The Budget in Budget Shopping

I’ve referred to my shopping budget several times on this blog, and I’ve received a few requests to share more about my budget planning process.  So, that’s what I’ll do today.

At the start of 2011, I decided to take a closer look at where my money goes.  You see, I am a fan of shows like the Suze Orman show and Til Debt Do Us Part, which both recommend that we be able to account for every dollar we spend.  At the start of the new year, I decided to do just that and the results were shocking!  I was spending a lot more money on clothing and eating out (among other things) than I thought I was.

Things had to change.  To track my spending, I started using an excel spreadsheet from Debt Free Adventure and personalized it to suit my lifestyle.  In this spreadsheet,  I have a category for everything that I spend money on from fixed expenses to variable expenses.  I set a projected spending amount for each category (clothing, dining out, health care, entertainment, and so on) and keep a running tally of my actual spending in each category.  At the end of the month, I want my actual spending to be equal to or less than my projected spending.

Snapshot of the budget template from Debt Free Adventure

I’ve become very committed to this process.  As soon as I can, I enter any amount that I spend in the relevant cell, even if it is a pack of gum at CVS.  A few months ago, I spotted a White Haute Watch Find at TJ Maxx, but I waited until the next month to purchase it because I’d already maxed my clothing budget for that month.  Now, I have made adjustments to other categories to free up cash for special clothing purchases, but that’s rarely necessary.

Tracking my spending in this manner took some getting used to.  It also took about two months for me to establish realistic goals in terms of projected spending.  But, now that I have the hang of things, I enjoy knowing exactly where I stand financially at every moment in a month and also meeting these short-term financial goals.

If you’re looking for a method to track your spending, try this approach.  If you have an alternative approach, please share.


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  1. August 19, 2011 / 8:43 pm

    Very nice!!! I use a self created excel spreadsheet, but I think I should check this out!
    Shasie of Live Life in Style

  2. Terry
    August 21, 2011 / 4:46 pm

    Thanks for this information. I have already downloaded the sample from debt free adventure. Another question for you or for anyone reading this….."what do you project for your clothing spending budget each month? I am challenged to "pick a number" for what to spend on clothing? Do you choose a weekly amount or a total monthly amount? To other readers…what is a realistic and balanced amount of money to spend on clothing weekly or monthly? I know it is subjective and everyone has different budgets..I find a general idea of what others are spending would be helpful.

  3. August 21, 2011 / 5:43 pm

    @Shasie: Cool. Check it out. You may even be able to expand your own spreadsheet with ideas from this one.

    @Terry: No problem! That is a great question and is one of the major challenges when setting up this type of budget planner and tracker. Right now, the max I allow myself to spend on clothing (including shoes, jewelry, bags, and all things fashion) is $300 in a month. I've exceeded that amount and have also spent less in some months. If I exceed the budget for clothing, I can either borrow money from another category (like entertainment or eating out) in the month or borrow from and hence reduce the next month's clothing budget. Budgeting by the month has worked best for me. Several other bloggers are open about their budgets (even keeping running tallies of purchases on their blogs). Their budgets range from $100/month to several hundred dollars/month. Set a number in one month, see how it works, and make any necessary adjustments.

  4. Terry
    August 26, 2011 / 1:52 pm

    Psyche, that is very helpful to me. Thanks a bunch! I have some homework..going back to my receipts from the past few months to form an idea of my fashion spending. I definitely try to shop discount shops like TJ Maxx et. al. and sale/clearence racks first at major shops like Macy's, ATL. Keep up the great work you are doing…Terry