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My (almost) Daily Routine with Our Budgeting…

April 23, 2011

One of the reasons J did our budget for so many years (besides the fact that she is smarter than I am) is that I hated doing it. I’d have to sit down every week and fumble on the calculator and break pencil leads and wear down erasers. I’d search for carbon copies of checks and try to find our last credit card statement. There would be purchase receipts scattered about the living room floor. I hated it. And I messed up our budget just enough that I finally handed everything over to J and took over being in charge of the television remote. I like to share responsibilities…

Doing the budget is much different now. I thought that I’d share my “routine” in as much detail as possible so that readers would see how somewhat-painless this can be.

I “do the budget” about three times a week. Each session lasts about two minutes. Some weeks I don’t do anything with the budgets, banks, etc. So I bet I spend about 30 minutes of my month doing the budget. I don’t like to let too much time go between “budgeting sessions”. Here’s what happens:

1. I log into Mint.com, then hit the “update” button so that my transactions will refresh and be up to date.

2. While Mint is updating, I log into (in another tab) my bank (just in case I need to check exactly who a check was written to).

3. I then go back to Mint, and go straight to the “transactions” tab. This is where I make sure that each transaction that has been recorded in Mint has been properly assigned to the correct category. Since I’m doing this every couple of days, there are rarely more than three or four transactions to check. Periodically Mint gets a transaction wrong because I’ve altered the categories to fit my own person way of budgeting. Usually, most transactions are appropriately assigned.

4. Once I think every transaction is assigned appropriately, I go to the “budgets” tab. At the bottom, below all of the categories, there is a place that says, “Everything Else“. If there are transactions reported there, that means a transaction may not be assigned to one of my categories. For instance, I don’t have a category for “Fast Food”, but Mint does. So if I eat at Wendy’s, that will be assigned to “Fast Food”. If, while checking my transactions, I miss the Wendy’s transaction, it’ll show up down at the bottom under “Fast Food”. I’ll then quickly assign it to “Groceries”, which is where I want it. I don’t want any transaction down there under “Everything Else” because that means those transactions aren’t counting against my budget.

5. If I need to pay any bills online or take care of any of those types of things, I usually do it at this step. Most of our bills are on auto-pay, so I just check to see that every bill is being paid when I want it to be. Don’t want to miss a bill!

6. At this point, I go back to the “Overview” tab. Now I’m looking at little graphs and seeing how we’re doing in each category.

7. Finally, I gather my family around and make it abundantly clear that they should not spend any money on anything, regardless of the situation… 🙂

Now that I’ve gone through these steps a bunch of times, it really only takes me a few minutes. Many steps are just a few seconds long, especially if there are no transactions that have been assigned to the wrong category. I should add that I also like to add a little description to some of the transactions. If we are paying a bill for a medical item, I like to add that to the transaction notes. If something is for a birthday or Christmas, I like to be able to see that, so I edit those things.

Maybe there is a better way to do it, but “doing the budget” is soooo less stressful for me than it used to be. I kind of like doing it. And it really doesn’t take much time at all…

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