Budgeting Is Back In Business

I haven’t been keeping up on budget numbers since my wife and I moved out of our one bedroom apartment that ran us $890 a month in early August.  This has been gnawing away the life-blood of my financial soul (not really, but it sounds so dramatic) as month after month marched by and still no budgeting or expense tracking went on.  Early this month I bit the bullet and fuddled through my credit card and checking account history for August, September, and early October in order to catch up.  This was not fun, but did teach me a few things about my accounting system.

Some portions of my budget spreadsheets are so complex I didn’t want to take the time to relearn what I was doing in them after 2 months of inactivity. Being away from looking at my budget daily gave me fresh eyes, and my eyes were stunned with how hard I make my spreadsheets to understand. My use of colors can at times be kind of ugly and bewildering. I can throw too much information onto a single screen without organizing it into a helpful system. One sheet in particular made me cringe with the thought of figuring out what I was trying to accomplish let alone how I was trying to accomplish it. It was just total yuk.

Yet despite all that, I actually do some things really right in my budget spreadsheet. I might even use the word “elegant” to describe with what spreadsheet grace I effortlessly calculate sums and display my monthly summary. I really like how I make use of tabs to break up different information and provide me with different glances at my spending, earning, and savings. The one area that I could probably improve further is how I manage my savings information – but I think it is still pretty cool what I do there.

Another key thing I learned is that budgeting is best done regularly. Being lazy does not pay off here and just makes for a lot more work and a lot more headache down the road. It is really much easier and much simpler to keep up with the day to day expenses of my family on a day to day or weekly basis. Having to wade through a mountain of receipts was tedious and no fun. Don’t pull a Steward and make sure you are up to date on your budget.

I have already started to implement some of what I learned into a new budgeting spreadsheet set to go live for 2009.  Well, implement might not be the right word – steal is probably better.  I have stolen the ideas that I think work best from my current budgeting spreadsheet system and simply placed them in my new spreadsheet system.  I haven’t done any of the hard work of rethinking how I do certain things, but I plan on doing that before January 2009.  Who knows, I might even pick up the budgeting basics series I tried to start a few months ago with that one post Budgeting Basics: An Expense Tracker That Works.

No matter what happens, I’m just glad that budgeting is back.