Dave just boarded an airplane to Washington and unfortunately (for me at least) he did so with my laptop in tow. Which means I have no idea where we stand budget-wise since I keep it all on that computer. I'm way behind in posting receipts as well, but I can assure you, WE ARE DEFINITELY IN OVER OUR HEADS. This may go down as our worst month ever!
Instead, today I want to talk about the most common question I seem to be getting lately: how to start a budget. The way I came up with mine was to simply go back through my bank statements for several months and carefully look at what we spent. The hardest part for me, frankly, were the Target expenses because I can spend $40 there or $340 there and if I don't have the receipts, I have no idea what I bought or what category it should go under. So if you don't have any receipts, here's the best way to start:
1) Immediately start saving every. single. receipt. PUT THEM IN AN ENVELOPE. Even the receipts for things you buy with cash are very important. If you keep the receipts, you will always know where your money went.
2) Using the receipts, begin itemizing your expenses. I usually do this BY HAND. Just a yellow tablet and a pen. I think you've seen my budgeting handiwork before, but it looks exactly like this:
It's probably easiest to start with the categories that I've been using, but if something doesn't fit (like dry cleaning or hair salon expenses, both of which I rarely spend any money on), make up a new one.
3) Once you've itemized a receipt, PUT IT IN A DIFFERENT ENVELOPE. It's a two envelope system - NEW and OLD. That way you'll never accidentally count something twice.
4) Once you get to the end of the month (or week if you're so inclined), total up your categories and try not to get too queasy about how much you spent.
5) Repeat steps one thru four for several months until you get an idea of your expenses.
It's pretty simple, really. But if you are a good budgeter and you do it differently, by all means SHARE YOUR METHOD. I'd love to hear about it!