It sounds like most of you spend money using a credit card or debit card. That is what we do because using the electronic records make it really easy to check how our spending aligns with our budgeting. Remember, budgeting is taking control of your money:

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
–John C. Maxwell

Budgeting and tracking is not a win-lose practice. It is simply a practice or a progression. It helps us see how we use money and what the consequences, bad or good, are from using money in that way. Once we see the consequences more clearly, it shapes the way we handle our habits, behaviors, and our money. This week we’re going to introduce a couple of tools that help us track our money so we can easily see what we’re doing and make thoughtful changes when necessary.

Mint is a free tool from Intuit that I have been using for years. It connects to all of our accounts and imports the transactions and tries to assign them to the correct budget categories. It lets us build a budget with all the categories we’ve listed out and connects visually to show us where we are on our budget.

Another option is EveryDollar which is supposed to be a little easier to use. It’s free as well. The upgrade, EveryDollar Plus allows you to import your banking transactions directly from the bank. EveryDollar Plus costs $99.00 per year. Every Dollar without the bank connectivity is great because it will force you to enter and think about everywhere you spend money, every transaction. It will take some discipline to keep all of your receipts and take a few moments to enter your transactions. This might also be a helpful deterrent to spending unnecessary cash on frivolous or unneeded things. Also, by manually entering all of your transactions you will intimately take ownership of your spending. We weren’t so good at keeping our receipts and didn’t want the added cost for EveryDollar Plus so we’ve been sticking with Mint.

If you are one of those wise people who likes to spend real paper and metal cash, like my wise wife used to be, there is an even simpler solution. I call it the folder system. You start with one of those coupon organizers. You can just google “coupon organizer” and many options will be found. You could also try the dollar store, Walmart or something. That is the folder. Now, to make the system, take your budget and put each item type on the tabs of the organizer: charity, rent, utilities, groceries, cell phone…and on down the list. Then fill each tab with the correct amount of cash. If you’re just starting out, this may be harder to set up because you don’t have much extra cash lying around, so you might just have to fill each one half way or with a bit of organization according to when in the month the expenses take place. This method takes a bit more time to set up but is more foolproof. There is no accidentally over spending if the cash isn’t there you can’t spend it.

If something comes up, that blows a budget item, you need to decide where else in the budget it comes from because you have given every dollar an assignment for the month. If you’re single, when I say you, I mean you and your accountability partner. If your married, your you is ALWAYS plural and includes your spouse. Taking someone along with you on your journey to financial freedom increases your chances for success.

Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17 NASB

Remember that finances are a major contributor to marital strife. That type of marital strife is actually a symptom of a deeper issue in the relationship: communications. Whatever the case in your relationship, Love conquers all.

Love never fails
1 Cornthians 13:8 NASB

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