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Practice Makes Permanent

For the last three months, I haven’t been keeping up with our budget every day like usual.  I got enamoured with this blog and started blowing off all the little, detail-oriented tasks I used to do like updating out budget every day or two.  In fact, I’ve simply been entering all of our numbers at the end of our monthly budgeting cycle and looking at the results.  So far, so good.

It seems that practice makes permanent.

We used to look at our food budget at least once a week so we’d know if we needed to cut back the following week.  Now it seems we have found our happy spot without needing to keep an eye on it all the time.  We have successfully stayed within our food budget three months in a row without having a “come to Jesus” moment halfway through.  I am so proud.

Even though large, unexpected expenses like vet bills, car problems, and dental work keep popping up, we are doing fine.  Our many excess accounts are taking the slack as expected and we’re still staying on track.  I’m hoping that a few unexciting months will help us build up more padding again, but all in all, we’re feeling pretty good about our situation.

I think this may be a permanent change to our budgeting habits.  I’ll still enter all the numbers once a month.  I’ll still make sure we’re not going hog wild in any specific area.  I’ll also make sure we keep hitting our savings goals without fail.  BUT, we seem to have reached the point that we no longer need constant monitoring in order to pull all of that off.  WOOT!

How are your budgeting situations working out?  Do you have a written budget?  If so, is it updated weekly, monthly, or annually?  If not, what works for you?

FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!).  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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Crappy Banks
Three Levels of Budgeting

15 thoughts on “Practice Makes Permanent

  1. I have a budget spreadsheet. It’s not exactly set in stone and I have several scenario tabs in it. Right now, we’re living with the “wife has no income” tab because I am in the unpaid portion of my maternity leave.

    I have a “husband has no income” tab, a “back to work with 2 in daycare tab”, and even a “retirement” tab to figure out how much minimum monthly income I would like to have to live very comfortably and happily in retirement.

  2. Sorry, hit submit too fast.

    Also want to mention that I go over it all with my husband, but I’m not sure how much sticks. He is usually pretty good because he rarely spends money at all. He rarely eats out from work because he tells me, “Your food is better than any of the restaurants in the area. It’s a no-brainer.” He tends to offer to buy things for other people without thinking, though, so that is something we are working on.

  3. Julie, I’m impressed. I make our budget and update our budget based on our scenario, but you already have 4 budgeted scenarios worked up? That’s pretty darn cool!

    Yeah, I go over our budget and actual money with hubby…I also don’t know what sticks. I think you have a good problem – hubby being too generous.

    My hubby is killing my food budget this month with fast food (I wrote this post a few weeks ago)…he’s promised to start eating at home more now that he’s home during the day (the good part of being a teacher has rolled around – summer break…it’s leaving him way too much time to go out for food, lol). I see a little discussion in our future about using fun money for the excess or eating more at home…

  4. I have an elastic budget, which is what I call a guideline! I just can’t seem to plan well enough. For instance, one of my kids will suddenly grow and I am spending a ton of money on clothes and shoes one month I did not expect. Our garage door opener died last month. It seems like some ‘exception’ comes up every month. I don’t stress about it. Everything financial for is somewhat of a ‘guideline’ because I am very focused on living life too. We are behind somewhat on our saving so far this year, but that is ok. The house payoff is still on schedule, which is most important to me. Regarding when we will retire, that is so variable based on the stock market that I can’t worry really ‘schedule’ it at this point anyway.

  5. I have a spending plan, with categories for all the types of things a buy. I use this to track my actual expenses each month, which are usually pretty level each month. I update the spreadsheet whenever I enter receipts into Quicken, which lately has been about every 7-10 days.

  6. Wow, Julie! That is very impressive! Wish I could be that organized!!

    We work based on a spending plan. We came up with that plan end last year by combining all the expenses for 2009. We have a “limit” on categories that we want to cut back (read too much eating out!). We do a once a month review, but don’t watch every dollar we spend. We do have a system in place to watch the category limit though. We didn’t plan it that way it just fell in place. We have 4 credit cards, 3 daily use one occasional. The first one gives 5% back on gas, groceries, drugstores and 3% back on office supplies (our most used). The second one gives 5% back on books, movies and restaurants. The third on gives 2% back on everything. The final (we use this rarely) gives 1 point for every mile traveled for tickets booked with it, along with travel insurance and lounge access.

