This Budget Success Stories and How To Budget Better Super Page contains a growing list of Budgeting Ideas from readers like you!
If you want some encouragement about how a budget can revolutionize your personal finances, you’ve come to the right place. We love hearing stories of budgeting success – going from debt to equity, desperation to determination and seeing the joy of families who have learned to make their money do what they want it to do. Read these stories and be encouraged!
This page contains the following stories:
Budget Success, Young Adult Success, De-Clutter & De-Tax,
Planned Giving, Budgets Lift Burdens, Budget with Confidence,
A Child Running A household Budget, A Better Way to Control Spending,
Feeling Free and Light, Inspired to Frugality, A Newbie Budget Question,
Budgeting With A Credit Card
Just wanted to let you know I have really enjoyed all the articles you’ve written. I feel like I know you through your website and having seen you on TV a couple of times.
My husband is retired and disabled with Emphysema. I quit work before I could collect retirement so I could care for him. I will be able to collect retirement in another year. So, you see, we have really used much of your advice. It is such a load off our shoulders knowing how to live on less than we have coming in. Thank you!
We have done so many of the things you have suggested. The Budget Book is the only way to go! Yes, it’s extra work, but it sure helps to see what we have available to spend in each category — it’s all there in black and white.
I still have trouble with some of my wants and desires, but I am working on it. It does keep me in check, if I think I want something, to write it down and wait a month before making my final decision.
It also helped me to read Larry Burkett’s books too. I’m glad you suggested it. My whole attitude changes each time I remember that I need to seek God’s purpose for what is supplied to us. Can’t wait until you write your next book!! Carolyn & John H. – Kingman, AZ
Your book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money, was the very first money saving book I read when I was in college and $35k in debt. I then went through hundreds of other money saving books but yours has always been my favorite. I am 36, paid off my house and now have $65k saved towards a second house. I’m single and make $21 an hour. I just wanted to say thank you. You really helped me get my money life on track. Prepper Princess – Livermore, CA
When you donate to the Salvation Army or Goodwill they will give you a blank receipt. Before you leave the donation site, fill in the items, their condition and have the Collection Agent sign the receipt. Then file the receipt away with your tax info. The IRS has a standard deduction amount for many things and the better the condition the greater the deduction. This is great right before holidays, birthdays and between Christmas and New Year because it helps you de-clutter and make room for new things. Alana S. – Bellvue, WA
We have a manila folder that we save charity appeals in. At various time during the year and in December, we sort them out and decide which ones to support. We review how much money we’ve set aside and divide it up as we are able. Louise Hahn – Frederick, MD
Hi there, I just wanted to write and let you know I am living and managing on a family budget now!
I feel like a burden has been lifted and I know that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
Thank you for your help! I am so to see progress in our finances as a family! You are truly a blessing! Tara – Alaska
I can honestly say I feel motivated and confident in taking control of our finances after reading the book. This will be our first full month in using the new budget and stewardship/money tracker worksheets. When I was setting up the budget and figuring how much we spent on groceries and fuel each month I was in shock! My husband couldn’t believe it either.
I am confident that with your budget plan and your book guidance that we can do this. I feel like we have more control and know where our money goes each month. It’s so much easier for me to see where I’m spending too much and with the Stewardship worksheets, I can see how much I have left each week to spend in that category, instead of spending more and not having enough when it comes time to pay the bills. I’m praying for guidance and self-obedience to put this plan into action every day. I find myself being more aware of what our family is spending, just by writing everything down on these sheets instead of just plugging it into the checkbook.
So, thank you, Steve and Annette. I have shared this “new” budget success concept with my brother who is younger and in much need of financial guidance. Kelly, from Missouri
I know you wrote a great book on kids and money, but here’s our best tip:
We put our 15-year-old in charge of the family finances. Since we homeschool, he’ll get 1/2 a credit for it too. We began by taking him to a free six-week course on money sponsored by a local church. We talked about budgets, credit, tithing, and accountability. Then, we showed him our finance folder:
1) The “master” 2012 budget which lists each category and how much money is allotted each month to each category.
2) Monthly budget sheets to track each individual category
3) Monthly sheets which compare the average spent thus far during the year for each budget category, so we can easily see where we need to cut back or make other changes.
4) List of short, medium, and long-term goals.
5) A small book to record every expenditure every day.
Then, I cut him loose!
For six months, from June to December, he is the “budget guru”. He lists daily expenses according to their individual category, totals them at the end of the month, and makes suggestions for changes. Believe me, he is now fully aware that every penny must be accounted for now that he is actively tracking our money. Money choices are now absolutely REAL to him! It’s more effective than any finance curriculum that I could have bought!
