The KISS Budget: Budgeting made simple

This week, I’m going to be talking in greater detail about my approach to budgeting.  It’s loosely based off the Dave Ramsey method, but a little bit simpler (hence the KISS budget).

Have you ever wanted to have a budget, but didn’t know where to start? Have you ever wanted to know where your money is going? Have you ever gotten to the end of the month and wondered where the heck all your money went? Have you ever felt incredibly overwhelmed by big, long books about budgeting? This week of posts is for you!

I know how you feel because this was me, until about six months ago, when B. deployed. Before that, budgeting was his “chore” and I just let him do his thing. But I took over budgeting once he deployed and have been responsible for keeping our spending on track.  The budget method I’m going to share with you this week is one that I have managed to keep going while a) working full-time and b) parenting a toddler full-time, so you know that it takes very little time or effort on my part.

Today and tomorrow are all about the pre-work that goes into “developing” a budget.  Wednesday and Thursday are all about the day-to-day budgeting experience.  Sound like fun? Let’s go!

Conducting a Spending Audit

Still here? Excellent.  I know this sounds big and scary and a lot like getting audited by the IRS, but I promise it’s much better than that.  Conduct a spending audit is really just a fancy way of saying “figure out how much money you’re currently spending.”  To do this, you’ll need bank statements (either online or paper) for the last 3-12 months and probably a calculator, pen and paper. Or some slightly better than basic Excel skills.  Your choice 🙂

The goal of the spending audit is to take everything you’ve spent over the last three to twelve months and figure out how much you’re spending on different budget categories. This doesn’t have to be complicated!! If this is your first time conducting a spending audit, I recommend the following categories:

  • Rent/Mortgage:  Your housing costs, not including utilities
  • Utilities: Water, sewer, garbage, electricity, recycling, gas, internet and cable (including subscription services like Netflix or Hulu)
  • Childcare costs
  • Groceries: Excludes eating out- only food you buy in the grocery store.  You can choose to include cleaning products and personal care products in this category or not.
  • Transportation: Gas and car maintenance- do not include any car payments here
  • Cleaning/household products: toilet paper, dog food, toilet cleaner, paper towels, sponges, etc.
  • Insurance: Home, auto, life, etc.
  • Personal care: clothing, haircuts, waxing, make-up, pedicures, etc.
  • Restaurants: eating out, including convenience food
  • Non-restaurant entertainment: movies, shows, anywhere you take kids that costs money
  • Doctor/Vet: All medical care for you and your family, including pets.  This includes any prescription medications
  • Miscellaneous: Things you aren’t sure of that don’t easily fit in any other category
  • Debt: Credit cards, car payments, student loans, etc.  Includes all money owed to others except your mortgage.

That’s it.  I wouldn’t try and refine these categories any more at this point- the point of the spending audit is to get a first-pass look at where you spend your money.  If you find your miscellaneous category is getting big, don’t worry. We’re going to sort that out together tomorrow, because that says something about where most of your money is going.

Step One: Assign expenditures to spending categories

The first step of the spending audit is to assign each expenditure to a spending category. There is not right or wrong way to do this.  I personally have an affinity for markers and paper, so I started out by printing out all my monthly bank statements (sorry trees!) and physically wrote in the category of each expenditure.  You can do whatever works for you.  This doesn’t have to be perfect. You can see my expenditure assignment exercise below:

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See? Not pretty! It doesn’t have to look nice to be effective.

Step Two: Add up your categories by month

Most people get paid on a cycle that makes monthly budgeting make sense. This may not be you- adjust as needed.  But we budget on a monthly basis, so that’s what I’m going to detail here.  Go through for each month (I recommend going back at least three months, but a full twelve will give you a good picture of seasonality) and add up how much you spent on each of the above categories.  Again, this doesn’t have to be fancy, as you can see from my scribbles below.

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Sorry for the truly terrible lighting!

That’s it! We’re going to do something with all these numbers tomorrow, but for now, you’ve completed the first phase of the KISS budget.  You now have a fairly accurate picture of how much you spend on what for each month.  Congratulations and stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment!

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October Budget

Here’s our budget for October- a few extra things, but this looks pretty good!

Yucky Yucky Debt

  • $139,302 – I’m going to just celebrate the fact that we’re under $140k. Celebrate the wins, celebrate the wins…
  • Planned payments: $1215
  • Planned over-payment: at least $2800

This should be easily attainable. It’s a four-Friday month and we have very few extra expenses planned this month. I’m hoping to have more than $2800 left at the end of the month.

