I'm gradually retiring my previous budgeting system and gearing up for a new one that will hopefully be flexible for our new income situation yet still enable us to maintain control, so I wanted to share it with you.
I'm excited and hopeful but also nervous because we've done things the same way for several years. It worked when we had two fixed incomes and one variable, but it won't work for one fixed and two variable. And there are other unknowns in our future as well, so I'm hoping this flexible format will work even if our income situation fluctuates over the course of the year.
So for the past few years, we've used two main tools for day-to-day budgeting: the Number Crunch (which I also call Future Checkbook) and the Weekly Spending Tracker. And big picture budgeting is mainly handled in my Annual Budget spreadsheet. Number Crunch starts with our checking account balance, lists out all the upcoming expenses and incomes for the next couple months, and ends with a balance of zero. I update the checking account balance and delete things that have already happened, so it always only shows things that are in the future.
I would factor in the predictable income and expenses based on the Annual Budget, which broke things out by month as well as having a 12-month snapshot tab. Every month or so I'd paste another month's worth of projections so that the Number Crunch was always looking ahead at least a month.
For the variable income (AS's freelance business), I usually put some of it in savings, set some aside for tax and retirement, and dumped the rest into the Weekly Spending Tracker sheet. This sheet shows each individual's spending and available money (or deficit), plus there was an extra column for shared spending stuff that didn't fall easily into any budget category. Subscriptions, random drugstore purchases, family fun or date nights, etc. I would have the starting surplus (or deficit) at the top, add and subtract things throughout the week, and the bottom would show the ongoing surplus (or deficit). Every week I cleared it out, updated the top line and started over.
Well, with only one fixed income, we can no longer be as cavalier with our variable income, which is over half of what the household needs to bring in to make things work. So I adjusted each month's tab in the Annual Budget sheet. Now it lists fixed income, fixed/necessary expenses, and variable/nonessential expenses separately.
The fixed income (my income, the duplex rental) doesn't quite cover essentials, so I wanted to make sure that we covered those first with variable money before we started funding the less essential things. We met as a family and arranged the variables in order of importance, so if we can't fund every item, we'll at least start with funding the more important ones.
Boy this got very long-winded! Anyway, I'm slowly shifting over to the new system. When I pasted the January budget into my Number Crunch, I marked the things in red that aren't funded yet. Now, as we get more variable income, I can fund each item in order of priority.
OK, I realize I have no idea how to upload pics of my spreadsheets with the new system. Darn! Oh well.
Other changes to our budgeting: We didn't have fixed intentional amounts for certain things like Vacays/travel, Home improvement and Giving. And we were putting very little away for the kids' college. I did some calculators and $500 per month seems like a reasonable amount. I'm going to start one of those tax-advantaged college accounts, I forget what they're called, through Vanguard soon and put the money in there.
There are still some random expenses that won't fit under any of the categories I've set up, so we'll just deal with them as they come. AS and NT will have to be a lot more diligent about telling me when they make a purchase and letting me know how they think we should pay for it. I've just been funding random stuff through variable income but now our variable income will be put to such specific uses, there won't be much left over (if any) for randomness, so we need to be much more intentional about incidentals.