Seeking Budget Management Advice

Updated on August 06, 2010
E.M. asks from Framingham, MA
16 answers

I will be taking over managing our household finances, and am not a number person! I want to do a good job, but am not really sure what is the best way to go about this task. Is it worth it for me to learn Quicken? Just use paper and pencil? Are there any tools out there I should be aware of (either to use or to avoid?). I feel at a loss about how to start and how to track our monthly income and expenses, any input will be appreciated!

(I stay at home with the kids (4 and 14 mnths) and hubby works full time).
Thanks in advance!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Chicago on

I use Quicken but you might want to look at It may be the cheapest solution for you. Hubby is in IT and he trusts the site.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

YAY for Dave Ramsey! He's our favorite.

I just re-did our whole budget. In Excel. Every dollar of income and outgo is recorded, so we can see down to the dollar how much we have left and where every dollar went. Then we tweak and make adjustments....a few less dollars at the grocery store to cover an unexpected purchase....we are always in control and never spend more than we make.

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answers from Portland on

Dave Ramsey has a great program that is easy to use and follow, keeping you debt free and able to save for the future. Its basically the old "envelope system" but he also helps you plan for the future as well. Don't bother with Quicken and other programs like that...too confusing and only really tracks your money, doesn't teach you to budget. Dave has a radio show and an online site to help you through. GREAT STUFF. Financial Freedom!!

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answers from Washington DC on

I have my own excel sheet that I use and live and die by for our fiances. I don't mind sending you a blank copy of it if you'd like to see it. Message me your email and I'll forward it on if you'd like it :o).



answers from Chicago on

We just got Quicken. I am not a computer person but so far Quicken is awesome & truly easy, I recommend it. Quicken is much more than balancing it has a pie chart & shows you were you are spending every penny. Another great feature is you put in how much you want to spend in a particular area e.g. groceries & it will show you when you are getting near that monthly allowance. This way you will learn were you need to cut back & helps you with showing you how much you truly should be saving each month/paycheck. Also by using Quicken your husband will never have to question you or put you on the spot asking questions he can simply pull it up & review it & it will all be spelled out for him.

I second the Dave Ramsey class or the book. I cannot stress enough how amazing the class is. If you cannot go to a class either read the book or take an online class so you and your husband can do it together.

Hope this helps



answers from Buffalo on

ok, this is how I did it.
1st figure out all your necessary excpences (gas for car, food, utilities credit card payments, $50 buffer excpence.
See how much you make each month. I pay the same bills on each week of the month Eg. My Hubby getts paid each month and I get paid biweekly The 1st week of the month I pay Phone, Truck, and electric, Second I pay ... I know this is complicated, but if you make $400 each week pay what you can out of that. I do not use any software I just know what I need each month to pay all my expenses and go from there.



answers from Phoenix on

Take a dave ramsey course. You will learn it all. Do a goole search and see where the closest classes are to you.



answers from Boston on

I don't know if my answer posted but here goes...
We have everything online and have linked it to It will track all expenses going out on the house. We have it linked to mortgage, student loans, car loans, all bills, savings and retirement. We have it set for budgets on groceries, restaurants, and entertainment, if you exceed them it will send you and a-mail alert. You can also use it budget for vacation savings, college savings, or home improvement anything really. Check it out online, I find it very useful.


answers from Hartford on

It really depends upon your needs and your goals. If you use just one credit card, no loans other than a mortgage, get only recurring monthly utility bills, and you do not personal manage your retirement or other savings plans - then, a pencil, paper, and some organization bins are fine. If you want to track expenses, then you could easily use excel. If you need bill reminders, need to know your cash flow at all times, and want to start various types of savings plans - then you should consider something more robust (like or quicken). I just don't think you need to jump into something that you may not need.



answers from Dallas on

I've not used it, but have heard others rave about



answers from Los Angeles on

Pencil or paper or computer program? The most important thing is to keep track of how much you are spending and what you are spending it on. You'll be suprized on how much you spend on going out to lunch or dinner and how much money is spent on fountain drinks at the gas station or work.

Most people that eat lunch out at work and buy water or sodas from machines at work spend as much or more than the money it would take to buy two 7 day cruises with spending money for the vacation. Writing everything down is the only way to find the holes in your budget. I started brown bagging and didn't buy sodas or water from vending machines and have paid for a cruise from the savings for the last 4 years.

