What Techniques Do You Use for Finances?

Updated on March 16, 2008
C.H. asks from Sparta, MI
29 answers

My husband and I have been married for 8 1/2 years and when we were first married, we had zero debt. We bought our first house that turned out to be the money pit (cracked foundation.)We had to put $15,000 into it just to repair everything and then had to pay to get out of it at closing. We are also paying off student loans for 3 masters degrees which is a huge chunk of change. Before I was a mom, I was on the career path. Now I would sell my degrees back to just stay home with them.

Anyway, the point to this ramble is that we are living paycheck to paycheck. We are making it, but barely. After this tax return, we should be caught up and have more breathing room. My question is what do you do to keep on a budget, etc? Envelope systems, any advice would be helpful. Thanks in advance!

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R.B.

answers from Lansing on

C.,

We use Quicken software (Banking on line) for our finances and we love it! With Quicken you can plot your payments and income, use a spreadsheet for paying off debts and know when those debts will be paid off so you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you see your daily account balances.

I highly suggest it! If your bank doesn't integrate with Quicken then switch banks - it's worth it.

1 mom found this helpful
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S.R.

answers from Lansing on

Write a menu (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) every week before you go to the grocery store. Buy only those items you need for the recipes you've chosen for the week (add a bonus item or two for treats can make it easier to follow, at first). This pre-planning will save you countless time and money.

We've been doing this for 4 years and have been able to keep our grocery budget to around $60 per week for a our family of four (2 adults and 2 growing boys... 14 and 9).
We, also, avoid too much pre-packaged food (especially cold cereals, chicken nuggets, etc) it is high in price and low in quality! For snacks we stick with fruit, veggies and homemade granola bars.

In fact, we make just about everything from scratch and it doesn't take as much time as you'd think. The pre-planning really makes it work.

Plant a garden in whatever sunny spots you have in your yard. If you need to improve the soil in your garden take a drive to the country and find a horse farm willing to let you take a little horse pucky.

If you have really, really limited space plant the veggies you use the most. Plant herbs, too. Blanch and freeze, pickle or can whatever excess you garden produces... especially tomatoes.

If you have the freezer space but little time, slip the skins off the tomatoes crush them, pack them into zip-lock freezer bags and freeze them. They will then be ready to turn into pasta and pizza sauces, added to rices... you name it.

Also, buy your spices in bulk from the local health food store. You will get a higher quality herb and a lot more volume for your money.

For us, containing the grocery budget was the first step to re-evaluating our cash-flow. Start with one expense location at a time and keep trimming every chance you can.

Good Luck,

S.

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S.L.

answers from Grand Rapids on

Hi C.-

My Husband keeps our budget very tight on a spread sheet on our computer. I know it's hard but when you see every dollar and where it goes it keeps you in line when it comes to wanting extras. Each week when he gets paid he divids out how much goes in each section car, house, groceries, gas, electric, heat(we have propain so we have to save a large amount to prebuy and get a better price), gas, aflac, etc.. We just guess on the unknown bills like electric but if we have mone left we leave it in that column because next month may be higher. I hope this helps!

S.

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E.H.

answers from Grand Rapids on

We just started the baby steps from Dave Ramsey. His ideas are simple and they work. He has a website: www.daveramsey.com in case you are curious...

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A.G.

answers from Detroit on

Check out David Ramsey's Financial Peace University -- you can look it up online, and they offer classes on it at Kensington Community Church

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H.G.

answers from Grand Rapids on

Hello C.,

We are using the envelope (Dave Ramsey) system for a monthly budget...just taking out what we need for groceries, entertainment, hair, gas for cars, clothing..etc. You get real creative as to not go outside of the budget. You would be surprise how much less you spend on stuff when you are just using cash. We have been married almost 16 years. We have bought little homes..fixed them up and sold them to purchase the next house. About 5 years ago we built our own home and now are debt free. We do not have car payments, house payments..etc. We are mainly putting the rest of it away for kids college, weddings and retirement right now. If you are interested in finding out more on how to trim the excess off your budget...my husband is really great at helping people with their finances. For free!! I suggest the Dave Ramsey Class as well. It does cost $100 for the first time...after that you and your kids are in for FREE! We still have all the tapes and books (we taught it about 8 years ago). I would be happy to tell you in more detail what we do and how it works. I hope that this helps you.

H.

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M.O.

answers from Detroit on

The TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER With Dave Ramsey EXCELLENT EXCELLENT !!!! In a short period of time after reading this book the end of my slavery to debt is in my near future. Its a must read. He also does Financial Peace University which I highly reccomend it its and amazing opportunity and the great thing is you pay one price and you and your entire household have a lifetime membership.