    I can remember which one to use where, but my husband won’t handle more than 2. But he doesn’t spend much and doesn’t eat out. So he carries the card 1, 5% gas, grocery one and the 2% cash back one. I carry the 5% gas-grocery, 5% movies-restaurant for when we eat out and the 2% for everything else. We use the last card only for travel. So with each card balance we know what we have spent in each category(basic needs-gas, grocery, prescriptions, entertainment – movies, books, travel and misc).

    Sorry about the long mail. 3 cards might be too much for some, it works for us.

  7. We’re fortunate in that we are both pretty frugal. So I get away with just doing a check at the end of the month with my bank statments.

    I agree with your conclusion! After a period, your spending habit start to harden and become permanent! Unforseen expenses will happen (my dog put a hole in my carpet, etc), but if you’ve got a plan that accommodates for it, it’s routine too 🙂

  8. Jackie, I used to update the “Used” column of our budget at least every 3-4 days. Now I pretty much just check our spending on Discover 2-3 times a month and update our budget once or twice. I’ve gotten sidetracked and a little lazy, but we seem to be hitting all our goals.

  9. Suba, we have 3 cards too, but they don’t seem as good as yours. Let me guess though…the 5% cash back on books, movies, and restaurants is the Citi Forward card, right? The 2% on everything is probably either the Schwab, Fidelity, or Costco card.

    What is the 5% back on gas and groceries?! I totally want in on that one. 🙂

    We have the Discover Open Road card, but they lowered their 5% back on gas to 2% back on gas and groceries…annoying…

    Our main card is the Discover More and our secondary was Mastercard World but it will hopefully be the Citi Forward card by next week. If we get the Citi Forward card, I’ll be retiring the Discover Open Road and the Mastercard.

  10. I have at least 9 CCs.

    I have 5 that I usually use.

    2% on everything – orchardbank visa
    3% on gas immediately with some checks towards AAA membership- AAA Visa
    Costco Amex
    Citi AAdvantage Bronze (don’t really use but for the age for my credit)
    Chase Freedom Visa
    Gymboree Visa (automatic 5% off at the store every time)
    Capital One Visa (for the age of the account and for no-fee transactions overseas)

    I have to have little post it notes on them to remember which has what 5% cashback or what each is for. But it works for us. I take advantage of the extra bonus on some of them when you redeem cashback, too.

  11. Julie, I like your idea of post-it notes. If we get approved, the new Citi Forward card is way better than the Mastercard World Points we currently have, so goodbye Mastercard…but that will still leave us with a Discover More, Discover Open Road, and a Citi Forward Visa.

    The Citi Forward Visa has 5% back for restaurants, books, and movies. The Discover More card has 5% back for rotating categories (including resturants some months and gas some others). The Discover Open Road has 2% back for up to $250 a month of gas and dining.

    Post-it notes may help me and hubby keep up with when is the best time to use the two Discover cards…and it looks like I need an Orchardbank Visa instead of the Discover Open Road, lol.

    Thanks! After all this, I see a credit card post in my future…

  12. BFS, spon on 🙂 Yes the movies, books is a Citi Forward. 2% is schwab for everything + any international purchases (no foreign trans fee) – I LOVE this card btw. There is a 2% householdbank/orchadbank (now HSBC I think) visa too, but I am not using it as much, holding on to it as that was my first card, I got it with a whooping $400 credit limit, lol. The 5% gas grocery is a grandfathered Citi Amex Platinum my benefit will run out come december though 🙁 Those were the ones now getting used regularly. For travel we use the Citi premier pass elite card (no annual fee though) 1 point per mile and travel cancellation/interruption insurance. We don’t travel with just one airline all the time, so this is working out ok for us. Never had a Discover card for some reason. Have to look into that open road. I drive a LOT. After the amex platinum runs out, I am thinking of getting the PenFed visa which gives 5% on gas and 2% on groceries, as gas is a major expense for us. I have chase freedom, amazon visa, citi professional, hilton honors amex and few other store cards. Oh boy, I think I have to do a “credit card” cleaning! No wonder my husband thinks I am crazy, lol!

  13. You’re not crazy, you just let rewards maximization take over! From your list and Julie’s, I really need to find a better anytime card and gas card. Citi Forward and Discover More will probably be our main cards, and I think the PenFed Visa Platinum looks way better than the Discover Open Road card…5% on gas instead of 2%…cool. My husband is going to think I am flippin’ insane too…

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