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Published on August 27th, 2015 | by Discussion Questions

How do I maintain a budget?





AUDREY WRITES: I just created a budget for myself using an envelope system. This is the first time I have tried a strict budget and I am open to advice. Have any of you found any budgeting techniques or systems that have worked well for you?

How do you keep yourself from breaking your own system? Do any of you do a clothing allowance where your parents give you a certain amount of money and you are responsible for buying your own clothes? Also, have any of you found creative ways to earn extra money?


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  • Hi Audrey!! This is a GREAT question! I use the envelope system too when I was in the States.(haven’t gotten into it yet here in ZA, but I need to!) I had 3 envelopes: “Savings” “Spend’ and “Tithe”. Then, if there was something rather expensive I was saving up for, I created a separate envelope with that item’s name, and put a portion of my spend money in that envelope.
    One thing I did for the first few months was keep track monthly of my spending habits. I wrote down how much spending/saving/tithing money I had at the beginning of the month. I wrote down EVERY item I bought throughout the month and it’s exact price. I also wrote my motivation/reason behind buying that item (was it a gift for someone? something I kind of needed? something I just wanted?). Then, at the end of the month, I recalculated how much money I had in savings/spending/tithe. This helped me a LOT! I was able to see, “Am i spending too much money on mocha’s and french fries?” “Am I buying too much excess stuff I don’t need? “Do I have enough spend money that I could be adding more to my savings?” etc…
    I’m also a cheapskate anyway LOL (except when it comes to mocha’s and cappuccinos 😉 ) so I was probably too hard on myself, but I did find it SUPER helpful!
    To keep from breaking my own system, I just never allowed myself to spend more than was in my spend envelope!!
    As for having a clothing allowance, I don’t have one…My parents buy things I am in need of, but if I want excess I pay for it myself.
    And as for making extra money, I find babysitting is my biggest source of income!! I’ve also cleaned houses in the past. I love to write, so writing for a newspaper is something I’ve been looking into. Just offering yourself for different odd-jobs that come up: cooking for a family while a parent is away, serving food at an event, etc. I don’t have an actual “job” but seriously, babysitting is a GREAT source of income!
    Hope this helps!!! =D

  • Guitar with Arms

    *cough cough Dave Ramsey cough cough*

    • Guitar with Arms

      Seriously though, I wish I could say more but I gotta run, sorry. But some of Dave Ramsey’s books are really good! =)

      • Jasmine

        Yes!!!!! I’m doing a Dave Ramsey class with some friends! I’ve been learning a lot through him. Like what to do and what not to do with your money.

    • MimeforJesus

      I was wondering when I’d see his name mentioned here. :)

  • Parental accountability!! Ok, no seriously, parents are a lot of help. If you trust all of your money to your parents, and tell them the vision and goals you have for budgeting, have them keep you accountable and encourage you in how to best use it, it will make a world of difference. :)

  • I would like to personally recommend the YNAB software — which is basically a 21st-century envelope-based system that I use and tell all my friends about because it works so well:

    https://www.youneedabudget.com/

    It is also FREE for college students anywhere in the world. Details here:

    http://www.youneedabudget.com/blog/2014/ynab-is-now-free-for-college-students/

  • Well, I’m not unwise with my money, but I don’t have a specific budget plan. I do have a job, however. I set aside a tithe first of all. I pay for all of my own clothes, and I always need new clothes. (No, I’m not kidding, each season when I go through my that-season’s clothes, they don’t fit right. Hopefully that’ll change soon because I don’t think I’m growing much more.) I justify buying clothes all the time, but I rarely pay full price. If I paid full price, I’d buy much less! I shop clearance, sales, use coupons, etc.
    I’m also paying for college, so I have the saving mentality unless I absolutely need something.

    Gift cards are great, because I buy a lot of books from Amazon, and if I use an Amazon gift card, I don’t overspend. Same with iTunes.

    I’ve been paying for my own stuff for a while now, and it definitely helps when it comes to knowing if I can afford something or not.

    The envelope thing didn’t really work for me. Some weeks/months, I’d spend nothing, and others, I’d spend more than my allotment because I needed something then. (I’m not talking about “needing” candy or fashion accessories, haha. Perhaps I was with friends and had to buy dinner on last minute notice.) All together, I didn’t spend too much though.

    I make sure not to waste my money! But I’ve just wired that mentality into myself from when I was younger.

  • I have had a job since I was 14 (I’m 23 now) and never really had to do budgeting, which drove my parents nuts. I always took money out for tithe, I paid for my own college (and now my masters degree), but other than that I never saved much. I’m trying to be more conscientious with my money now that i’m supposedly a “grown-up”. I use mint.com , which tracks all purchases made with either credit or debit (I never remember to take cash out, so I rely on plastic) and what the purchase type is. I can see where my money is going–bills, clothing, food, etc. I also have an app on my phone that lets me track each purchase. Now I just need to work on being responsible and keeping up with it all. I’m not great with it. It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting it :)

    • Marita Wilson

      I also use mint.com. I think it’s great! It’s free, and links up with your bank accounts and credit card accounts automatically, so it saves me a ton of time – before mint.com I kept track of everything by hand in an excel file. You can also make budgets so it will automatically keep track of how much you have spent in different categories. I have budgets for tithing, clothing, coffee shops, restaurants, groceries, and more. If I go over budget in an area, mint.com emails me. I highly recommend it.

