SWM’s Tuesday Tidbits & Tips-Sticking to a Budget on a Shoestring

Ahhhhhh, the dreaded word: b u d g e t.  I’ve been waiting to share with you the things I’ve learned about managing money over the past several years.  I’ve been waiting, knowing it’s not a ‘fun’ topic.  But, to pull from yesterday’s post, Glorious Horse Stink (no, it’s not about what you think) I figured the segue was perfect…and you never know…you might enjoy the challenge!

I’ve lived on an extremely tight budget for the past five years-since Maycee’s dad and I divorced.  I fought it for about the first, ohhhhh, let’s be honest….three years.  But, then I got serious-well, I actually got tired of complaining, so then I got serious about figuring out what I could do to get a handle on living more frugally.  Here’s how I tackle finances today:

I use a simple Excel spreadsheet. Yep.  That’s it.  Not Quicken, not Quickbooks, not some sophisticated software (I don’t live sophisticatedly enough-I’m one step above storing money in a coffee can.)  If Excel even sounds scary, then buying a notebook and using old-fashioned pen, paper, and a calculator is just as useful.  It’s a matter of keeping track of how much I earn, writing it down, how much I spend for bills, and writing it down.  I subtract what goes out from what comes in, and as long as I have a positive balance at the end…I’m in good shape…at least in theory (wink).

When I sat down and did this about two years ago, I quickly saw that I was living beyond my means.  Yah, I was, even though I wasn’t splurging on buying clothes, eating out, getting my nails done, or paying for massages.  It was little bits here and there that added up: Starbucks once in awhile, a discounted T-shirt at Walmart, Taco Bell instead of Taco’s by Kasey.  And a couple of bigger items I immediately knocked out: cable TV and my cell phone plan.  I also broke down the annual bills that come such as DMV renewal, property taxes, and insurance premiums into monthly amounts so I could set aside enough money to cover these expenses when they arrive instead of shouting, “YIKES!  HOW AM I GOING TO PAY FOR THIS?!” 

On paper I was able to manipulate everything to make more sense and to see where I needed to cut back to stop overspending. I had to be honest, and I had to be willing to let go of the “extras” until I was in better shape.

Along with getting serious about a budget, I stopped making excuses and blaming others for my financial strife.  With a chunk of debt I incurred from moving and having to start over from the ground up I kept current on the minimum payments, kept my credit in tact, and ultimately found a personal loan I qualified for at a much lower interest rate with set payments and a fixed amount of years to pay the debt down.  Sure, I checked with debt consolidators and debt settlement counselors (hearing grand stories of people walking away from their debt unscathed), but each one said in order to have these types of services I would have to default on payments and trash my credit score.  Not an option.  I took responsibility for my problem, owned it, and now I’m paying it back with a light at the end of the tunnel, and I feel better inside.

I don’t look forward to budgeting, but I do it regardless, every pay period (twice a month).  I now know the insides and outsides of what I can afford and where my weaknesses thrive.   I see the potential for “uh-oh’s” and keep a healthy fear of falling behind. I don’t charge items to credit cards unless I absolutely have to (which there are times this is the case), but then I work at getting it paid off quickly.  I use every possible discount option I can find including Dollar Stores, coupons, and programs offered by the county to help with energy saving on electrical and gas for lower income earners.  It’s give and take, work and re-work, but for this SWM, it’s necessary!

If you’d like a template of my spreadsheet, or if you have any questions, put a request in the comments section, and I’ll email you personally. Do you have any budgeting tips to share?  Let’s here ’em, and have a terrific Tuesday!


Author: singleworkingmomswm

I love to write, and I love raising my daughter. The two combined have prompted me to create a blog about being a single working mom. Life's a trip, and I tend to take the windy roads.

15 thoughts on “SWM’s Tuesday Tidbits & Tips-Sticking to a Budget on a Shoestring”

  1. Oh, man! I remember when I started budgeting. I didn’t actually mean to, but it occurred to me that my monthly list of bills didn’t represent all my monthly expenditures. I toyed with estimating expenditures on other things, too. It was extremely frustrating for about a year, but I also delighted in knowing exactly how much I had to spend. Paying attention like that helped me pay off $15kish in credit card debt (over several years), leaving me “only” close to six figures of ed debt to pay off now. Woo-hoo? (Seriously, it does feel great!)

    I, like you, use only an Excel spreadsheet. It has all I need. 🙂

    1. Wow, that’s terrific, Deb. Paying off debt does feel good. It takes time, though, and it’s important to feel a sense of accomplishment as we move along by paying off the smaller ones first. I get frustrated at times with having to budget so tediously, but then I remember to be grateful I’m employed (happily) and remember that having a budget in the first place means I’m doin’ alright! 😉

      1. It feels so much the sweeter when I remember believing I’d never, ever be able to pay it off. I was so depressed when I finally saw the sweep of my debt that I truly had no hope of seeing it gone. But persevering as you are led me to a point where it wasn’t such a struggle. That was before I had Li’l D, so I know it’s not the same, but I hope the days are coming where you don’t have to budget quite so tightly.

  2. My husband and I are totally cracking on our budget this week, too. New expenses looming and we were just discussing our need to re-work our spreadsheet! Great that you’re getting your stuff on line, too!

  3. A few months before moving (out and in) I setup an excel spreadsheet showing anticipated monthly expenses so I wouldn’t start out over-budget and heading toward big debt. I’m moved and living within my means! As soon as I pay off some initial (manageable) start-up furniture debt, I will get myself a bedroom set…in the meantime, I’ll make do. We do what we have to, when we have to. Tough subject but a good one to tackle! Thanks, Kasey!

  4. Way to go, Karen! Getting past the instant gratification factor that most of us (I’m including myself here) are so used to is a huge part of smart budgeting. I’ve been living with an oven that doesn’t heat past 350 degrees, an electical issue that causes my washing machine to stop and start numerous times on any given moment and the lights to flicker in the bathroom, and a ton of cosmetic issues that drive me crazy. But, not crazy enough to make me spend money I don’t have. 10 years ago my mindset was completely different.

  5. I agree, even a simple piece of paper will work. It is amazing how many people don’t budget every month. I am finally at a place where I have zero debt again (it was a long hard road!) but of course, we still have to be careful with every penny when you have two kids to care for it goes fast.

    1. That is terrific, Darla! Yes, it is hard with children…that’s where I get into trouble with cutting it close each month. Just one more, “Ah, Mom, can’t we go to Burrito Loco for dinner” and I’m doomed! 🙂

  6. Oh man, this is hitting really close to home. I will soon be at the point of starting over from scratch and haven’t paid a mortgage payment in six months. Luckily, I have saved a ton of money by doing so but it is really scary to think of having to pay rent again and managing a budget! Yikes! I might need to work on the spreadsheet…thanks for the suggestion, Kasey!

  7. Years ago, I used Quicken faithfully and that helped us pay down debt and buy our house. In the last several years, I let go of that habit and boy, does it show in the budget! I purchased the newest version but haven’t loaded it yet. Thanks for the kick in the pants…I needed this!

  8. We use the Excel method, too. We are also snowballing our debt, and have paid off most of our old student loans, some old credit accounts, and some not so old credit accounts, too. By paying these off, we’ve been able to set a bit aside for fun stuff.

    Though, to be honest, I do have a bit of a Target ‘issue’. Go in for mustard and come out 200.00 poorer. Yikes!

    1. Ah, Chrissy, I COMPLETELY relate to the Target issue…I don’t do Target anymore because of it…so…it’s transcended to Walmart now, but again, I do my best to stay away unless I feel incredibly willpowerful! 🙂

Now I'd love to hear from you...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s