Any Great Budget Suggestions??

Updated on February 12, 2008
J.M. asks from Irwin, PA
10 answers

My husband and I recently decided that we needed to do something about the debts that we have. I mean it isn't terrible but we both have student loans and we have a car payment not to mention a little bit of credit card debt. I have been trying to keep us on a budget but I'm really struggling. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions on how to create a budget that works? Or any creative ways to stretch a budget?

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So What Happened?

Thanks guys for all your suggestions. I really think that we are going to try the envelope system. I've had other people tell me to try that but I seems skeptical. But with all the popular responses I figured it can't hurt to try it. Also, I'm going to look into that Dave Ramsey guy someone mentioned. It looks like he might have some great ideas!

More Answers



answers from Albuquerque on

Times are tough and getting tougher all the time. Heidi and I run on on Quixtar powered business that makes us like Walmart without the store. Part of our service is showing others how to run a business... But in your case we also offer on on budgeted purchase system called ditto -- not only that, but I can show you how we can beat Smith's and Walmart's prices.

Call me -- what can you lose?




answers from Phoenix on

We use the envelopes, we each get an allowance, and when it's gone it's gone, and we "hid" the credit cards. We have our debit cards in case of an emergency, but that is it!

Next month, I am going to look at cutting back some things that maybe we can do without. So far though, we are doign great so i don't think I'll have to do that.

It's tough, but good luck!



answers from Las Vegas on

Hi J.,
Great move! Too many people live beyond their earnings. I am in control of the money in our home and that is how it has to be because my husbands need to spend. Perhaps you are able to identify who is better with money in your home.

First you will have to review your total spending. Keep receipts and log them. Learn the difference between a treat and necessity. Treats are okay, but identify how often you deserve a treat and stick to it.

As for the credit cards...I came into our marriage with a lot of debt due to being a single parent and a couple of surgeries without insurance. I logged all the credit cards on an excel spreadsheet. Total Balance/Minimum Payment/Interest Rate/Interest in dollars/Actual Payment. I would make one of them my target payoff and pay minimum on the rest of the cards and pay as much as I could on the target. I did that and managed to payoff about $20,000,00 in about 2 to 3 years. I didn't necesarily go for the card with the highest rate, but the most feasible one to pay off. Each time a card was paid off, I kept it paid off and went on to the next card.

As for the grocery stores...I used to do a lot of brand name coupon shopping, but I don't have time any more. If you have the time than do it, otherwise, I shop by individual price. I open my phone calculator and do price divided by quantity on two different items. Some things I must have a specific brand and other things a generic is fine with me. I buy a box of Tide for my clothes and a box of generic detergent for towels, rags, & dish rags. Generic bleach is fine, bleach is bleach. Most generics are not that bad and many of them are a name brand but in a different box. Further, more is not always cheaper. Be sure to compare the price of items that are packaged as two or more to the the individual price.

And my last suggestion is organization. We currently have a mess at home. Hubby cleans like a 2 year old. I have light bulbs in 3 different locations. I never know where to look for something so when it is time to use the item, I just buy more. If I had everything in their proper location, I would know what I had and wouldn't buy duplicates...what a sore subject!

Best of luck! Now I will go check out everyone else's suggestions and see if we can save more.




answers from Phoenix on

I agree with Carla's advice. Also what has helped me, is
Crown Ministries, It is a financial bible study, but if your not into the study, the material is still awesome. you can find the information you need at
They have advice from budgeting, investing and anything you can think of that revolves around the budget AND, they also have some really neat tools you can use, like the folder wallet. One of thier priciples is that you go completly cash, when you pay off the credit card and debt, you get rid of the card and keep maybe one for emergencies, but you just do cash. Look into it, It's good stuff.



answers from Tucson on

Check out My husband & I use this series & I was able to quit working (cutting our income in HALF!) and be a full time SAHM! What a blessing!



answers from Phoenix on

After reading America's Cheapest Family, ( I got many tips on how to reduce speding and cut down on debt. They show you what formats they use and others that can work. Pretty much you need to look at your lifestyle and see where all your money is going. Cut down on extras until you are able to eliminate most of your debt. Do not spend money that you do not have. A great way to do this is at the beginning of each month is estimate how much you will be bringing in as an income. Allocate those funds to your bills that need to be paid, groceries, gas etc... Focus on paying down on your lowest debt, so when you are done with that one, put that money towards your next debt. Hope that makes sense. The book does better in explaining it.

