Monday, May 07, 2007

Saving, Budgeting, and Marriage...

Heather and I were interviewed by Sue Stock from the N&O, our local newspaper here in Raleigh NC, about how we manage money as a fairly young married couple. The article is here at the N&O including a picture of us with our daughter Anna under More Photos on the right. The experience was great, Sue was nice as well as the photographer, Chris Seward, who spent 45 minutes at our house ot get some various photos of us.

Most of the interview we talked about our system of budgeting, called the envelope system. We didn't develop this system but were taught it by people related to the Crown Financial Ministries organization. Our church, Crossroads Fellowship, teaches part of the Crown curriculum as well as information from other popular financial freedom ministries and personalities like Dave Ramsey. As part of enforcing our envelope system, which I will describe in more detail in a second, we use Crown's Money Matters software which they now call Money Map software. They also have an online budgeting software package called Mvelopes which also budgets with an envelope system.

The first key concept in our system comes down to the order in which you handle your money. When we first receive money, Heather divides it into the envelopes immediately. First, we give back to God a portion of the income He has blessed us with in our tithes. Next, we save a portion of our income in a variety of ways, general savings, emergency savings, college savings, college investments, new car savings, general investments, and other such categories. This keeps savings as a priority in our lives and moves the money away from where we are likely to spend it on a whim. Next, the money gets allocated to the various other account "envelopes" we have. This includes things like our utility bills which can be static or dynamic as well as our grocery and gasoline envelopes which we can use throughout the month. There are other envelopes that gather money to be spent later in the year, like travel envelopes, gift envelopes, or our personal envelopes which Heather and I can use personally at our own discretion.

When the month is over, some envelopes may still have a balance and others may not. Things like our grocery and electric bill envelope both often may have balances. However, whereas the grocery bill envelope probably doesn't need a month to month balance carryover, the electric bill does so that there is more money available in a hot summer. The leftover money in the grocery bill may be carried over to spend on a fancy meal the next month or be pushed into general savings for usage elsewhere as needed.

Overall, this system has worked nicely for us. But, a budget system alone doesn't help people stay on budget. It also requires discipline which is the personal struggle for me. Heather is very disciplined but I am not. So, one of the useful tricks which is available with the envelope system is to not make it virtual in the areas where you are having problems staying on budget. For example, if you cannot stay on track with eating out because it just goes on your credit card, we would suggest you move to cash in an envelope to pay for all of your eating out. Its easy to tell if you have enough money when you just have cash in an envelope.

Thats all for now...I may write some more later...