COMMENTS About a Child Running a Household Budget
If this is true then it’s truly amazing for a young kid to run a household budget. Though I can say that it’s not far from the truth, as kids today are really intelligent or much more advanced technically on their age. – Katya W. – Abilene, TX
Hey, this is the age to play games not to learn budget planning. – Joe S. – Cleveland, OH
Editors’ Note: Joe, we agree that kids should have time to play . . . but that shouldn’t be the focus of their total existence. We believe that childhood is the launch pad for adulthood. We aren’t raising perpetual children . . . but we are raising Future Adults who need to be equipped to handle adult responsibilities. Currently, 60% of Parents are supporting their adult children. This is NOT a good thing. Let’s give our kids the opportunity to handle age-appropriate responsibilities.
The more control you have over your money, the more money you’ll have.
This is the best computer-based budgeting system out there. MVelopes.com uses the same system we describe in our book. It’s better than Quicken and MS Money, both of which only track your spending after the fact. Mvelopes helps you save money in advance of your purchases. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you know that the money is in the bank before you spend. You’ll have so much more confidence and peace, and you’ll probably spend much less too. Mvelopes claims that you’ll save at least 10% by utilizing their system.
We’ve been using a budget system like Mvelopes since 1982 and we’ve never had a car payment, paid off our first house in 9 years and paid cash for everything else. Budgeting isn’t a restriction — it creates financial freedom.
In the past Mvelopes charged for their basic budgeting software. Now it’s completely free. If you want to have more than 20 budget categories or want help managing debt they have services available for a fee. We’ve talked to different members of their staff and like their attitude and customer service. If you want budget success and don’t want to use a paper system, this could be the perfect thing. Steve – Scottsdale, AZ
Thank you to both of you, as you have quite literally changed my life with your advice and the America’s Cheapest Family Budget System. I know that seems to be an awfully big statement but here’s why. As of yesterday, I am completely Debt Free (apart from the mortgage which will now be overpaid till its gone). I have paid off nearly £30,000 in debt in the last few years. Since I am a single mum of two, who is working full-time, I didn’t have any knowledge of budgeting or saving until I found your book and had a “light bulb” moment.
I feel so light and free, my money is for our household (my girls and me), not some faceless company. Each month my girls sit with me and we do the budget. This is such a godsend as they can see where the money goes and just because I earn X amount it does not mean i can afford whatever they want that month. This is truly a tool for budget success!
Joyce from London, England
You have inspired my husband and me to live a more frugal lifestyle. A few weeks ago, I picked up your book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money and started using your household budget system right away. It’s only been a couple of weeks since we started our budget, but I am amazed at how the money has grown in our bank account.
I have always shopped at thrift and consignment stores for clothes. But now, I have started looking for appliances and furniture that are used. We just picked up a used, working freezer for $30!
We are a young, married couple with a two-year-old daughter, and we only have two debts: a car which we only have $2,500 left to pay off, and our house. I am hoping that since we don’t have a lot of debt, and we are starting the budget, that we can have our house paid for in full by the time we are 33 — ten years from now.
It is a challenge, and I am excited to know that while all of my friends may be driving brand new cars and SUV’s, and wearing the latest thing from Abercrombie and Hollister, that I can find nice, name brand clothes at my local Goodwill, or Gift and Thrift for two or three dollars! And I am proud to say that my two-year-old is the best-dressed child at the daycare where I work — and almost all her clothes were bought at garage sales, Goodwill, or were given to me!
I am so thankful that I found your website, and your book, and wanted you to know what a blessing ya’ll have been to us! Melissa — Shenandoah, VA
We received your books a few months ago. In our excitement, we immediately read them and set up our budget accounts.
We took our first paycheck and divided it into the individual accounts. We already live very frugal lives, but we view money management differently and for the past two decades payday has always been a strained experience for both of us.
Not so this time. Your system is pure common sense and we both felt empowered.
Then came living within the system we had created.
Easier said than done.
The snow came down hard and we had no savings to get snow tires for my husband’s commuter vehicle. Even though we purchased many used gifts, we still underestimated Christmas expenses by $50 and did not give ourselves enough for holiday food expenses. We were both disappointed by our inability to stay within our projections.
We found it was not a total failure, however. Because we knew where our money was supposed to go, we were able to adjust our spending in other areas to balance the money and our banking account still has a positive balance.
I truly believe we will improve on this system with each new paycheck. And there have been no arguments over the adjustments because we both had a hand in creating the system.
Your budget system is truly simple, but I think we needed to be able to say to each other, “The book says to do it this way.” That allowed both of us to get out of the way of our success.
This has been exactly what both of us wanted. We love your blog, it helps to connect with like-minded consumers who find living within their means a great way of life. Thanks for leading the pack. Vivian
Wow, Vivian, you guys are doing great! You are not failing, you are building a great success and teamwork. Your letter is such an encouragement to us.
Only one month into it and you we’re just a little short for Christmas – that’s fantastic!
Over time, with the consistent habit of doing your budget every two weeks, you’ll get all of your expenses dialed in. There are always adjustments, but as you do the budget, over time you’ll have more and more precise information and you’ll be prepared for every eventuality (like snow tires and other car repair issues).
We have experienced the same marital “oneness” when we’re looking at the numbers instead of each other. There are fewer arguments and greater unity as you both work toward the same goals.
