Making A Family Budget

I love, love, love the podcast Matrimoney, run by a couple in Arizona with two small children, who get together to share their money goals and budgeting process with the world. I admire their transparency (their current budget is posted on the podcast website) and their relaxed, kind way of talking about money. Relaxed and kind are not words I would have used to describe money conversations in our own household– until recently.

Lyle and I started listening to Matrimoney together once a week as a way to kind of ease into a regular practice of checking in on our finances. In our house, I pay all the bills, do all the grocery shopping and meal-planning, keep our files in order, and maintain our budget.  It gets to be a little overwhelming for me, especially because we are a one-income household for the moment. I struggle with feelings of anxiety and guilt about how I’m managing our money. To his credit, Lyle trusts me completely to make sound decisions for our family, and his hands-off attitude generally makes it easy for me.

But as our family grows, the complexity of our monthly bills does, too. We have a mortgage and land lease to pay now, preschool tuition, a car payment, and allllll the insurance. Plus we have goals and dreams to save for– namely a down payment on a house closer to our parents, in a smaller town in California, with a decent amount of land to grow a big garden and let our kids run around wild. Our patch of earth.

So I felt like I needed him there with me in the trenches of budgeting.

After a few weeks of listening to Matrimoney and having some relaxed, kind conversations of our own about our dreams and challenges with money, we felt confident and inspired enough to make our own budget, from scratch. And it really didn’t take us that long.

I’ve tried lots of different budgeting systems in the past. You Need A Budget (YNAB). Mint. Learnvest. I mostly found them difficult to customize and frustrating to update and use. The free versions would never sync with our accounts, or I’d spend a precious hour categorizing a month’s worth of expenses only to have it all erased.

So we modeled our budget after Matrimoney’s, making a simple Excel spreadsheet that I printed and posted on our fridge. We also made a poster with Sky’s markers listing our top budgeting challenges and our top goals, and stuck that on a kitchen cabinet. It’s motivating to see those goals and number every day. I think that as we continue to develop the habit of working on this together, we’ll get more specific about our top goals, and hopefully translate them into dollar amounts we can work toward.

I moved all our online budgeting over to Finance Works, the free budgeting software that’s built into our community credit union’s online banking feature. It’s not fancy, which I appreciate, and all the categories are customizable, so I was able to match them to our Excel categories.

So far all of this is working well for us. We haven’t had an overdraw all summer, our personal spending has been reigned in, and we’ve been pretty consistently on or under budget for groceries, too. Those were our top three problems in May, so I’m really pleased to be making progress there. I’m also feeling a lot less stressed and alone in all the money stuff– and that’s probably the best part of all.

What about you? Do you have a family budget? How do you talk money in your house?

 

 

6 Comments

  1. We don’t have a proper budget and we really need one. We’ve also tried YNAB and Mint and found them cumbersome. You’re inspiring me to give budgeting another try though! And I want to listen to Matrimoney, too. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for reading, Stephanie! I’m finding that when I think about our budget as a learning tool, that we can tinker with and use to move us closer to our goals, it feels less scary/guilt-inducing. Matrimoney starts up a new season this fall. Let me know what you think of it!

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately! I like to think I have a good understanding of money and how to manage it, but in practice I have so far to go. Managing it with a partner and for a family is definitely going to be a hard battle. I’ll definitely be checking out the podcast. And thanks for sharing your story so candidly, it’s so helpful to see exactly what someone’s struggles and solutions are. Keeping your goals of property in California in my prayers – I know your family would thrive in that!

    1. Thanks for your prayers, Stacy. Knowing you, I think you’ll do a great job managing money for your family. It really is helping me to think of a budget as a living document, something that reflects needs and values and most of all our humanity– so, so imperfect. Always a work in progress. I’d love to hear what you learn as you go.

  3. YES! Budgeting is big at our house, but I don’t know many people who do it, so thank you for this post! We used Mint for years, but then it got too complicated, so we switched to Every Dollar. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for now. 🙂

    I hope you write more on this subject. And thanks for turning me on to Matrimoney, I’m already 4 episodes in!

    1. Yay for Matrimoney! It’s awesome. I will definitely be writing more on this subject. It’s a big part of family life right now as we get ready for baby two and plan for our lifelong dream of a home in California: small house, big garden. I’m glad to know you are here in the trenches of budgeting with me. I know you work so hard for your family and that inspires me. Hope we can work on this together. 🙂