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Checkbook One Conclusions

January 17th, 2009 at 03:01 pm

I've been giving some thought as to why we suddenly didn't overspend Checkbook One in December. I have been concerned about this problem since I started blogging here in April, but feel like I have been chasing my tail trying to solve it.

I've come to the conclusion that it's just perseverance in trying to figure out where we went wrong each month and correct that. (Having bad weather for about two weeks which limited us leaving the house also helped. When you don't leave the house you don't spend money or use up your gas.) So, I suppose it's not really sudden at all.

Our top three problems with Checkbook One were the credit card, spending during the week between the time that Mr H got his check and the new month started, and not having a spending plan that works.

Credit card: Although we pay off our credit card every month, it's psychologically hard to write a check for one-quarter to one-third of the amount in your checkbook at the beginning of the month. Our credit card usage increased over the years as stores stopped taking checks. I got a debit card a while ago, and Mr H got one a couple of months ago. Where we regularly used to put gas and take-and-bake pizzas on the credit card we now put them on the debit card. "Pay as you go" is working better than "put off the paying until next month". Don't people spend 23% more when they use a credit card?

Spending during the week between the time that Mr H got his check and the new month started: Okay, that was me. . . and it wasn't THAT much. . . but enough to kill the budget. I wrote about this last spring. I called it "The Dead Zone". My brain kind of went on holiday during that week. What was I thinking? I wasn't thinking, and that was the problem.

Not having a spending plan that works: There are so many ways to write a budget. For this checkbook and us, having a limited number of categories and looking at the amount left in each category weekly, on Friday, seemed to do the trick. We have the following categories: Grocery/Personal Care/Cleaning, Gas, Church Contribution, Bowling, Master Card and Everything Else. (Regular bills like mortgage, insurance etc are paid out of another checkbook.) The Everything Else category scares me - the dollar amount is limited and it covers a huge number of other categories like clothing, gifts, office supplies, household items and yard and garden. But lumping these into "Everything Else" works better than trying to allocate a few dollars into each of the sub-categories. Or at least it did this month.

January is looking good so far.

3 Responses to “Checkbook One Conclusions”

  1. baselle Says:

    Isn't that the real reason why your DH's non-involvement is the issue. Wouldn't it have been nice to someone to back you up when you were inattentive to the budget? Oh well, it looks like you are picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and getting back into it for January.

  2. ralph Says:

    23% more when using a CC? Yup, I believe that's the number they cited in "Maxed Out", and I believe it easily. We just went out to dinner with friends and I made the decision to fork over those twenties instead of the usual "just put it on the CC", and it definitely helps. I am STILL picturing how much it hurt to hand those over, but in this case it was worth it since we see them maybe once a year and I LOVE the restaurant. We will work to cut down on the ones where we're out and it's near dinner time and we just stop and eat out since we have nothing prepared.

  3. Petunia Says:

    baselle - well, yeah, it would have been nice. . . and maybe a tad more, well, healthy. . . but all I can do is move forward.
    ralph - yes, we've had that haven't-planned-dinner-and-we're-hungry restaurant/take out experience. We're getting better and pulling mac n cheese out of the cupboards and hot dogs out of the freezer in those instances. And I do work a bit more at planning dinner. . . and having a good supply of mac n cheese.

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