And when you reach your goals, you’ll have great celebrations too.
Keep going. Several months from now you’ll wonder how you ever lived any other way. FREEDOM is coming!!
Question: I created a binder and all the sheets to copy the budgeting system you described in your book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money. I really like how your budget system allows for a family to “save” in advance for purchases and designates money for different specific categories.
Here’s my issue:
We are not in debt. but we use our credit card for every purchase. And then we pay our credit card every month, completely.
I know this is not the “norm” for most people. We like this because we use fewer checks and we also receive cash back, which adds up quickly. We are able to use our cash back to pay for 2 credit card bills each year! So trying to do your budget the other night, it’s been very confusing. We have our cc statement for all purchases. The charges are from March, but we pay the bill in April. I can’t seem to figure out how to do this system every 2 weeks or once a month from
We like doing Credit Card Budgeting for two reasons:
- Because we use fewer checks.
- We receive cash back, which adds up quickly.
We are able to use our cash back to pay for 2 credit card bills each year!
But trying to do your budget the other night, was very confusing. We have our cc statement for all purchases. The charges are from March, but we pay the bill in April. I can’t seem to figure out how to do this system every 2 weeks or once a month from
We have our Credit Card statement for all purchases. The charges are from March, but we pay the bill in April. I can’t seem to figure out how to do this system every 2 weeks or once a month from the previous month? Will our budget always behind one month because we’re paying the credit card bill 30 days after the charges were made?
Help, please! I am assuming that maybe this has been brought up before and there is a simple tweak to the system for this? Thank you for your time and I really enjoyed reading your book.
Answer: Congratulations for taking the time to set up your budget. This is one of the reasons we avoid using credit cards—it makes budgeting more difficult, but . . . not impossible.
Here are two things you can do to make budgeting with Credit Cards work with our America’s Cheapest Family Budget System.
Step 1: Simply write down each credit card expense in your checkbook register as you spend the money. Basically treat it like you wrote a check.
Since you only use your credit card, your checkbook register will only contain charges from that card—this is easier than using a credit card in addition to a debit card and/or checks.
Step 2: Then record each expense on the individual account pages when you do your budget every pay cycle. When the credit card bill arrives, check off each item in your checkbook as you would when you are balancing a checking account to the bank statement.
Step 3: Write one check (or do an automatic payment) to cover the full amount of the credit card bill, but don’t record that expense in your budget (if you did, you’d basically be entering double the amount because you already recorded each individual expense).
Record the check in your checkbook register (it’s really just a formality and a way to confirm that the payment was made), but DON’T subtract that total amount from your checkbook balance . . . because all of the individual expenses have already been recorded in the checkbook and in the budget.
It is more work, but it can be done. You’re smart and careful, with a little persistence and creative thinking you’ll solve this problem and be on your way to becoming a black-belt budgeter.
Budgeting on a Fluctuating Income
Question: Making a budget is difficult because my paycheck is not the same every pay date. Are there any tricks or tips you can offer?
Answer: We’ve lived with a fluctuating income for many years. We base our monthly budget on a low average of our income. We’ve tracked earnings over several years to arrive at this number.
In the months when our income is higher, we put the extra money into a budget category called “Paycheck Holding.” Then we can draw upon it during months when we don’t earn enough to fill our budget categories.
We keep several “optional” budget categories at the back end of our budget. If we have money, we fund them; if not, we don’t. These include Gifts and Joy (money for kids’ sports and lessons).
We’re also careful to not allow our overhead to creep up: we avoid financing new purchases, which would increase our overhead with a new monthly payment. If we want to purchase an expensive item, such as a car or new kitchen, we don’t finance it. Instead, we save for the item in advance, negotiate the best deal possible, and pay cash.
On a fluctuating income, using a budget allows you to determine if you are free to spend the excess money you earn.
Having an accurate, regularly updated money management system (a budget) makes living on commission or having a fluctuating income really manageable!
The Cab Driver Budget
Question: I would love to get your thoughts relating to budgeting. As a cab driver, my income varies daily.
I came up with the idea (although not a new concept I’m sure) due to the fact that my income can be erratic at different times of the year to assign a percentage value rather than a specific dollar amount to each budget category. I based the percentages I came up with on a rough average of around $800 per week. I managed to work each category down to what I feel is actually a better amount to be saved than the average.
For example, my rent and utilities (which includes what should come out to a reserve in that account to somewhere around $900 for heating oil set aside for the next coming winter months) led me to arrive at a 25% assignment to that category. I would certainly appreciate your thoughts on this idea.
Answer: When you’re self-employed you need to make your monthly budget balance to a low average of your historic earnings. Using purely hypothetical numbers for an example: some months you may earn $1000 and others $500 – your average is $750. If you keep your monthly expenses around $600 you should be okay. Bank the excess on the good months and draw from it on the lean ones.
For someone on a fluctuating income, a budget is a critical, sanity-saving tool. Keep doing it, it really pays off. If you want to know our three favorite budgeting tools, read this blog entry.