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anonymous user
Registered: 12-31-1969
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 12:20pm

Last night I went home and gave alot of thought to all the great advice and posts I read yesterday.  I cannot thank you enough.  I really thought I had a handle on budgeting because heck, I made one, but I really did not.  Maybe before I wasn't thinking with an open mind or something because it never really clicked until last night.  I don't keep cc statements or bank statements except for the copy of the cancelled child support check should we ever need it, so I can't really go back and look at statements for help.  I made up a list of categories for what I could think of and while I know we are all different, I was wondering if something was blaringly missing from this list.  I don't own a home and my car is paid off (well I paid it off with a low interest check from my cc but I don't make monthly payments on it).  I'll give some more thought to it over the weekend as well.

child support



dish network


life insurance

car insurance

gas and electric

cc 1

cc 2

cc 3

cc 4

cc 5

student loan

school uniforms


school pictures (fall and spring)



doctor co-pays

school birthday parties

pto events

pretzel money


book sales at school

SD christmas

SD birthday

SS chirlstmas

SS birthday

Daughter christmas

Daughter birthday

hubby Christmas

mom birthday

mom Christmas

dad birthday

dad Christmas

dad father's day

stepmom mother's day

stepmom christmas

stepmom birthday

stepdad father's day

stepdad christmas

stepdad father's day

nephew 1 birthday

nephew 1 christmas

nephew 2 birthday

nephew 2 christmas

cousin 1 birthday

cousin 2 birthday

cousin 3 birthday

school supplies


priniter ink

clothing me

clothing hubby

clothing daughter

shoes me

shoes hubby

shoes daugher



cousin wedding

light rail pass

aunt christmas

aunt christmas

aunt christmas

uncle christmas

mother-in-law birthday

mother-in-law mother's day

mother-in-law christmas

father-in-law birthday

father-in-law christmas

father-in-law father's day

car maintenance

brother christmas

sister-in-law christmas

church donations

daughter's allowance

I know that it looks like I spend a fortune at the holidays but I have gotten alot better over the years.  I really used to spend alot but now I have about a  25 limit per person except my parents.  They are both extremely good to me and while I know they don't expect gifts, I enjoy giving them to them.  The amounts I spend are just under 100 each.

As for the ccs, 3 of those have balances under 1000 each.  One has a balance of about 8,000 and the last has a balance of 22,000.  The student loan is at about 9500.  I have to check the exact numbers.

After I go through and try to make sure I didn't forget anything, I will go through and figure out when the amounts for each is due (dentist is november 10 but car insurance isn't until March for instance). 

Some of these amounts are small - like pto events only require about 50 bucks for the year.  My daughter's allowance is only 5 bucks a week.  Some may think she should do chores just because she lives in the house but I don't want her to make the same mistakes I made.  So we take 3 of the 5 dollars and put it in the bank, as well as all of her birthday and/or christmas money.  She has enough know that she could fully fund my EF with some leftover.  lol  But seriously, I want to teach her about saving and not getting into the mess I have been in.  If she listens and absorbs half of what I tell her, she will be lightyears ahead of me when she becomes a young adult.

I'm sure I have more to post but that's enough of my babble for now.



Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
In reply to:
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 2:33pm

This is a great start.  You're really trying to think of all the things you could spend money on.

That said, I think your categories are too specific.  Once you start keeping track of things, you'll find a bunch of stuff you hadn't even thought about (off the top of my head, bank fees, postage stamps, light bulbs), and you can't make categories for all of them.

For presents, I'd suggest you make a list of everyone you're likely to buy a Christmas present for, everyone you're likely to buy a birthday present for, all the other gift-giving events that may come up during the year (weddings, babies, anniversaries, house warming), plus kids' friends' birthdays and the cost of your own birthday parties.  Add it all up and divide by 12 to see how much you need to set aside every month - don't be afraid to put it in a different savings account online.  That will save you about 20 categories, at least. :smileywink:

I think it's also important to look at your expenses as a percentage of what you're spending overall.  Let's say your monthly expenses are $6000 a month.  How much is going to housing (rent, heat/electric, phone, cable, internet, the paint for your bedroom, renter's insurance)?  How much is going towards the kids' necessities (uniforms, book fairs, other school expenses, their must-do activities)?  How much is going towards your appearance (clothing, haircuts, dry cleaning for you, husband, kids)?  How much is going towards making life more fun (eating out, movies, the zoo, vacation, parties with friends, nonessential activities, those last-minute things you decide to do)?  How much is going towards your car (gas, tolls, car payment, insurance, inspections & oil changes, routine maintenance, major repairs)?

You'll discover those broader categories when you start keeping track of everything.  And then you can look at it and say, holy cow, we spend THIS much on eating out because I don't want to cook, or hey, we hardly spend anything on this, maybe we should rethink our spending.  The idea is that these things aren't just independent lines, but that they manifest what your priorities are.

Don't forget to add up every month what you're paying in interest on your various loans, ccs, and lines of credit.  OUCH.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 3:15pm

You may either want to add one category: personal care, or you can lump it into groceries or soemthing else, but don't forget to account for the money you spend  on soap, shampoo, lotion, deodorant, makeup, razors, shaving cream, etc.  as they can easily add up.  ;-)

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-03-2001
In reply to:
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 3:23pm
Water bill? Garbage pick-up? Renter's insurance? Medical insurance?

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
In reply to: mahopac
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 4:08pm

I understand what you're asking.

Here's the thing:  all the budgets, methods, and envelopes in the world are not a subsitute for your desire to fix your situation.  There is no substitute for willpower.  You will NOT get out of this situation unless you accept that things need to change, and that you're going to grit your teeth and change them.  That involves taking charge of things you previously didn't take charge of, like saying NO to expensive presents. 

It is difficult.  We were really struggling when our friend died in the World Trade Center on Sept 11, 2001.  For months afterwards, other friends kept trying to get everyone to contribute money towards his kids' college educations - and I didn't have a dime saved up for my own kids' college educations at that point!  I allowed DH to send money at first to cover expenses, because our friend had 4 kids and a SAH wife - but it was only a matter of time before their life insurance would kick in, and all the rest of it.  I simply couldn't afford to take money from my own kids to give it to his, no matter how bad or uncaring it made us look - we just didn't have it to give.  Period.

THAT is what you are doing when you spend money on gifts while wasting money on interest (and BTW I'd call that category whatever you want, such as "Fees" or "Interest" or "Money I will never spend again after I'm out of debt").  You are taking your own money and giving it not just to people you love, but to companies you hate.

Budgets and envelopes are just tools.  You have to use them properly.  Just as owning a toilet plunger isn't going to help you if you spend $100 to call the plumber to plunge your toilet, envelopes and budgets will not help you if you don't use them.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 4:53pm

No worries!  As long as you have accounted for personal care products, it really doesn't matter exactly where you categorize them.

I also agree with the PP 100% about willpower and not spending money you don't have.  I, too, have appeared as anti-social/cold hearted/a tight wad because I turned down baby showers and other events.

For my own budget, I have a very different approach than most people here (which also allows me to project things 5 years out without going blind looking at the Xcel spreadsheet).  The reason I did a 5-year budget was I wanted to pay off my student loan in 5 years or less.  Now that it is gone, I still do a 5-year projection just because I am used to doing so.

There are only a dozen or so catergories, namely:

1.  Homeowners fee (includes water and garbage, grounds maintenance and snow removal)

2.  Home maintenance/insurance

3.  Rental mortgage

4.  Rental maintenance/insurance

5.  Electricity/gas

6.  Phone/internet/TV

7.  Contribution to retirement accounts

8.  Savings

9.  Car maintenance/insurance/auto club membership

10. New car fund (plan to buy the next car with cash)

11. Farm share (I get a lot of food from a community farm)

12. Discretionary spending (which is almost everything else)

Basically I pay all the necessary bills, such as mortgage, insurance, etc.  The next thing I do is put away retirement savings and normal savings.  Whatever is left is for grocery, clothing, travel, holidays, charities, etc.  If money is tight, I will throw in a few more black beans and brown rice meals, if I have a little bit more money, then perhaps a few more seafood meals.  Anything left over at the end of the month, it goes to (more) savings. 

I do not account for health insurance and medical co-pay because some the the former is taken out of my paycheck before I see it, as well as I am covered under probably the most generous medical plan in the US with zero co-pay.  I paid off my mortgage a few months ago, so the only debt I have now is the mortgage from a rental property.

I realize that this "relax" type of budgeting is not for everyone.  Because DH and I keep our finances separate, my "own" budget only needs to account for my income and spending and I don't have to deal with someone else adding or withdrawing money from the bank accounst.  I also have a "not quite emergency" fund of $1,000, an minor emergency fund of $5,000, and a major emergency fund of $26,000 (with a goal of $50,000).  The $1,000 is for myself to "borrow" from.  If I underestimate some bills, I will withdraw money from that account and pay it back the following month.  The minor emergency fund is for things like broken down water heater.  The major emergency fund, which I hope I will never need, equals to approximately 12 months' living expenses.

The bottom line is you need to find out what works for you.  This simple 12-categories budget works for me and helped me paid off a huge student loan and mortgage, but it not be detailed enough for others with a family.





iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
In reply to:
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 5:38pm
This is a good list but I think you are confusing 'budget' with 'list of expenses'. The budget number is the amount you PLAN to spend on a category of items. The expenses are the individual amounts you DO spend. When the ACTUAL expenses exceed the budgeted have debt. Say you and your husband combined make $60000 a year after all of your payroll deductions. You have cut up your credit cards. No one will loan you any money. All you have to spen in a year is $60000. So what matters most? A roof over your head. So take your rent, multiply by 12. Let's say that is $1000 a month. So the first $12000 of your dollars has to go towards that. Noy you have $48000. Then there is transportation to get to work, car nsrance, car registration, license renewal, bus fare...let's say that is $500 a month, $6000 a year (more if you ave a car payment) Now you have $42000. Food...not everything you want from anywhere you want but enough food to survive....$500 a month, another $6000. Now you have $36000. Electricity, heat, phone in some basic way, Internet - say $400 a month - $4800. Now you have $31200. Clothes for the family? $ 100per month? Another $1200. Now you have $30000. Entertainment? Cable? Movies? Books? CDs? Eating out? Food that you like but don't need to survive? Let's say $200 a month - $2400. Now you have $27600. Minimum payment on your debt? Say $1000 per month? $12000 per year. Now you have $ do whatever you want can buy gifts, makeup, pay down debt, whatever...but I made up these say you don't keep bank or credit card statements, but if you log on to your accounts, I bet you will find a lovely record of your real spending. To solve this, you must have the game..on some finance shows, they actually take monopoly money that represents annual income and squares of paper representing expenses and divide it out so that you see it visually. You can do it with pennies too.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
In reply to:
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 5:46pm
I am posting again because I want to make a comment on gift giving. No parent wants their child to go into debt to buy them a one who loves someone should want this. The value of a gift is the love with which it was chosen...or made. My freshman yearII in college, my mom had very little money. She bougut me a recipe box, and wrote out her best recipes, with little side notes about who liked the dish or a time she had served it. It took time. It probably cost $5 if that...almost 40 years later, I have that gift and I treasure it...and use her recipes. I love that she loved me enough to know that I would appreciate it. A wonderful gift can be a letter, a poem, a photograph....a shared experience like a walk on a snowy day, or an offer to do a chore for someone...give from the heart, not the wallet...SJ
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-11-2006
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 7:33pm
mahopac, this is a great post! I am guilty of giving to others'/causes when I really cannot afford to do so. There should be no shame in putting your own families future well-being first.
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-11-2006
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 7:35pm
happysj56, I love this post! I will sit down with DH this weekend and go through this exercise. I have never thought of "budgeting" in this big picture way. Brilliant. And I'm sure it will be very eye-opening!!
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-31-2010
In reply to:
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 7:40pm

totally agree with the other's perspectives on budgeting vs. tracking.  The starting point are your goals - what do you want to accomplish longterm, short term.  From that, you can prioritize your budget, putting those categories first.

As far as your gifts, I would put them in one lump sum, then when the holiday gets closer, break whatever amount you have saved in total, by the people you need to give gifts to at the holidays.  That way you give within a total budget, but stay on track.  I have also found that holding your holiday shopping to just the two weeks prior to the holiday, keeps spending lower.  Spending for a longer time period, most people spend more.  So shopping early is not always the way to savings.

Missing entry - College savings?  I asked my parents to cut their spending for my DD in half and instead put money in her college savings account, they didn't need more things, but do need an education.

Here are my budget categories:

INCOME Wages 0.00                         Interest/dividends 0.00                         Miscellaneous 0.00                         Income totals 0.00                         EXPENSES Home Mortgage 0.00                         Home loan                           Electric 0.00                         Gas heat 0.00                         Water 0.00                         Home repairs 0.00                         Cell phone 0.00                         Utility 0.00                           0.00                         Home totals 0.00                                                     Daily living Groceries  0.00                         Child care 0.00                         Dry cleaning 0.00                         Dining out 0.00                         Housecleaning service 0.00                         Dog walker 0.00                         Daily living totals 0.00                                                     Transportation Auto Loan 0.00                         Gas/fuel 0.00                         Insurance 0.00                         Repairs 0.00                         Car wash/detailing services 0.00                         Public transportation 0.00                         Transportation totals 0.00                                                     Entertainment Comcast 0.00                         Video/DVD rentals 0.00                         Movies/plays 0.00                         Concerts/clubs 0.00                         Entertainment totals 0.00                                                     Health Health club dues 0.00                         Insurance 0.00                         Prescriptions 0.00                         Over-the-counter drugs 0.00                         Co-payments/out-of-pocket 0.00                         Veterinarians/pet medicines 0.00                         Life insurance 0.00                         Health totals 0.00                                                     Vacations Plane fare 0.00                         Accommodations 0.00                         Food 0.00                         Souvenirs 0.00                         Pet boarding 0.00                         Rental car 0.00                         Vacations totals 0.00                                                     Recreation Gym fees 0.00                         Sports equipment 0.00                         Team dues 0.00                         Toys/child gear 0.00                         Recreation totals 0.00                                                     Dues/subscriptions Magazines/Newspapers 0.00                         Piano Lessons 0.00                           0.00                           0.00                           0.00                         Religious organizations 0.00                         Charity 0.00                         Dues/subscription totals 0.00                                                     Personal DH 0.00                         ME 0.00                         Salon/barber 0.00                         Books 0.00                         Gifts 0.00                         Personal totals 0.00                                                     Financial obligations Long-term savings 0.00                         Retirement (401k, Roth IRA) 0.00                         College savings 0.00                         Income tax (additional) 0.00                         Life Insurance 0.00                         Financial obligation totals 0.00                                                     Debt Payments Hospital 0.00                         CC1 0.00                         CC2 0.00                         CC3 0.00                            Other 0.00                         Misc. payments totals 0.00                                                     Total expenses 0.00                         Cash short/extra 0.00