Where is my money going? I have no idea anymore, but it’s going. That’s bad…very bad. Moderation in spending is definitely an area I want to address. Steven Drucker said “What gets measured, gets managed.” So I figure the first place to start is with my weak budgeting skills.
After my first child, I was following the Dave Ramsey baby steps and was having a decent amount of success. I learning a lot from his program. However, once I had my second child, moved, and started a new position with a new schedule all that changed. I could not longer keep up with tracking and entering information into a budget. I could barely keep up with the laundry. (There it is again, the laundry monster.) So five years and many expenses later I strive to find balance in this area. I yearn to learn back the skill of spending in moderation, so I can do more saving.
From what I have discovered, there are three major ways to organize a budget:
1) Written Ledger : Growing up my dad kept all his financial allocations and banking info in a black and white composition book. In this ledger style, sometimes old school is the best school. It’s easy to carry with you. Low in cost (just the cost of a notebook and a pencil), and simple to keep up with. No bells and whistles, but not susceptible to on-line viruses or power-outages. However, this option seems a little to low-tech for me. I don’t want to start from scratch. I’m looking for a little more guidance.
2) Envelopes : This was the Dave Ramsey way, and quite frankly it works for most people. You put a specified amount for a category of spending and when it’s gone… It’s gone. It defiantly teaches how to limit spending and choice your purchases wisely. This plan worked for me five years ago. But now, well, I never have cash on hand. I rarely make it to the bank and I don’t use ATM. This ends up creating more hassle and work to get to the bank, so I never keep the right amount in the envelope to start with. It just didn’t work for my situation and this time in my life.
3) Spreadsheets: This might work great for those into getting really technical about tracking their spending, but this method might requires a more involved software purchase then I am willing to make right now. Although, I have seen downloadable PDF versions. For some reason, however, going through the trouble of filling in and printing out a spreadsheet does not appeal to me. I just imagine all the waste of paper and time in organization.
So this leads me to a third and best option (I think) free, online budgeting. There are several different services available However, which one is best to meet the needs of a busy working mother with a layman view of accounting and finance? In the coming months I will test out and review four on-line programs, Mint.com, Everydollar.com, Budgettracker.com, and BudgetSimple.com .
I will test out one per month and give a weekly summery of the good and bad from my perspective. Hopefully, this will be a benefit to others and help my get back on track with my budgeting. If you have used these programs leave me a comment, let me know what you think?