  • Laini Russell

    I never have really had a budget. I set aside tithe first and foremost but after that i usually save most of what i earn. Now i do love clothes and shoes but i usually dont go buy much too often * sees adorable shirt, knows she must buy it* * buys shirt*. And recently i bought a laptop and an ipod before that but i just kinda lump all of my money together and save. College and drivers ed are on there way so i have to think about that stuff as well. That probably didnt help but it works great for me!

  • Don’t spend more than you make. :)

    • Short and sweet! I like it. :)

    • Sam G

      Good one! That’s about the extent of my financial shrewdness… :)

  • Kate

    Keep an account of anything you do with your money. I have a 3 ring binder that has a ton of lined paper and dividers. Each divider has “Spending and Receipts” “Earning” “Tithing” etc etc. Anytime I buy something..boom written down with what date and the receipt with it. Anytime I work a four hour shift and get $36…boom written down in “Earning” with what date. Just keep track with it:) Good luck!

  • i like to only keep small bills with me. that keeps me from buying a bunch of little things that i don’t need. also, set a goal. say you want to have a new ______ by the end of fall. save towards that end! i was able to save for an iPod this summer in a matter of a few weeks.
    just because i seem to like to talk… i work at my family resort cleaning cabins and that brings in a whole lot of cash. while yo may not own a resort, there may be some nearby that you could work for. pet sitting can be very lucrative as well.
    i also keep a little folder with cash for the months of the year where i don’t have a job.

    • Thanks for telling us how rich you are. ;D

      • Lol. It’s mostly in my missions find.

  • Take a personal finances class. I am taking one this school year.

    Personally, I have just created a list on a plane piece of binder paper. I record when I receive or spend something, what I got, where I got it, and when I got it.

  • Audrey French

    Thank you soo much for the advice everyone! It was really helpful!

  • Amanda Pitre

    Hey Audrey!
    Such a great question! With moving into my first apartment alone and being by myself to pay rent, this is a very real issue for me and many others. God asks us to be good stewards of the resources He’s given us, so it’s good to see you taking your money habits seriously.
    Having work in a financial planning firm for a few years, one of the best tips I could say is use an active cash flow system.
    1st, make categories of every way you spend your money (ei. food, clothes, cell, transportation, Tithe, savings, beauty products, etc.).
    2nd, split your categories into two groups: categories you may be tempted to spend more on (food, clothes, gifts) and categories you always pay basically the same (bills, Tithe, savings).
    3rd, decide how much you need a month for the categories in the group that you pay basically the same (bills/tithe/savings) all the time.
    EXAMPLE: Jane makes $600 a month. $60 is tithe, $40 is cell bill, $100 is Savings.
    $60+$40+$100 = $200
    $600 – $200 = $400
    4th, if you have a bank account that your money is in, take out the access money (IE $400) from your account as hard cash.
    If all your money is hard cash, put the other money (IE tithe) in special envelopes and do not use that money for anything besides what the envelope says.
    5th, with the access money ($400), you have what’s called your Active Cash Flow. Keep this primarily all in one envelope. All the categories that you are tempted to spend more go in here.
    6th, on the envelope or a piece of paper (to go in the envelope, etc), write down your approximate amount of what you’d probably spend in each of these areas.
    EXAMPLE: Jane has $400/month in her Active Cash Flow. She has divided the amount in the following categories:
    Clothes: $100
    Eating out: $40
    Food/Snacks: $40
    Gifts: $30
    Hobbies: $30
    Activities: $50
    Misc: $60
    Short-term Savings: $50
    REMEMBER: The devisions in your Active Cash Flow are simply guidelines. You may spend nothing on gifts in one month and over a hundred the next. The amounts simply give you a better grasp of the ways you spend your money and the idea way to distribute it.
    HINT: Only take out so much of your Active Cash-Flow cash out at a time. If you have $400/month, don’t take out $400 in one shot. I would recommend taking out so much every week or two, like $100/week (getting replenished weekl) or $200/biweekly.

  • Dallas

    Go online and look up “Dave ramseys”. I did his high school finance class, it was very helpful.

  • Kate

    First of all I love the envelope system! One thing my parents have taught us to do since we were for is 10 10 80. Tithe ten percent of everything, save ten percent of everything into a bank account, and then you have eighty percent. That 80% is what you can divide up in envelopes. I have seen in sooooo many ways how God
    provides so much more than that 10% I give Him. money is something I stress about way to much but i have always seen how God provides. Prayer is a great way to earn money. I would pray for God to send babysitting jobs my way and it would usually happen. Pet sitting or babysitting are very good ideas as well as house sitting (depending on your age). My brother played on a YMCA football team one year and i would pop popcorn before hand and pull it around in a wagon selling a bag for fifty cents. I made over two hundred dollars in one season! I find that the more I pray for ideas the more God gives me. (:

  • Kate

    On clothes/ shopping in general; shop smart. Try never to pay full price, you can always find a sale somewhere. Don’t be afraid to shop at garage sales, thrift stores, etc. You can save a ton of money this way! Also look for good coupons.

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