There is a great budget workbook on excel that I have been using to allocate my funds and I also created something to keep me on track of my balances. I have been doing it for two months and it has worked wonders for my family. Before we did not know where all our money went to. Now we are able to save money. Good luck!

Let me know if you have any other questions.



answers from Phoenix on

First off, I'm so proud of you for deciding to eliminate your debt. It will bring you such great peace of mind, which is much more valuable than any material things. Dave Ramsey is a financial guru who has devoted his life to helping people get out of debt, so I recommend checking out

More than anything, it just takes great discipline. When my husband and I were in college the first year we were married we made only $13,000 taxable income combined, and so we were well within the poverty level. We just cut our expenses as much as possible so we could live within our means. We just learned to do without. It was extremely difficult, but definitely possible with discipline.

The little things do add up. Track your spending and expenses for a couple months and you'll most likely be surprised how much money is wasted (I was!) and you will see where you can cut back to save more. Making a budget and sticking with it was the only way my husband and I were able to make our money stretch to go where it needed to. Pay the crucial things first.

Well, I wish you luck! I know you can do it!



answers from Phoenix on

the best way to stretch a budget, especially over time is...(drumroll please) eating out! i know it's unpopular, but i've been a stay at home wife for 20 years and the amount of money that goes into one meal can feed the entire family several meals that are healthier and actually feed the body, not just take away hunger. rice, salad or vegetables and an appropiate-sized lean protein is a well-rounded meal. pasta with a sauce and a salad or french bread~again. way healthier, less than a dinner at applebee's, with the same can probably have that dinner 3-4 times.
trader joe's has the best products at a great price. their fresh meats are more expensive because they're grass fed beef, etc. but the rest of the items? less than regular grocery stores. heck, less than target and walmart as well, and the quality? you can't beat it. go in and give them a try. this is one of the best ways you can stretch your budget and at the same time make a difference in the health of your family. good luck! :)
a good way to see where your money is going is doing a journal of where it goes. every time you spend any money (what i call "incidental money", not regular bills) write it down in a notebook, especially cash items, where we seem to forget "what we did with those 20 dollars". you will see a pattern of spending and it will help you decide what needs to go and what you need to cut back on.



answers from Albuquerque on

Don't eat out more than once a week--plus it's not healthy anyway for the most part.

If you can't afford it in cash, then you can't afford it at all--don't buy on credit. Credit is either for people who can pay the FULL balance off at the end of the month every month or for people who have endless cash reserves.

Don't put your money into conventional savings accounts. Pay your bills via checking account and everything after, shuffle into a higher interest money market account---say with fidelity.

Use coupons---we do it all the time

Give one another spending allowances---the other posters are right----envelopes work well. Allowance money should be spent on the things extras that YOU want. It should not be used to buy something cute for the house, make-up etc... Those are day to day month to month living expenses.

Buy what you can afford, not what you think you can afford. Meaning, no 30 year mortgages, unless you plan on slamming double/triple payments into the house etc... Finance homes for no more than 15 years and cars for no more than 2 years.

Open IRA accounts for your future and invest wisely

I can't think of anything else :)

Good luck :)



answers from Phoenix on

we did this for three months and then were able to keep going with the program. we got our paychecks allin cash. we split up the money into different envelopes for each of the bills. whatever was left over wesplit in half. one for savings and the other split omong the bills that need no be paid off first like credit cards. we did without a lot of things like going out to eat. i bought a cookbook that had recipes from popluar restaurants and we both cooked on "date night" i started buying my clothes at thrift stores. you cone beleive the bargains. i got a wool suit with the tags still on just my size for 1.00. i started buying generic products and joined a coop so that we could buy bulk items and split them with other people. i cut cupons. i just asked my neighbors if i could read their papers and then i would recycle. we started a movie sharing thing with our firends so that we always had different movies to see. we took walks in the park instead of going out someplace. we went hiking. our summer vacation we invited all my siblings and their family to go camping for a week at a lake. (that is a nice vacation becaue water is scarce in southern az) The adults in each familyhad a potluck one saturday and each of us planned who was bringing what. i have 5 siblings so each of us brought enough food for everyone for one day. at that time we also coordinated who was bring what camping equipment and games. we had volleyball, my brother brought his boat and skiis and we split the gas. It was a lot of fun and allowed us to get closer to family. at night the kids put on a talent show for the adults. we had sing alongs and marshmellow. we had. over 30 people . we are doing much better now 10 yrs later. the Ex husband and wife have been paid off and we still do the same thing our savings has been moved to a better interest bearing venue and we feel as though no matter wht happens we will always have that to fall back on.

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