For our monthly budget, we use our online banking system at Utah Power Credit Union. With the online system, we have the ability to create sub-accounts that you can transfer money easily between. So we created a sub-account for each category of spending that we do. Our categories are: Savings 1 (this is for our house or other big stuff we need to save for), Savings 2 (this is for fun stuff that costs a little more like vacations or bikes and stuff), Checking, Matt, Christy, Emily (we each get our own individual accounts that we can spend however we want), Food, Gas, Medical, Entertainment, Clothes, Car (for repairs & stuff), Gifts, Misc, & Mission (we wanted to start a mission savings). Our retirement and insurance and stuff is taken out before we get our checks, so we don’t count that in our monthly budget but we do have them take it out before we even see the check.
Since it’s all online, we both have access to it at anytime. We have figured out what our fixed expenses are that we absolutely have to pay every month (tithing, rent, utilities, etc.) and listed everything out on a Google Doc. At the start of each month, we calculate our income for the past month, subtract the fixed expenses and then divide the rest up into these sub-accounts forthe non-fixed expenses. Since we know approximately what our monthly income is, we can determine how much goes into each account every month. (Of course this changes whenever we have an income change.) If we happen to have more income than our estimated amount, we get to put it into whatever account we want!
When we purchase something we just transfer the money from the corresponding sub-account into the checking account. We pay all our bills from the checking account at the beginning of each month. When the sub-account for a certain category runs out, we can’t spend anymore for that category. We also use our credit card for everything and pay it off every month. This way at the end of each year we get quite the nice cash rebate.
It’s nice because it’s real-time and you can see exactly where you stand at any time. Of course you have to be diligent about getting online and transferring the money every time you make a purchase (or every few days or so), but it has worked well for us. They even have a mobile app that Matt uses to do his stuff on his phone. It’s also nice because we each get our own “allowance” each month that goes into our individual sub-account and we can spend this money on whatever we want. We can save for Christmas and birthdays all year in our Gifts account, we can save for medical expenses and car repairs, and we know we have some money each month for fun stuff in our Entertainment account.
Anyway, like I said, it took us awhile to come up with this solution to our budget, but we have been using this method for awhile now--both when we had a large income and when we had a very small income--and it has worked really well for us. And now...3.5 years after getting married, we've both gone to grad school, had a baby, took a couple vacations, paid off Matt's car (mine was already paid off), saved enough for a down payment on a house, and have ZERO debt. I'm pretty proud of that. :)
One more thing, we always pay our tithing and fast offerings first. And we have always had at least a little to put in each account every month. And we have always had enough in each account to pay for everything we need and a lot of what we want. And I know that is a huge blessing. For example, when Emily was born, we had pretty much exactly the amount we needed to pay all the hospital bills in our medical fund. Another example, we always have enough to have a weekly fun night even if it's just getting a Redbox and a $5 Little Ceasars pizza. Sometimes it's been tight, but I haven't really felt deprived.
We could probably do even better, but for now this is what is working for us. So there you have it.