't like it. Does anyone? I am struggling with it and need to make some changes. And mostly the changes I need to make is to stop spending. Period. The economy as it is today and possibly getting worse, is not friendly to those of us on very limited income. "If only" - my husband had foreseen what I knew would happen he might have done things differently. Maybe, but no one knows for sure. He had it firmly planted in his mind that his only child - a daughter - would retire and move back into her childhood home - the house where he and I lived after our marriage. It was in his will that she inherit the house after he died, and I knew that from the very beginning so was fine with that. After all , it was his house for over 50 years and his right to do as he wanted with it. After he died his brothers and sisters all thought he should have given me life estate in the house, but he either never gave that a thought, or he was also certain I would remarry right after he was gone, (wrong!) I am also sure he never thought his daughter would sell that house, which she ended up doing as she knew she didn't want to move back here.
IF (big 'if') I had been allowed to stay living there and not have to pay rent, my finances would be in a little bit better shape. But that was not to be, so here I am, trying to figure out how to stretch my dollars with the ever increasing prices on everything from groceries to gasoline.
In my internet group of frugal friends there are some that use the envelope method of spending, and I have seen websites on that subject as well, so thought I should give it a try. I do keep track of my spending in the Quicken program I have installed on the computer and that has been a life-saver. It even has a place to make a budget and keeps track of your spending according to your budget. But that just was not working very well for me. Sure, it told me whether I overspent on budget items, but I need a visual to show me what I have left to spend on groceries and other household items as well as clothing, personal care, pet care, etc. So I get back to the envelope method. I don't carry much cash with me and use a credit card to purchase what I need so that I don't have to write out a bunch of checks - just one at the end of the month. That way I have a complete record, along with the register receipt of where my money went. I so easily lose track of where cash goes. Because of that I really didn't want to resort to carrying the cash via envelope method. Then I got the 'bright' idea of printing fake money to put in the envelopes so I could physically see how much I had to spend in each catagory.
I have one envelope that acts as the bank for exchanging larger bills for smaller ones in order to get the right amounts in the envelopes and for spending. I have another envelope just for the checking account and all income amounts go into that as they come in. From there, once a month, I divide what is in the checking account to put in the other spending catagory envelopes.
I am just getting started with this so I don't have the method down pat yet. Sometimes it is a hassle to transfer 'cash' from envelope to envelope after shopping or paying bills, and sometimes I forget to check what is left in the envelope to see how much I can spend on the shopping trip. I hope, as time goes on, that I get the hang of it and make it work. Right now I have an IOU in the "Credit card payments" envelope because I had forgotten to put the 'cash' in there from a prior shopping trip. After I had added up what was spent in the various catagories and 'paid' for those items by putting the 'cash' in the "Credit payment" envelope, I was short about $60 for the groceries I bought. Oops. So I will have to take what general spending 'cash' I have with the next income check and put it in the 'credit' envelope. Looks like I won't be buying any groceries or anything else for quite awhile.
Another option I have thought about since doing all of the above, is when I deposit my income checks at the bank, I take cash out in the amount I have left after reserving all that is needed for necessary bills like rent and utilities. If I spend it all on groceries, then I can't buy anything else. I won't have a set budget for groceries, clothing, personal care, pet care, gasoline, etc.but will still record them in those catagories in Quicken. That will show me where I need to cut back on spending. The biggest problem is that I am already very conservative on spending. I think I need rubber money that s..t...r...e........t......c.....h..s. It can be depressing but I can't let it get to me. Life goes on and it must be enjoyed as much as possible. So I do what I can, pray that there will be enough, and keep smiling.
What method works for you?