Growing up I was taught to make a budget pretty early on. Initially my attempts to make a budget were less in the fiscal responsibility category and more in the detective vein. You see, I noticed that my piggy bank always seemed to have less in it than I thought it should have. My parents thought that this was a good intro into teaching me to keep track of my spending and sat me down with three column account book and showed me how to mark down what I put in and what I took out and how to keep a running tally of what I had left in the last column.
Pretty simple stuff really. They were proud I was showing responsibility at such a young age (as well as an interest in maths) and I settled in to figure out if money really was disappearing when I wasn’t looking.
For the record it was and apparently it is frowned upon to set booby traps to catch a thief in your room. The carpet was singed (as it was a sea green shag affair hold over from the 70s that tended to smell like wet dog I can’t feel too poorly about it), I was grounded, but the thief was caught.
I was also reimbursed for my missing funds, or at least what I could prove was missing with my account books.
A victory for fiscal responsibility to be sure, but I know you are thinking, Mimsy, what does this have to do with weight loss?
The point is coming, I promise.
So from an early age I was taught the value of keeping an account and working out a budget. Once I started keeping track of money I was taught how to save up for things I wanted. Again fairly standard stuff and to this day I keep a budget.
I tend to alternate between using an excel spreadsheet and using a paper ledger book , generally picked up at the Dollar Store. The reason is simple, sometimes I go into the Dollar Store and they have the ledger books, sometimes they don’t. If they do I buy one, use it until the pages are full and then try and pick up another one. If they don’t I keep my monthly account on an excel spread sheet.
There are of course many wonderful budgeting apps and systems that can be used. I personally like these two methods because they don’t connect to my bank account and are very unofficial. It lets me budget things that really don’t need to be a part of the official record.
For example, my personal slush fund. Each month I budget a category to cover things beyond bills. I work out how much I need to spend on things like bills and mortgage payments, I work out how much I want to try and put into savings and I budget a slush fund to cover things I just happen to want that month. This money I can spend freely on anything I want without affecting the other categories and running short for bills. Some months it is larger than others, some months the category doesn’t really exist except in theory.
I’m sure we have all had those months.
My problem is that occasionally I use the slush fund to purchase things like french fries. And sometimes it isn’t just fries, although they are my weakness. Sometimes I feel silly going through the drive through for just french fries so I get a whole meal. Budget wise, it fits with no issues. Calorie wise it can blow my entire diet to shreds. So I started adding a secondary line under my slush fund line.
The name of this line changes. Sometimes it is lipstick, sometimes a spa treatment sometimes it is even a ticket to an upcoming museum exhibit. What it is changes, it is just something I want that I didn’t budget for that month (or an upcoming one). The cost of whatever it is I put in parentheses next to the name.
Spa treatment ($120)
Then everytime I look at my slush fund and think ‘Oh I could afford french fries today, or maybe an entire meal, since a fountain drink sounds really good right now’ I have to make a decision.
If I cave and use the fast food place around the corner to bust my calorie count, then the column where I have budgeted for lipstick remains blank. If I successfully yell ‘Get thee behind me satan…er… deliciously tempting french fries!’ Then I take the cost of what I was going to spend on the fast food and put it in my savings for the extra item like the lipstick or spa treatment and I subtract it from the general slush fund.
With tax the meal I like to get at the local chain restaurant so inconveniently located between my house and the gym generally comes to $8.63. Successful resistance adds up surprisingly fast.
It also helps my inner accountant to see that the money has been taken away from the available money in the Slush Fund because then I can sort of trick myself into thinking it isn’t there when in reality it is still in my bank account.
This is why I do this separately from any program that wants to make my budget and bank match. And I do keep a seperate checking and savings register so I know actual monies, I just use this to budget myself.
I know it is a little bit of trickery (and math) but I find it helpful. I also find it a good way to save up for an expensive lipstick or a relaxing spa visit. It may take a few months, but in the end I get something extra for my resistance to go along with my slowly reducing waistline.
And I never have a problem with that sort of math.
Posed below are a few deals/coupons you may find of interest. Enjoy.