Monday, August 9, 2010

Building the Budget, Filling the Jars

When I used to hear someone talk about “building a budget” it made me cringe. It sounds like such a gruelling , painful process . I’m not a great number cruncher in that I don’t do well with taking abstract numbers and translating them into a concrete method of living. I married someone who has much more skill in that department, but still for our family, getting disciplined was usually put on the backburner.

Then we found Gail’s interactive budget worksheet online. For Ted, the fill in the blank aspect was really appealing, since we didn’t need to take the time to make our own worksheet in excel. For me, it was appealing because it’s all colour coated and pretty, and suddenly not so scary.

The way that we started was to gather all our bills for the past 6 months, and averaged them. Our heating bill had both summer and winter months in there, so the average gave us a pretty good picture for our year’s spending. Same goes for the electricity. I was pregnant at the time, and soon to go on maternity leave, so we had to calculate our budget based on my mat leave earnings. Had I gone back to work, we would have had to make a second budget at that time.

Once you do all the work of plugging in numbers, at the bottom you are told how much you have to put in your jars. Gail gives the options that if you are left with only $20 in groceries, you need to cut expenses or make more. That’s the hard part to face. Make sure that how the jars are divided is something you can live with week in and week out. If for your family, you need less on transportation, but more in entertainment, you can make adjustments to suit your lifestyle. The bottom line is the bottom line though, and you have to stay within the funds available.

I know that for the foreseeable future, we will be using the jars in our household. They make SENSE, they’re simple, and they’re US. Somehow they’ve just become an intrinsic part of how we run our household, and what we aim for in our lives. They remind me of the goals we have every time I walk by them. We get SO many comments on them when people come over. They open up conversations about money. They stare you in the face when you wish they wouldn’t. They make it clear that in life, there have to be boundaries for our own good.

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