Necessities

  • Rent: $1300
  • Utilities: $280
  • Phone: $51
  • Groceries: $500- I know it’s only a four Friday month, but a Sam’s Club trip is in order, so I’m not sure we’ll make it with only $400.
  • Gas: $300- I may or may not be going on a trip later this month, so I’m making sure to budget a little extra for gas in case that pans out.  Plus, gas prices have gone up a bit so gas has been costing a bit more. Or maybe I’m driving more. Not sure.
  • Daycare: $996
  • B. Cash: $500- We’ll see if this covers it- as his return date approaches(!!!), he may need slightly more to start shipping some of his stuff home. We’ll see.

Other Items

  • Netflix: $11- So affordable.  So wonderful.
  • Restaurants: $100
  • Pet care: $500- The dog is badly in need of having his teeth cleaned (turns out that being bitten every time is a good way to avoid brushing teeth. Don’t do this- it costs so much more later, I didn’t even realize. Plus, he’s more at risk of infection now until they get cleaned up).  The vet doesn’t know exactly how much it’ll cost (see above: biting- so far, she hasn’t been able to accurately assess what needs done) so I’m hoping that $500 is the high side of things.
  •  Clothing: $75- We’re mostly set for winter (I think) so we shouldn’t need much this month for clothing. I think I need some new tights for cold weather (as mine conveniently waited until winter was over last year to develop holes), but otherwise, spending here should be minimal.
  • Sports and entertainment: $75- Gymnastics plus miscellaneous.
  • Miscellaneous: $200
  • Hair care/Cosmetics: $50
  • Fun money: $100
  • Doctor: $50
  • Maid: $200
  • Lawn service: $150- Why oh why is the grass still growing?? A very rainy and hot September has led to a lot of grass growth.  JUST QUIT. Summer is over. Stop growing.
  • F. Birthday present: $50- F’s birthday is coming up and I want to get her something for her birthday. I’m not sure whether I’m going to get her an actual present or instead use that money for a birthday day of adventures with her. Just mommy and F. 🙂  I asked her if she wanted a party or to just spend the day with mommy and she picked spending the day with me 🙂 So that’s what we’re doing for her birthday.
  • Tree/Bush Trimming: $250- We are the (un)proud renters of a house that has a TON of bushes, all of which need to be trimmed back each year (This, right here is what I hate bushes. Too much work. I hate yard work).  I’m not totally confident in my ability to handle the electric trimmer, plus time is at more of a premium right now, so we’re hiring someone to do this.
  • WOW subscription: $78 (yearly subscription)
  • Charity: $50- The Food Bank of Iowa sent me a thing in the mail asking for donations, so I’m donating. Direct mail works, people.

You may notice that I don’t have anything budgeted here for Halloween.  We generally forgo any Halloween “events,” largely because B., F. and I all hate crowds of people.  And Halloween events are always crowded.  We usually just go trick or treat around our neighborhood on Halloween- it’s a great way to meet your neighbors! Our candy purchases get folded into the grocery budget (eggs or candy? decisions, decisions…) and a costume for F. usually gets folded into the clothing budget.  Last year, she went as a Care Bear (wearing the delightful Goodwill-purchased Care Bear costume below) and this year decided she wanted to be a Care Bear again.  Done and done.

Fiona Care Bear
The cutest little care bear ever.

Total Planned Expenses

  • $5941
  • Percent of total income: 59% – Higher than I would like, but c’est la vie. Pets are expensive. So are bushes.

Monthly Budget Roundup- September

It’s the beginning of a new month, so time to go through the budget I posted at the beginning of the month and see how I did.  For this post, you’ll get to see the amount I budgeted in black and the final amount I spent in red or green (depending on whether it’s over or under budget).

Yucky yucky debt

  • Planned: $1215 plus at least $2800 at the end of the month
  • Spent: $1215 plus $3500 at the end of the month
  • Total: $4715 ($715 over our $4000 target- YAY!)