When you think about it, it all boils down on where you would rather spend your money. Good luck to you and yours.



answers from Boston on

<< Is it worth it for me to learn Quicken? >>

Quicken is very user friendly. Not much of a learning curve. It's a really great program, so yes, I think it would be worth learning to use it.



answers from Atlanta on

I use Excel -- make a column for each week or each paycheck (I get payed bi-monthly, my husband weekly), and then each row is a bill with typical due date. I know what to pay when, what's in and out each week, and can make year-end sheets to see what each expense is costing to whittle/budget.

I budget for groceries, gas, food out/fun$, savings, based on what I've spent over the last 3 months in bank record. I've recently gone "cash only" -- I take out for the month total and anything left over goes back into savings.

You could also check out to see if your bank is supported there -- like Quicken but online, for other budgeting.

Great time to get started and good luck:)



answers from Providence on

I manage our income also. I arranged for my husbands pay check to get directly deposited into our checking account then I set up automatic bill payments on line to be sent out the day after his check got deposited. So by day 3 what ever is left over is money I can put away or use for other household items. This has worked really well for us for about 4 years now, since I stopped working to be a SAHM. I have never had problems with the online thing. This way saved me time and money I always got late fees b/c I was late mailing out the bills b/c I ran out of stamps or they got lost on the counter. This way everything is done and I don't have to do anything anymore. I was even able to set enough money aside to buy a new house and take the kids to Disney. Good luck let me know if I can help with anything.



answers from Detroit on

Dave ramsey all the way!



answers from Bakersfield on

Hi Mama-
I suggest a crown financial book/cd. You can take the course. Whether or not you have a home church of a faith you want to tithe too is optional. The advice is good and the tools work. It also helps you see exactly how much money you do have and how much you are spending.
Quicken is really good, too, once you have your budget set. You can set it up to sync with your bank account online and keep track for you. My mom is a fan of both. I use good old paper and pencil because I do not have the internet at home, and it works for me. I have my budget set to pay my bills based on pay days. I am not a numbers person either, but this allows me to know exaclty how much is due when, and how much will be left for other expenses. Since going on this plan based off of the Crown Financial Course and some help from Quicken, I have never had a late bill, I have never not paid a bill, and I have always known how much money is left in my account without fail. My hubby wanted to be in the bills loop, so he tried it..apparently he was even less interested than I was and after 2 months handed it back to me and just asked me to keep him in the loop verbally. My mother paid all the bills, my husbands mother always paid the bills, and now I pay the bills.
Just open your account and see if there are any pending transactions. The available balace minus those is what you have to start with.
Next, write down in order what bills are due and when. My bills are split into two sets- those due between the 25th and the 10th, and those due between the 11th and 24th. Then the first set is paid and the 16th (my pay day) of the month prior, and the 2nd set is paid on the first of the month prior to their due dates. Everything is usually 15 days early. The deal here is that if you have to due to a really tight month, you can move ONE bill to the next paycheck and it won't be late. The other thing is that when you first get things in order, you might have to really tighten up your budget for a couple of weeks just to balance out the spending. If you make enough to not worry about it, then just get things in order.
1. Write down bills and due dates.
2. With your list of bills, create a budget in quicken or crown financial.
3. With your budget set and your bills in order, select pay dates based on due dates and organize your grocery shopping, etc. Make sure you have at least 5-10 business days to get each bill paid, even if paying them online (which saves a load of paper and stamps!)
4.Track your payments. In your book with your bills (you can do a separate tab for each bill and an overall budget worksheet in the front), write down your confirmation number and date paid...or if paying by mail, write down teh check number and date mailed along with the amount.

It seems daunting at first, and you may want a few hours of alone time to do this...maybe a sister or grandma can babysit while you sit down and organize?...but eventually, this will take you no time at all. My 2 hours of bill paying is down to about 20 minutes. I pull out the book on pay days, check the bank account to make sure my direct deposit went through, and then pay the bills on the list for that day. I never thought it would be so quick, but it really is. Plus it forces you to see your spending regularly and you become more aware of what you are purchasing, how much money you are spending, and the ideas on how to save, etc., start blossoming.
Okay, enough of my chatter!
Good luck mama! You are going to so an amazing job with your finances! Plus, it's great for your kids to see you managing it while they are young. It gives them a financial responsibilty foundation, visually.
-E. M

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