April 1st always marks the start of a new budget year for us. Every year, it’s the same thing: we make little tweaks here and there. It turns out we spend more on groceries than we thought (my little C is a hungry girl!) and less on diapers (woohoo for potty training!). All in all, though, very little changes.
But every year in the last couple weeks of March, it feels like we’re starting all over again. Every year, we wipe our Budget app, take a look at the last three months of transactions, and set up the budget. Because every year we start out really good using our budget app and then slowly forget about it as the year goes on. Since our expenses never exceed our income, there aren’t any repercussions for ignoring the budget.
It turns out it’s easier to follow a budget when you don’t have money than when you do.
There was a time less than 5 years ago when both Scott and I were unemployed. It wasn’t a long time period, and because my parents had instilled budgeting wisdom on me at a young age, we were able to subsist off of the savings that I had previously put aside. But it meant when we set a budget for food, we had to stick to it. I can remember one month when the grocery budget ran out before the month did, and we had some rather interesting meals towards the end, using up whatever we had left in the pantry.
It’s a far cry from where we are now, where we’ll go to the grocery store because we don’t have the “right” cheese to top our burgers, and while we’re there, we pick up a couple treats, some flowers, and a few other things that could have waited until grocery day.
And we’ve got the flexibility to do that. But that doesn’t make the budget less important. And so we’re stepping up our game. We’ve set a night each week to review our finances to make sure our budget meets our needs. We’ve switched (back) to a budget app that doesn’t just automatically record our purchases and categorizes them for us, so we have to actually be mindful of what we’re spending ourselves. And we’re putting into action the plans we have set for ourselves — paying down some of our mortgage, getting appliances, and increasing our retirement savings.
We know that we’ll have a dip income coming up (my employer only pays a portion of my wages for part of my leave), we’ll have an increase in expenses as our daycare needs shift and change, and we know piano lessons, hockey equipment and summer camp aren’t cheap. It’ll be a lot easier to weather the financial bumps that may come down the road if we are used to being accountable for each dollar now.