Necessities

  • Rent: $1300                                      $1300
  • Utilities: $280                                  $271
  • Phone: $51                                       $42
  • Groceries: $500                               $493
  • Gas: $200                                          $149
  • Daycare: $1245                               $1241
  • B. Cash: $500                                   $532

Other Items

  • Netflix: $11                                     $11
  • Restaurants: $100                         $96
  • Pet care: $20                                  $42
  • Clothing: $150                               $81
  • Sports & Entertainment: $100   $93
  • Miscellaneous: $200                    $193
  • Hair Care/Cosmetics: $100         $59
  • Her money: $100                         $72
  • Doctor: $50                                    $0
  • Maid: $200                                    $198
  • Lawn Service: $75                       $74
  • Thank you gift: $75                     $50
  • Soccer: $90                                   $90

Look at that, guys! After a rash of bad budget months, I think I might actually be under our planned spending for September!! This month has been great- I only ended up over on two categories.  The first is vet- the dog did need a prescription refill, but said prescription refill was more expensive because his dose needed adjusting.

Second is B., who had a few unexpected expenses this month (like a new laptop keyboard) that upped his spending.  I won’t give him too much grief though- he regularly stays within the $500 we budget. 🙂

And, as predicted, now that I remembered to budget money toward medical expenses, none occurred.  F. was sick, but Tricare pays for everything 100% while B. is deployed so we didn’t end up incurring any expenses.

Here’s hoping October continues the trend of good spending!

Final Spending Tally (excluding debt) 

  • Planned: $5157
  • Actual: $5087
  • Percent of total income: 50%

(For those of you following along with the math, that means that we put roughly 47% of our income toward student loans this month. UGH but yay?)

Tune in tomorrow for October’s budget.  How did your month go?

Monthly Budget Roundup- August

It’s the last day of the month, so time to go through the budget I posted at the beginning of the month and see how I did! For this post, you’ll get to see the amount I budgeted in black and the final amount I spent in red or green (depending on whether it’s over or under budget).

Yucky yucky debt

  • Planned: $1300 + $2000 at the end of the month
  • Actual: $1242 + $3000

This makes me happy because, as you’ll see below, August has been a no good, very bad budget month.  I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to make my $4000/month goal and was feeling pretty down on myself, given the state of our budget this month.  But you know what? It’s a new month. September is a new opportunity to try again (and for anyone starting out, please know that even after six years, we still have bad budgeting months over here!)

  • Rent: $1300                     $1300
  • Utilities: $260                  $265
  • Cell Phone: $50               $40
  • Groceries: $600               $559
  • Gas: $200                          $95
  • Car insurance: $350       $310
  • Daycare: $980                  $983
  • Vet: $300                           $283
  • B.: $500                             $498

Other Expenses

  • Maid: $250                       $269
  • Lawn Care: $150             $111
  • Clothing: $100                 $86
  • Gymnastics: $48              $48
  • Restaurants: $100           $65
  • Netflix: $11                       $11
  • Hair/Cosmetics: $50        $70
  • Fun money: $100             $72
  • Miscellaneous: $200        $223
  • Charity: $65                       $64
  • Vacation: $300                   $217
  • Mattress: $0                       $298
  • Plane ticket:  $0                 $200
  • Ring repair: $0                   $164
  • B. Travel Card: $0             $424
  • Doctor: $0                           $75

 

Sigh. This has been a bad month.  For those of you that don’t want to do the math, not only was I over in five of my planned budget categories, I also spent $1161 that were never in my budget to begin with. Oof. So- what’s been going on that caused this??

First, a few things that were outside of my control. In my early morning daze, I accidentally dropped about half of F’s pills down the sink, so I ended up having to replace those at full cost (only $13, but still…).  Also, she got sick and needed meds/Tylenol/Pedialite, all of which are not cheap.  And finally, we got a bill for labs that were done back in APRIL (thank you very much for that super prompt bill…) that was due before the end of the month. Though these things were outside my control, budgeting for them is not, so next month I will budget doctor money even though I don’t anticipate spending it. Lesson learned.

Second, due to continued incompetence in the military (SO SHOCKING…), B’s government travel card, which he uses to book required travel while deployed, was in danger of being suspended because whoever was responsible for paying it wasn’t doing so. Due to, I’m told, “technical errors.” So we ended up paying it because we’ve worked hard for a good credit score and don’t want it ruined because of someone else’s incompetence. We’ll eventually get this money back, but for right now, I’m real pissed about it. This isn’t the first time that bureaucratic incompetence by the military has cost us money.

Third, the plane ticket (which was really just a $200 change fee).  I had bought a ticket last month to go see my sister after Chicago, but due to a series of random events, my sister actually ended up being at my house instead of her house, so going to visit her when she wasn’t there would have been sort of worthless. So I paid $200 to change my flight to come home instead.

