New & determined to get a handle on it!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-23-2010
New & determined to get a handle on it!
Thu, 07-15-2010 - 8:07pm

Good evening, ladies! I have been lurking for a couple weeks now... reading archives and working out my thoughts. I have a few spare minutes today to introduce myself and I have a few questions. A bit of an introduction: I'm Scotti, in my early 20s, and


iVillage Member
Registered: 12-04-2006
Fri, 07-16-2010 - 4:07am

Hi Scotti, Welcome to the board

I think that you are right about getting to bogged done with your categories.
I use Excel for budgeting, and I can't offer any help in reducing the size of your spreadsheet, because mine's worse. I also use MoneyDance for tracking my spending - the only thing here is that like any financial software its only helpful if you keep up with it.
In areas where I need more detail, I will put in subcategories - eg Utilities: Phone or Utilities:Power, etc.

I think the best way to make suggestions on your categories is to put the items on your list next to the labels that I would have put on them. In some areas, I will add my own thoughts on the categories you have used. I'm not a parent, but grew up with a mother who was a single mom and I often helped with her budget as I got older so I have some idea what its like.

I have been tracking my spending for about 3 months now and have a basic breakdown of our expenses:
Utilities: * Electricity
* Natural gas
* Water/sewer/trash/recycling
* Wastewater treatment
* Cell phone
* Cable
* Internet
Is your cable and internet through the same provider? If so, I would categorise them together.
Transportation: * Car insurance
* Gasoline fuel
Medical: * Health insurance
* My own medical co-pays and medications
* Christopher's medical co-pays and medications
* Carson's medical co-pays and medications
Housing: * Rent
* Renter's insurance
Savings: * Emergency fund savings
* Vacation savings
* Retirement savings
* Education savings for my master's degree
* Christopher's savings to cover future needs (orthodontia/college/first car) - I admit that I do not live in the US and so things may be different where I am, but I question how necessary it is is to save for a first car for your son. Where I am, for the most part, if a young person wants a car, it is up to them to save for it themselves.
* Carson's savings for future expenses - If these are for the same things as your son, I echo what I said there.
Food: * Groceries
* Dining out
Personal: * My hair, nails, waxing fees
* My clothing, shoes and accessories
Children: Grooming: * Christopher's hair cuts
* Carson's clothing, shoes and accessories
* Carson's hair care
* Christopher's clothing, shoes and accessories
Education/Daycare: * Christopher's yearly preschool materials fee and monthly preschool tuition
* Carson's weekly daycare

Recreation: * Family entertainment excursions - do you know what cheap/free activities exist in your area? These things can be budget-friendly way of allowing the family to have excursions.
* Christopher's baseball fees, equipment and costs
* Christopher's tumbling fees and costs
* Christopher's toys and games
* Carson's toys and games
Holidays/Birthdays: * Christopher's birthday party and school birthday celebration
* Father's day events (it was also my 23rd birthday)
* 4th of July events and clothes
* Birthday gifts for friends/family

The remaining items are ones, that I'm not sure how I would categorise.
* YMCA yearly joining fee and monthly membership fee - joining YMCA is like joining a gym right? If so, why is there are yearly joining fee? If not, just ignore this.
* Life insurance
* Student loan repayment
* Diapers, wipes and formula for her

Some other stuff I was asking myself as I read your message - while I think its great that you are organized in terms of what you are budgeting - if I understand your message correctly, your daughter is not due for another 5 weeks, yet there seems to be a lot already in the budget for her. I can understand 4th of July events, but not clothes - could the clothes not have been including with the clothing categories for yourself or your children?

Some other things for making sure the budget doesn't get out of control
Toys/games for the children - know what you are willing to spend and don't go beyond this.
Activities for the children - Know what each activity is costing. If one of your children is in an activity that is costing you more that they enjoy, be willing to consider cutting another activity that child is doing, that they don't enjoy.
I'm definitely not recommending that you deprive your children of these things, just remember than they can blow a budget very quickly.

Everything that I've put under holidays - have a budget and stick to it. Also, its not necessary to celebrate every holiday at great expense - if need be, just choose the ones that mean the most to you to celebrate.

"How do I categorize the money I'm stashing in case the house needs a repair, or the car does?"
It's my thought that this is part of the reason for having an emergency fund in the first place. House repairs - since you are paying renters insurance, I'm assuming that you are renting - where I am, landlords are responsible for the necessary repairs on a house (although whether they actually do them can be another story), is this not the case in the US? Either way, with both houses and cars, there are true emergencies and then there are the repairs that are really - this occurs on a regular basis and could have been budgeted for. A vehicle will always need to be serviced on a regular basis - but there are some things that are still routine but don't necessarily need to be done every service - things like radiator flush (and coolant replacement), replacing brakes, transmission fluid. If you need help in figuring out what sorts of things are routine but less often, either talk to your mechanic if you trust him or check your vehicle's owners' manual.

"If you don't mind sharing, could you tell me how you find it easiest to get/stay organized in this process?"
This is still something I'm working on. I think regardless of what filing/organization system you find works best for you, the key is ensuring you make time to work on your budget, and file your paperwork.
I have a letter holder that has three sections in it - I use the categories of unopened; needs to be put in the budget; needs filing.
My filing system is still a work in progress so there's not much point sharing it.

Pretty long message, but I hope that you've found some information that will help you.



iVillage Member
Registered: 05-11-2005
Fri, 07-16-2010 - 9:50am

Wow, that's A LOT of categories... And you have my admiration for managin it on your own, way to go!!

1) How you find it easy to get/stay organized in this process?
- I have far fewer categories.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-23-2010
Sat, 07-17-2010 - 10:07pm


Thanks for your really helpful response! I agree that I need to pare down the categories drastically.


iVillage Member
Registered: 05-23-2010
Sat, 07-17-2010 - 10:12pm

Hi, Katie! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts... I really do appreciate it!


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2005
Mon, 07-19-2010 - 8:51am

To answer your question about carrying cash.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-11-2005
Mon, 07-19-2010 - 10:19pm

Yes, that is exactly what I do. The only money I ever carry on me all the time is my fun money. Grocery money only comes with me on grocery days, same with little one's money.

Hope that helps :)