M.
www.4parents.biz

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C.J.

answers from Lansing on

C.,

I have a few suggestions:

1. Check out www.flylady.net and her FACE control journal. This is her way of helping you FACE your finances one baby-step at a time. It makes a big job a lot easier to manage and helps to control the money arguments, if you have been having them with your husband.

2. We use the envelope method, but only for the weekly expenses. It was too complicated to manage for car repairs, home repairs, etc.

We looked at the money coming in, our set expenses: mortgage, heat, water/sewer & trash, electricity, and any loans we have (look to payoff early if possible). Then with the left-over money we looked at the items we really had to divert funds to: groceries, dog food, medical expenses (prescriptions, office visits), eating out budget, and allowances for each of us. Our allowances are very small, $10 a week, and covers the cost of new clothes, make-up, coffees if we want them, new toys, craft projects, new organizing things, etc.

We found that if we did not pay ourselves a small allowance each week, then we spent way more in incidentals than we had planned and our monthly budget was shot.

Also we budgeted things like savings (for emergencies), vacations (we are looking at small vacations this year so we can pay off a current loan), gifts (we have figured out how much we want to spend on our entire extended family and nuclear family for the entire year, including Christmas), college savings for our son, etc.

I try to only pay in cash for these funds. Gas for the cars, emergency car repairs, etc are paid on the credit cards, but usually I'm only paying a $100 bill for our two cards a month. Much better than the $1,000+ bills we had had last year.

Also, remember to keep the method flexible. If I needed groceries at the last minute at the end of the week and paid for them with my credit card, I make sure to deduct that amount from the next weeks groceries to cover the cost.

3. Make a dinner menu each week and stick to it. This will save you a lot of money (less wasted food) and you can use the leftovers for lunches the next day (less eating out). You will also find yourselves healthier (fewer medical expenses) and happier.

4. Prioritize your car, home, and other repairs. Then plan your budget and stick to it. I know it can be hard; I have walked out of Lowe's with more than I went in for, but by taking only the budgeted amount of money out of the bank before going to Lowe's has helped us to stay on track.

I hope these ideas help. Good luck!

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B.R.

answers from Kalamazoo on

my husband handles most of the finances, but this is what he does. We currently use MS Money to do our banking. We sat down and figured out how much we spent on groceries, gas, etc every two weeks. When he gets paid (bimonthly), he goes through and enters all of the bills, budgets out gas, groceries, preschool, etc. He does this so that we know exactly how much we need to have for each thing. When I spend money for groceries for example, I enter in my receipts and deduct the amount from the budget (same for gas etc). I then always know how much we have for each thing. Once the money runs out, that's it. No extra spending. We've also set up a savings acct through ING. It earns 3-5%, whereas a bank savings acct only earns 1-2%. The fact that it's not directly attached to our bank acct makes it easier to not spend it. We'd like to build a house someday, so we're doing what we can to make sure that it happens. I know that this was long, but Ihope that it helps.

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G.B.

answers from Detroit on

My husband would laugh if he knew I was responding to this because we have a hard time with our finances too. It's hard with so many expenses, student loans, housing disasters etc. One question I now ask myself is: Was it worth it for me to work when my kids were young? How much more did we spend so that I could work? I never felt like there was a choice! If I were home and making homemade meals and using the car less and not paying for day care and buying fewer clothes and lunches, would we have been better or worse off? I have a master's degree too and you feel like you have to use it and everyone likes to tell you that you must get out there & earn money. Now, in my 60's, I really regret the time I was away from my kids. If I could do it again, I'd take a hard stand on this even if we had to do without a lot of things. Maybe you can do some of your work on a private basis from home part-time or just focus on your kids, clip grocery coupons, make homemade soup etc. until the kids are all in school all day. Think about it! G. B.

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E.C.

answers from Lansing on

I do the finances in our house and I would advise getting a bill payer account at your bank. I add up all of my bills and then divide that number by the amt. of paychecks my husband and I get (he gets paid every week and I get paid every 2 weeks - so I divide our bills by 6). Then I put that $ right into a seperate acct. so it will be there for bills. The bill payer account automatically mails out all your bills to where they need to be (depending on the bank - sometimes you have to pay them online out of the bill payer acct.) Then the rest we use for gas, groceries and fun for the rest of the week.

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K.F.

answers from Saginaw on

The envelope systems has worked great for us. When the money is gone its gone. To not feel deprived we borrow movies from the library and check out all the free things to do around the area. We downgraded our sattelite to basic and took internet out of the house( we use it at work and the library) We also utilize a food pantry when things are tight. They can have great selections some have paper/bathroom products. We give when we have plenty but there are some seasons in life were we must humble ourselves to recieve.