The other unplanned expenditures were my choice.  I needed to get my wedding/engagement rings re-sized and I did not realize how much that was going to cost. I thought I could fold the cost into my miscellaneous budget, but it ended up costing about as much as my entire miscellaneous budget.  Also, F. finally asked for a big girl bed, but I draw the line at used mattresses. We went to a local furniture store, but it was so expensive (nearly $1000), I just couldn’t do it. But! I found a great mattress online at Sam’s Club, and it was delivered to our door in less than a week.  I was planning on saving this expense until September, but it just so happens that my sister and brother-in-law are down here this week. I ordered the mattress early so I could take advantage of the free help to get it set up. And she’s so happy in it!!

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F. in her big girl bed. She looks so small! And so grown up…*sniff* Also, take note of the lovely Goodwill bedding 😉

Anyway. That’s my month. Hopefully next month will be a little less full of budget surprises.

Final Spending Tally

  • Planned spending: $5914
  • Actual spending: $6730

Sigh. Oh well. August was definitely kind of a bust, budgetwise.

Tune back in tomorrow to see what September’s budget looks like!

Money Mondays: Why We Don’t Do Dave Ramsey “Correctly”

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Are you gazelle focused? Source: Pixabay

The other day, Dave Ramsey’s team posted the following article about living like you’re on baby step one forever.  The idea is that once debt is paid off and your emergency fund is fully funded, there’s no reason to keep living with “gazelle intensity.”

Dave’s definition of gazelle intensity is, at times, quite rigid. You’ll know you’re “gazelle intense” when you’re:

  • Living on beans and rice
  • Driving a busted up, beaten down car because it still runs
  • Selling everything you can do without to raise capital
  • Forgoing all luxuries, up to and including new clothes, dinners out, meat and internet

This article really got me thinking about the way B. and I approach budgeting- I don’t think Dave would ever look at our budget and agree that we are “gazelle intense.” Because the truth is, we aren’t.  I look at our budget each month and I see a lot of opportunities to cut costs. For example, we could:

  • Replace meat-based meals with bean-based meals
  • Eat more junk (no kidding- it is way cheaper in the short run to eat pre-processed food than it is to eat healthy food, including fresh fruits and veggies)- $200 (ish)
  • Get rid of the house cleaner -$200
  • Get rid of the lawn service- $150
  • Get rid of our restaurant budget- $100
  • Dump our individual spending money -$200

See? Right there, off the top of my head, I came up with $850 a month that we could cut from our budget, which averages out to about $10,000 per year. Now, let’s do a little bit of math.

At our current spending, we’re hoping to pay roughly $40,000 on student loans this year. It’s an ambitious goal, to be sure, but I think we can do it. With roughly $150,000 in loans, paying $40,000/year means we’ll be debt-free in just under four years- 45 months, to be exact.  Paying $50,000/year means we’ll be debt free in three years- 36 months. That’s a nine month difference.  Less than a year.

Honestly? That extra nine months just isn’t worth the lifestyle change to us at this point.  I want to be out of debt more than I’ve wanted anything in my whole life, but not enough to give up living my life for the next three years. No matter what our budget picture looks like, the reality is that we’re in this for the long haul. If cutting our budget to the bone for six months would allow us to pay off all our debt, I think we could do it.  I could sustain that lifestyle for six months.  But 36 months? It’s really really hard to make the decision to live that way when you don’t need to live that way to survive. I just don’t have it in me.

I approach budgeting the same way I approach dieting- with an eye to what is sustainable long-term. Back when I first started trying to seriously lose weight after giving birth, I decided to cut my calorie intake down to 1400(ish) calories a day (which all the calorie calculators said was appropriate). I. Was. Starving. Two days in, I was cramming every cookie I could find in my mouth. Next, I tried a really complicated program where you track your food macros each day (I have friends who swear by this diet). Again, one week in, I gave up because tracking my food every day and trying to adjust was so freaking complicated. Netiher of these approaches ended up being a sustainabel lifestlye change, which is what I really needed. I wasn’t going to be able to follow either for the rest of my life, but what I needed was a diet plan that was sustainable.

I take the same philosophy to budgeting. We could get “gazelle instense” but I’d be burnt out long before that intensity produced any signficant payoff for us. And just like dieting, I’m afraid that my burnt out response would be a disporortiante spending spree.

