23 January 2008

Staying on budget

There is something about January that always sends me a bit nutty. It's kind of a non-month for me. I can't quite organise myself, I'm forgetful and a bit crazy. January is a mad jumble of holidays, relaxation, cricket and the self reflection that comes at the beginning of the year, along with the excitement of new year's celebrations, Australia Day my sister's birthday and going back to school. Even though I have no children at school, when the school holidays are on, it changes the amount of traffic on the roads and the sounds I hear during the day. The last day of holidays I hear the neighbour kids making the most of the last day - there are bike jumps set up out front, crazy games being played and usually a cricket match; the next day, it's just Hanno and I with the sounds of the whip birds.

So it never surprises me to find that every January I have to reorganise my money and spend a period of time tracking what I spend. I've written about this before here, but just to recap, I generally withdraw an amount of money in cash that we use for petrol, food, doctor's bills, chook food etc. This money is put into plastic bags marked for their purpose and as I go through the month, I take cash from the bags as I need it. It really is a great way to organise our money and I always know how much we have for the various things we need to buy.

However, although this system works for us every other month of the year, in January I lose focus and usually have to borrow from one bag to pay for other things. Why am I doing this? Who knows. We usually have money - anything from $20 to $100 - left over at the end of every month, but not in January.

I need to steady this ship. I've put a small notebook in my bag and every time I spend money, I will record it. In a week or two, I'll see what I've been wasting money on and I'll be able to work out ways of stopping it. It won't be anything major, it will be little things like a sandwich when I haven't had time to pack lunch for work, or going over my postal budget - things like that.

You might think I have it together here, and generally I'm quite controlled about what I buy, but I'm not perfect and I do need to refocus occasionally and get back on track. I wonder if others have this same problem. Tell me what happens when you go over your budget. How do you recover from that before it becomes a disaster? There is no shame in this for any of us, we all do what we do. But we can help ourselves, and others, by discussing this subject honestly and sharing how we stay on track with our spending.
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