Poll: How Do You Budget?

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— BEN POPKEN

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  1. Just how precise is an eagle shooting scapels out his nipples?

  2. Ben Popken says:

    Very.

  3. acambras says:

    Wow — and all this time, I never knew birds had nipples.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but do eagles even have nipples? I don’t think they nurse…

  5. humphrmi says:

    Sometime I should send Ben my (sanitized) budget system. I track cash, investments, loans, and other assets in Quicken. Then, I keep a budget in spreadsheets. A real budget. A double-entry accounting budget. Each pay period, income gets shredded out to each expense and equity account. Then bills are paid out of those accounts (and of course equity, hopefully, accrues). I started doing this 25 years ago after taking one accounting class. Yah, I’m sick.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    I keep a credits and debits (double entry) spreadsheet to track my accounts, outstanding checks, and calculate future spending. I may upgrade to Quicken as the amount of accounts I’m tracking has increased and I know I’m not getting everything right, even with my banks’ handy CSV downloads.

  7. jeblis says:

    I use M$ Money to track all my balances. I worked out the total for each category in a spreadsheet and then setup the little thermometers in Money.

    Mainly though I only need to foucus on the discretionary spending (partying, dining out, groceries, household stuff) to know how I’m doing.

  8. Ben Popken says:

    Also, I selected, “Auto-billpay, Auto-10% savings deduction, cushion in the checking account and forget about it” (though right now I’m saving 40%) because after all your bills and future spending are covered, I believe money should be enjoyed, not fretted over.

  9. I just check all my accounts each day. I track which bills have been paid and sent, and monitor my banking activity in a spreadsheet.

  10. I actually “post-budget” (I picked review weekly) … I enter all my receipts and bills and income into a tracking program (I use AceMoney) and it categories them for me. I can see my monthly expenditures vs. income at any time (so I know if I need to tighten the belt at the end of the month) and I can compare spending by categories over time (weekly, monthly, yearly) and see where the money is going. Plus, pretty graphs.

    I tried budgeting in advance but I sucked at that. I was always like, “oh, I can sneak $3 from somewhere in the budget …” Post-budgeting works much better for me because I’m like, “crap, I have GOT to stop spending all my money at the hardware store!”

    I also never get frustrated that I “busted” my budget … it’s just an ongoing tracking of spending that helps me make adjustments.

  11. Mr. Gunn says:

    I tried to use MS Money once but I found that the budgeting part of Money is pretty shite. It often doesn’t report spending properly, for example, reporting that you spent double your budget one month and none the next for monthly recurring expenses.

    I found a simpler method that still keeps the money going where it needs to.
    I now just split my paycheck so that just enough to cover billed expenses(a fairly constant amount) + a fixed amount for gas/groceries/discretionary goes into checking and the rest goes into savings. I put all my spending and bill payments on my cashback card and simply make sure the balance never goes over the amount in the checking account, which is used to pay down the card balance monthly. I also make sure that I never go over 50% utilization on the card, so my credit score stays constant. If I have a large out-of-pocket expense coming up, I can underspend on the card so that the balance in checking builds up. I try to always underspend a little so that there’s money available for car repairs and vet visits and other unplanned stuff.

    The advantages of doing it like this are that it’s a simple scheme, money goes into savings first in a set amount so you know how much you’ll have saved by when, and if something unforeseen does come up, you always have a reserve on the card that you can draw upon. For those occasions when you have to write a paper check or use cash, the money is already in the checking account.
    The disadvantage is that you have to keep a running total of card + cash/check purchases and pace yourself so that you don’t run out before the end of the month. If you write checks or use cash a lot, it could become a hassle keeping up with it all. I might write 1 check and make 1 ATM visit per month, so it’s not a big deal for me.

  12. acambras says:

    Whatever system anyone uses, simplicity is very helpful.

    Simplicity — that’s my buzzword for 2007.

  13. OnoSideboard says:

    I budget by always getting a receipt at the ATM (so I know how much is in my account). Seriously. My dad, an accountant, is convinced I was switched at birth.

    In my defense, I’m still living off law school loans and eating ramen three times a day, so it’s not like I’m squandering my 401K.

  14. Keter says:

    Try using ABIX organizer for quick-sketch budgeting and bill payment/autopay reminders. I just started using it and I can see where it’s gonna take a lot of the pain and uncertainty out of money management.

    Mind you, this is just good for a simple, top-level kind of budgeting, but that’s all most of us in the disappearing middle class need since we don’t have the $ for sophisticated investing.

    PS: It’s on special right now (1/4 only) for $15 (half price) through bits du jour and a dogpile search for abix will take you directly to the Loginor website. You can demo for free for 30 days before buying.

  15. “I’m still living off law school loans and eating ramen three times a day”

    Yeah, and all this “save 10% of your salary” definitely falls into the category of “WHATEVER, JERK!” until you pay those loans down under six figures — or at least the commercial, variable-rate ones!

    We have a six-month expenses emergency cushion, but everything beyond that goes right to the 8% loans.

  16. Coronagold says:

    I make fun emotional sport of living dangerously close to the poverty line.

    Archie Bunker – “You know your phone ad ‘Reach out and touch someone’? Yeah well my brother-in-law just reached out and touched me for 600 bucks.”

  17. FriarJohn says:

    Like many I use a spreadsheet of my own devising. I’ve tried to use other budgeting spreadsheets (I think one was called Pear Budget?) but they either have too much or too little detail. After a dozen-plus years of living paycheck to paycheck and trying to figure out which bill was gonna get paid each payday, I’ve actually got a nice nest-egg in a money-market and I’m funding my 401k to 8% for the full company match. It’s a huge relief.

  18. rich815 says:

    “With the precision of an eagle shooting scapels out his nipples”

    ROFL!!!

  19. synergy says:

    Hmm. What are “scapels” again? *smirk*