Instead, I try to take frugality and budgeting in moderation. Because realistically, paying off debt for three+ years is the equivalent of a lifestyle change, not a fad diet. Walking to Starbucks with a co-worker once a week or so makes me happy.  Going out to eat occasionally is a nice break. Eating good food is a long-term investment in my health. Our lifestyle right now is sustainable, and I’m confident that once we reach our goal, our lifestyle won’t change that much (B. may beg to differ- he’s more  of a “stuff” person than I am).  To me, that’s success. Is our system perfect? Not at all. Is there room for improvement? Always. But our system is sustainable for us and for now, that’s good enough for me.

So if Dave Ramsey is intimidating to you, and the prospect of living off beans and rice for the next three years is overwhelming, just know that it is possible to find a sustainable balance that includes room for a few luxuries as well as room for money toward debt. A sustainable budget should never be an all or nothing proposition.

A note on these posts. A lot of the themes of money Monday posts are going to touch on some variation of spending choice and money not equaling happiness. I just want to point out that money doesn’t bring more happiness after a certain point. Choosing which luxuries to indulge in only matters after a certain point. There are many many people who are unable to meet their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing and health care) and I think that while budgeting is arguably more important in that situation, the reality is that conversations about spending choices are pretty moot. B. and I have definitely had our leaner times (i.e. new baby and one income plus piles of student loan debt) and are incredibly grateful for the relatively privileged financial situation we’re in now. If you’re there and you’re struggling- I feel you. I really do.  

Monthly Budget Round-Up: July

It’s the last day of the month, so time to go through the budget I posted at the beginning of the month and see how I did! For this post, you’ll get to see the amount I budgeted in black and the final amount I spent in red or green (depending on whether it’s over or under budget).

Yucky Yucky Debt

  • Planned: $1400 + $2500 at the end of the month
  • Actual: $1293 + $5000 (!!)

Oh yeah. You read that right. $5000! I’m so freaking stoked. You’re probably all wondering, how did you get from $2500 to $5000? So, I sort of forgot that this was a three paycheck month for me (whoops!). Additionally, B.’s paycheck from the military has been sort of challenging to budget for, as it has been different every time. So I made my best guess, but my best guesses always tend toward the conservative side of things. I also underestimated with the original $2500, as I like to leave a little bit of a slush fund each month in case unexpected expenses occur (not Dave Ramsey approved…).

With that small victory dance out of the way, let’s see how I did this month:

Necessities

  • Rent: $1300                  $1300
  • Utilities: $260              $240
  • Cell Phone: $50           $47
  • Groceries: $500           $480
  • Gas: $200                      $166
  • Daycare: $980              $989
  • Maid: $206                    $174
  • Lawn care: $150          $148
  • Brian: $500                   $499

Other Expenses

  • Clothing: $200              $221
  • Gymnastics: $48           $48
  • Restaurants: $100        $87
  • Netflix: $10                    $11
  • Hair/Cosmetics: $100  $80
  • Fun money: $100         $70
  • Miscellaneous: $200    $138
  • Plane ticket: $0             $413
  • Doctor: $50                    $172

Hmmmm….I didn’t do too bad this month.  You can see, even after six years of budgeting, I still don’t remember everything that’s happening when I put together a budget. For example: doctor’s visit.  I knew that was happening (hell, it was on my calendar!) but I still forgot to properly budget for it. Also, our Netflix bill has never changed, but I apparently couldn’t be bothered to actually go look and see what the prior cost was. Finally,  I knew that daycare had some extra expenses due to a few events this month, but I also forgot about that when I was putting together my budget.

The plane ticket was unexpected, but I’m happy to have spent the money, as it will allow me to spend time with my sister, brother-in-law and their beyond sweet newborn baby.  I never ever feel guilty about money I use to spend quality time with my family! In this case, I had actually budgeted for a plane ticket, but not until August’s budget.  However, my nephew made his appearance a little early, hence the expense happening this month instead.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the way things turned out this month. A few things I forgot, one unexpected expense and (ahem) one category where ThredUp plus a glass or two of wine made an impact aren’t too bad. Goodness knows we’ve had much worse budgeting months than July. So, overall, I’m pretty pleased.

Final Spending Tally

  • Planned spending: $4704
  • Actual spending: $5283 

Not too bad, given that the difference between those two pretty much equals one plane ticket and one doctor’s visit that I didn’t plan for…

Tune back in tomorrow for an exclusive look at what August’s budget looks like! (Hint- not as good as this one!)

 

 

Our take on the Dave Ramsey Method

In this previous post, I went through the basics of the Dave Ramsey method for achieving financial independence.  In that post, I alluded to the fact that while we subscribe to the general plan, there are a few areas where we differ from Dave’s recommendations. I would say that we generally follow about 85% of what he lays out (which is, incidentally, my approach to almost anything- diet, exercise, sleep, etc.  As long as it is good/works 85% of the time, it doesn’t need adjusting).

The parts we do follow: 

  1. Save $1000 
  2. Not acquire any new bad debt– both our cars are paid off and we never use the credit card we have. Any further cars will be purchased with cash.
  3. The debt snowball– it’s REALLY motivating to pay off debt, so the structure of the debt snowball really works for us.  Also, at this point, the only debt we have is federal student loan debt, so the interest rates are all reasonably low.
  4. Budget meetings and zero-dollar budgeting– When B was stateside, we had budget meetings at a minimum of weekly. Usually one big meeting toward the end of the month and little weekly check-ins each week.  Also, at the end of each month, we zero-out our money for the month and put whatever excess we have left (from areas where we spent less than we budgeted) toward student loans.
  5. Dave’s philosophy: “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else”- We are very conscious of our spending and make decisions that are different from a lot of those around us, in order to gain the financial independence we want. We rarely go out to eat, my toddler and I get all our clothing from consignment or thrift stores (for some reason, good quality consignment men’s clothing is hard to find), our cars are 15 and 11 years old, we rarely eat red meat, our phones are refurbished, older models and all our furniture is the “Ikea/Craigslist” special.  We agree with Dave’s philosophy that being intentional with your money allows your money to work for you and those are items that we just aren’t interested in spending money on.

The parts we don’t follow: 

  1. The baby steps, in exact order–  When we started this journey, we knew that even if we were laser-focused on paying down debt, we’d be looking at a minimum of 4-5 years to pay off all the student loan debt. Paying down debt is important to us, but not so important that we’re willing to sacrifice all our family time trying to hustle and pay it down faster.  We’re content with a 5 year plan. BUT. That means that not planning for the future doesn’t make sense.  As such, we have a fully funded emergency account (baby step three) and we both fully contribute to our company 401k accounts up to the amount the company matches.  Since we’re going to be paying off debt for at least 5 years regardless of whether we do these things, it didn’t make sense to us to forfeit five years of essentially free money (in the 401k match) while we paid down debt.  It’s true that in five years we will be able to pay a lot more toward retirement, but for now, we’re at least not leaving money on the table.
  2. We have a credit card– Dave swears that it is possible to not have a credit card, but that hasn’t been our experience.  None of the car rental places around our metro area will accept a debit card (we’ve tried)! Also, right now, the international charge for using the credit card is lower than our debit card would be, so B has mostly been using the credit card instead.  However, we don’t use it for daily purchases, mostly because we aren’t fully in a financial place where we trust ourselves to use it responsibly. Hopefully we’ll be there one day, but for now, it mostly sits around. I use it for gas once every six months so they don’t cancel it!
  3.  We don’t pay cash for most things– We totally used cash for clothing, restaurants, car repairs and fun money in the beginning, but we’ve gotten to the point now where there aren’t any areas of our budget that we’re likely to overspend on. I think that years of paying with cash was very necessary for us, as it helped us think about how much we were spending and how much we had already spent. But the thing is- that ability didn’t go away when we stopped using cash. I update our budget daily, so I’m always very aware of how much money we’ve spent and what we have left. As the need to self-regulate by using cash has receded, so has our cash usage.
  4. We are not “gazelle-focused”– When you look at our budget, there are certainly areas where we could cut back.  We could move to no restaurant budget at all.  We could get rid of the maid and the lawn care.  We could decrease our grocery budget and buy more rice/beans, rather than meat. We could get rid of our fun money.  But realistically, we both know that we won’t be able to stick to a budget that restrictive (and are profoundly grateful that it isn’t a necessity at the moment- I am acutely aware of the privilege inherent in being able to choose to afford luxuries).  So we tried to put together a budget that allowed us to put a decent amount of money toward debt while still allowing us to live our lives for the next five years.

So there you have it. My philosophy toward life in general is that most situations aren’t all or nothing propositions and our approach to budgeting and finances is no different. We took a lot of Dave Ramsey’s principles, combined them with our knowledge of what would and wouldn’t work for our situation and personalities and managed to come up with something that works for us, and works well. Is it 100% Dave Ramsey? Not at all. But it’s helping us accomplish our goal of financial independence so I’m okay with not following the plan 100%.

Any other Dave Ramsey followers out there? What parts do you follow religiously? Where have you fudged the rules?