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J.M.

answers from Lansing on

Run a budget as if you were living off of one paycheck. We have been doing this and have the house paid off, cars paid off and no credit card debt. Prioritize! Do you need cable, there's $600-700. Do you need to eat out or whhen you're on the go, can you pack a light lunch or snacks? Get your kids on a budget. I give them money for their school Valentine's, birthday gifts/parties etc. We eat what is on sale at the grocery that week and buy fresh v. processed to save money. Start paying off interest bearing bills every week or bi weekly by paycheck and watch the principal go away. You can pay on most loans more than once a month and save interest.

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J.B.

answers from Detroit on

If you go to crown.org, they are a financial planning ministry that helps you figure out all sorts of financial stuff. They have, under their tools (up at top) a whole bunch of calculators that help you figure out budgets, investments, etc. They offer Christian financial coaches who are trained (and I believe have to be debt free to be a coach, though I could be wrong about that) and various other services that are most helpful. I would highly recommend checking them out.

I'm pretty sure Crown either came up with a book or has a link for a book that talks about how important it is for people to be able to stay at home with their kids. They have this book or pamphlet (which I do have a copy o fit somewhere) that helps you figure out how to live on one income. Very useful too!

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S.P.

answers from Grand Rapids on

C.,
Are you a Savings Angel member? If not you will save HUGE. It is a website that has already began to change my live. I've only been budgeting their way for 2 weeks and already I have saved over $275 this month. Cut, copy and paste this link into your web browser or click it and you will be amazed! I am not joking. http://savingsangel.com/amember/go.php?r=6720&i=l1

I am also a mortgage broker. I can check your financial situation to see if you may qualify for a mortgage that fits your needs better. There are many new programs available.

Please email me at [email protected]____.com for more info on either topic. I will help you save money, I promise. You can see my profile on Mama Source for more ways to save$$$$$.

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S.H.

answers from Grand Rapids on

Two words: Dave Ramsey

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E.K.

answers from Kalamazoo on

My Credit Union has free online bill pay. I have found this much easier to budget. You plug in all your bills and when they are due, and if you need to know if you have money for soemthing, just go to pending payments, and you can see all the money that needs to go out. ( I am a very visual person, so thats why it helped me so much) Also, this way they send the checks out for you, so you dont have to worry about late fees. If you dont have money for a certain bill on the day it is due, you can just go in and change to payment date, so its not like automatic withdrawl.

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B.B.

answers from Grand Rapids on

We do the envelope system and it works quite well.
Not saying that an envelope would run short here and there but it usually catches up. At least when the house payment, insurances, taxes, tuition (Christian schools)- major issues - the money is there.

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L.D.

answers from Grand Rapids on

I too would also recomend Dave Ramsey. We took his course and it helped us a great deal. We own a construction business and paid once a month and don't know how much it will be!!! Very hard to budget for but Dave has a plan for that. On thing that also helped me is that the fixed costs like mortgage, gas, elec., loans, etc, I put on a automatic withdrawal. I have a separate account and when i get paid i put in the amount of everything that is going to get automatically paid. My biggest problem before Dave was late fees and overdraft fees. It was not even because i didn't have the money. Sometimes i just forgot when things were due. I was getting $200 per month in different fees so the automatic thing really helped me. Then i also do the envolope system for the few other things. We started the class last sept. did our first budget and figured out our total debt in october and i just figured out that in the last three months i have paid off $9000.00 worth of debt and not added any more debt and had no late fees or bounced check!!!! big imporvement in six months!

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S.W.

answers from Detroit on

My husband and I use an accounting software. It is the BEST! We use it to keep track of every penny - it really helps you to see where everything goes, so that way if you are looking to cut corners, you can see hwere your extra cash goes. We use Microsoft Money, but there are a few different ones out there. They are super user friendly. I highly recommend using a program.

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A.R.

answers from Detroit on

We have been married for 49 years, and when we got married, after about 6 months, when we knew what our expenses were going to be a month, we devided each one of those by 4 (# of weeks in a month) and that would be how much we would set aside each week to pay for that expense when it came due. (like if light bill was 50.00 for the month, we would set aside 12.00 each pay check ) we made out envelopes for each expense, such as food, gas, lights, telephone etc etc, and the money would go in to each envelope from each pay check,. if you are paid every two weeks, you devide your check in two, and do not touch the second pay until that week comes up. Always allow your self some of the money to go out to eat or a show at least twice a month, or else it seems like all work, and no play. also set aside so much to go into a bank account, and watch it grow, Just think, $5.00 a pay check into the bank at the end of a year would be $260.00 saved. In our 49 years, we have never had a bill come due that the money wasn't there waiting for it to come due, and I never worked from the time I had our first child, until our second child was in 6th grade. Believe me it will work. good luck.

