One year ago, we started using a cash budget system for the first time. It’s been a year of so many lessons learned and so many tweaks and changes and even failures, but overall it’s been a year of success.
We’ve lived on the lowest income we ever have as a family, and we’ve done it well. Bills have gotten paid off, savings have been established, we enjoyed a wonderful vacation last Spring Break, Christmas was completely enjoyable and done within budget and my stress levels have been so much lower. There have been very few times we’ve had to skip on doing something we really want to because the money wasn’t there – and none of those have been important.
Can I just say, though, that the biggest impact has been mental. I used to lay awake night, worrying about finances. That does still happen once in a while, but it’s only if we’ve slipped from our budget significantly. I can’t figure out how or why any family would live without a working budget, and I don’t know why it took us 16 years to start one!
Our one big problem has been this month, August. Even though I saved all last year for new school year expenses, I didn’t take into account all of the other miscellaneous stuff that happens at the end of summer. It’s definitely an account I’ll be beefing up this year.
I love the accountability of a cash based budget. It’s so much easier to say no to impulse buys when you check the envelope and the money literally isn’t there. It’s helped to tame so much unnecessary spending and has shown me that it is possible to save on a low and irregular income. And for the first time ever, we’ve been able to tithe regularly and are even tithing above what we pledged last fall. God has truly been gracious to us!
We’re going to continue to have that irregular income this year, though it is a little bigger due to Tom being assigned to pastor a second church. It’s definitely nice to have that extra cushion, but I don’t want to become any less diligent with my planning.
I’ve been playing with the Mvelopes software for the past month, and am hoping to put it to use in September. While using cash for everything but the bills has been a huge help, it’s been a bit cumbersome – our nearest bank branch is about 20 minutes away. Combined with the up to six paychecks a month that we receive now, it’s hard to always have the cash we need on hand.
What sort of budget system do you prefer?
My earlier posts on budgeting: