Sarah and I finished our first "budget cycle" and actually did fairly well... We budgeted for bills, set aside money for gas, food, eating out, etc and even left in some "play money". Due to the expense we had to incur to fix our brakes, we ended up a little behind, but since I'll be receiving some money from a client in a week or so, plus the fact that we actually BUDGETED for the expense, we're coming out much better off than we would have. Hooray!
Sarah and I both have a difficult time keeping up with expenses, paying bills, etc so now we've got a new system... I'll be the one doing most of the up-front budgeting (with input from her, of course), plus I'll be keeping up to date with bills, etc. The new part that we're adding in is the fact that I'll be meeting with Sarah weekly and BOTH of us will decide if we need to make modifications to the budget, borrow from other categories, etc. It just works so much better if we're both aware of what's happening. Surprises are never good. We've found a bunch of links, spreadsheets and calculators that can help us do the tracking and calculations, plus we're now using the old "Envelope System" for most of our regular expenses, like Gas, Groceries, Eating Out, etc. We ONLY use cash, and once the money's gone, the money's GONE. It actually worked out really well except for the gas category -- it's a lot harder for Sarah since she needs to go inside and pay with cash, which means taking E out of the car, etc etc.
We've also broken out the bills by the week they're due with a spreadsheet created to simulate the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University worksheets that do the same thing, so now we can see how much we'll have each pay period and be able to gauge accordingly. Very cool. Also very helpful for adjusting the budget numbers before settling on the totals -- saves a lot of erasing!
Another very cool thing that I found out -- almost 2 years ago, Sarah and I had ordered Microsoft Money online, but we lost it when our computer crashed. BUT -- because it was a digital download, plus I paid for the extended download service, we were able to figure out our old account user/password and download it again FOR FREE!!! Very cool... and also nice especially cause we're on this budgeting kick. I'm sure it will really help us out once it's time to do taxes in 2009 as well! It will automatically download our transactions from the bank and we'll have a permanent record of them, plus we can even use it to do my client billings! Can you say "ORGANIZED"???
More to come another time --
PS: if you want copies of the spreadsheets and other tools I've found, let me know. I may even post the links here when I get the chance.