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M.S.

answers from Detroit on

Hi C.,
I would recommend that you make a budget sheet. Looking at exactly how much you bring in and how much has to go out is very helpful. Know what you will need a month for utilities, insurances, food, gas, etc. will help you determine over-all cash flow. If you have credit card debt, or other purchase debts begin by using the spend down method. You list each one then you begin with paying off the lowest one. Once you have that one paid off you take that money and add to your next debt and pay until it is paid off. You will feel a sense of freedom and motivate you that there is hope. You have to start saving something for a cushion to have for those emergency times. when things break down, etc. Determine honestly what you can put away and don't take it out.
Suzie Orman has a book out that is for women. Oprah had it on her sight for free download. If you would like it, I can forward to you if you send me your email. It is very practical and simple.
Those are just a few ideas. God Bless your journey.

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N.K.

answers from Detroit on

I also have been married for 8 1\2 years and we have been through the same thing. Although my husband and I do not have student loans but were debt free when we got married. Since then my husband was wrongfully fired for a year from Chrysler and I was a waitress at the time(no children at that time) he did not get paid for nothing. Its a long story but clearly not his fault. Long story short, he got the same job back after taking Chrysler to court but its not what you think...he did not get back pay only backpay on an unemployment check so to speak. Since then his credit went downhill. Afterall you have to get credit cards to survive when there's no money coming in like their used to be. It's been hard so I understand how you feel. We used to go out to eat twice a week and now we don't. We will make it exciting to go out for our daughter but we split a meal or if we need anything we only buy on sale or clearence. CLIP COUPONS!!!!!!I can't stress that enough...I save sometimes 10-20.00 dollars at a time when I use them. Also we did debt counseling. It is different then debt consolidating. It's a great thing but you do have to pay their fee but they make it so much easier for you to get caught up and not be late again. That's what they do and that's what's important now a days. Trust me I know not having the greatest credit score. Look into that. Just check it out ,it can't hurt. I don't where you live but we went to American Debt Counseling on 10 and Vandyke. they have 20 years experience and have no bad reviews according to the Better Business Bureau. Well I know what you feel and I know I didn't offer alot but those things I did mention do help, even if they are the little things. Good Luck

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C.C.

answers from Detroit on

We like to listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio and we follow his budget system as well. He wrote "The Total Money Makeover". I even bought his envelope system with wallet. It's simple, laid out steps. www.daveramsey.com He actually doesn't take credit cards for his business, only check or debit cards.

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K.K.

answers from Saginaw on

My husband and I are in the same boat as well as many Americans. We have several credit cards w/ balances. I just recently did a finance seminar at work. The Total Money Makeover; the book is by Dave Ramsey. He teaches you how to budget, have an emergency fund and start working on paying your debt. We started the program back in December and we have not used any credit cards since then. We put money away in an emergency fund and have paid off 1 credit card. I have been on an unpaid maternity leave since January 17th; since we have a budget are using our ER fund to help bills until I got back to work on March 10th; again, we have not had to use CC's. I would highly recommend using the Dave Ramsey approach to getting out of debt. When I return to work, it should only take us 1 month to get our ER fund back and to pay off 1 more credit card!
Good Luck to you!
K. K

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S.R.

answers from Lansing on

My husband and I just started doing the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University that has a lot of things to do to become debt free. He has a book for this and also one called Total Money Makeover. Basically you have to start off getting $1000 saved up and put aside as an emergency fund. Then you can start paying off debt. Through out this we make a budget and use cash as much as possible. We use the envelop system and that really helps us to spend only a certain amount of money each week. We get paid weekly so we fill it up each week. Dave Ramsey has a website and like I said he has these books. Right now it is really helping us and we have a plan to get out of debt. One major thing we are going to do is sell our 2nd car and pay off our van with that. Of course taxes and this new tax rebate will help alot. Hope this info helps.

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K.C.

answers from Kalamazoo on

Check out the finance section on Oprah.com. There is so much info on how to get out of debt...it's a great resource!

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G.K.

answers from Detroit on

The best book the keep you on track is "Suze Orman's Women and Money." It gives you the basics on what you need to do to pay off debt and become debt free!

This past summer, she was in Livonia sponsoring her book. She was blunt and to the point when I asked her a question. She also has a show on Saturday nights at 9pm.

Good Luck!

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M.C.

answers from Grand Rapids on

I'm sorry to hear about your financial situation. :( I'm sure it must be really difficult since this really wasn't your fault - it's not like you guys just spent money frivolously and now you have debt.

When we started getting serious about our finances, I borrowed Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makeover" from the library. He has some wonderful advice! At the same time, my sister went through the Financial Peace course, so I was able to borrow her cds and listen to them. Following Dave Ramsey's steps has changed our financial picture. We started using only cash to pay for purchases which makes us more accountable. If I'm at the grocery store with $50, I'm very careful to only spend $50. We also started paying off our debt using Dave's debt snowball technique. It took a while to get it rolling, but now we have almost paid off our second car, and we paid off the first car and a credit card! I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace plan - it worked for us!

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