Making Your Budget Skinny

The Office: Where we make it happen.

If you are an accountant or some budget guru, stop reading now! This is budgeting for English majors–or people like that, which means that it is very simple and non-mathy.  This is a good exercise for you if you have really never gotten a handle on where your money goes.  I’m just sharing what I do that works for us.

Lest you think that I am some sort of uber-organized budgeting genius, I have decided to punctuate the otherwise boring budgeting article, with some real life picture of our messy office area. This is a pantry area that we converted. If you are looking for a way to have an office without having stuff constantly spread on your kitchen table, this is one way to do it.

I am just a normal messy person in a messy office trying to make my dollars go on over my expenses.

Okay, down to business.  Let’s budget.

1.  Figure out your income for the next 10 weeks. Or start small and just do the next month or whatever period of time you can commit to.  Use bank statements, pay stubs, or both, but try to include ALL sources of income, not just salary. If your income fluctuates, estimate by using an average of the previous 10 weeks or, if your income is seasonal, use last summer’s numbers.

For us–We are living off our tax return, so we have NO income in the summer–except if Jeremy does some lessons or odd jobs, but I don’t count that for budgeting because at this point that is too uncertain.

2. Make a list of your unchanging bills. I consider these to be any expense that does not vary.   If they are directly drafted from your bank account, note the date they are drafted. I have a chart that I fill in every month.

For us- I will list ours just to help you think of yours.

a. Tithe


c. Life Insurance

d. Blockbuster

e. Phone and Internet

f. Car Insurance

g. Internet Monitoring Service

h. Missionaries in Asia

i. Compassion Child

j. Retirement Account

k. Cable TV

l. Anika’s birth (no interest medical bill)

m. Missionaries in PNG, Asia, and Europe

3. Make a list of VARIABLE bills that you pay. I consider these to be bills whose amounts fluctuate OR that you are the one who determines how much you pay. (ie: credit card bill). A bill is different from an expense though because you do HAVE to pay a bill. Don’t include gas, groceries, or miscellaneous expenses.

For us- I will list ours just to help you think of yours.

a. Water Bill

b. Power Bill

(That is actually all we have now, but during the year, I also had Addie’s Pre-K and ballet class.  Maybe you have a cell phone bill or . . . ?)

My bills chart hanging behind the computer. Paperwork spilling out messily.

4. Make a reasonable estimate of what your variable bills (3) will be for the 10 weeks. Don’t be optimistic at this point.  Don’t promise yourself that you will turn off all the AC or take cold showers.

5. Now subtract your bills from your income.


-Unchanging bills

-Variable bills estimate


= Your Cash Money

5.  Divide Your Cash Money by 10 weeks. This is YOUR WEEKLY AMOUNT.

BUT WAIT!! We are not done.

6. Make a list of the ways you spend your Cash Money. This is where you have to be brutally honest. I will start

For us

a. Groceries (I include all household and toiletry in this term)

b. Gas

c. Clothing

d. Gifts to family and friends

e. Yard and Garden

f. Dining out

g. Entertainment–Date night, Redbox, etc.

h. Car repairs

i. Doctor copay

j. Medicine

k. Office Supplies (printer ink is a huge expense since I started couponing.)

l. Cell Phone refills when we want it.

The reason why

7. This is where it gets weird–maybe.  DECIDE WHAT HAS TO GO. If you really want a skinny budget, you have to determine which area is going to change.  You probably can cut out a bill in area 2.  You probably can decrease a bill in area 3.  You probably can cut out and reduce an expense from cash money.  PICK THREE CHANGES TO MAKE-HOWEVER SMALL.

8. From your weekly cash money amount, get out no more than 75% of it. You need to keep 25% of it set aside for the unexpected, inevitable non-weekly expenses like doctor co-pay, car repair, etc.  If you can basically live off of even less than 75% of your weekly amount, do it! Give more money away, you rich person you!!

9. Just do it! (Swoop) SO the rest is just to stick to the cash money, and not run out and use a credit card.  If you can cut out extras that prevent you from following the 75% rule, then you should.  Don’t touch the extra 25% unless you need to–and you will need to!  (A manicure, a dress, a dinner out, or a new tomato plant do not count as NEEDS.  Medicine, Toilet Paper, Car Repair, or a Speeding Ticket all count as NEEDS.)

That’s it.  That’s what we do here in the Low Ryder household.  Did I make it sound too hard? Too simple?  If you are still reading, thank you! Hopefully this is the most boring–but still somewhat helpful post that I’ll ever write.

Did you notice that I didn’t say much about saving?  Well, that’s because we don’t really save. I’ll explain why later this week.

5 thoughts on “Making Your Budget Skinny

  1. It’s not boring! If I had a household budget to manage, I’m sure I would be devouring this post. My dad manages all our finances.

    PS: I like the green!

  2. When we were in very lean times the thing I noticed had the biggest impact on the budget was what you call unchanging bills. I think a lot of people commit to things on a contract basis which are really not necessitites. Then, when hard times come, they are obligated to pay when they really can’t afford it.

    Does a SAHM REALLY need a cell phone? Or maybe a pay as you go would be cheaper if she will commit to ONLY use it for emergencies not a convenient ‘chat’ line. OR, get rid of the home phone and ONLY have a cell phone.

    Do you have to have cable/satellite tv? or home security system?

    A car payment is a killer for people struggling. Buy used, put the ‘car payment’ money towards a newer car and pay cash for the next one. You will be EARNING interest instead of PAYING interest.

    For insurance, consider increasing deductibles if you can to reduce premiums. Consider dropping some ins if your car is older.

    Shop at yard sales : ) I feel like we are able to live WAY about our ‘affordable standard of living’ because 80% of the stuff in our house comes from yard sales. It’s like buying everything at 90% off : )

    1. Ginger, I agree with you wholeheartedly. As for the cell phone and cable suggestions, we do have a pay as you go phone only for emergencies and basic cable only. You can read more about the background for some of our expenditures in the Cheapness Philosophy and Background. There are lots of ways to reduce costs once you commit to really doing it. Even in my budget, if I had to, I could cut out the cell phone, the Blockbuster subscription, the Internet monitoring, and more.

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