Despite our best intentions, since we got married we haven’t gotten into a good routine on budgeting until now.
We tried in Berlin, but it never really gelled. Most of H’s costs during the week were reimbursed because he was travelling, and that was hard to keep track of. And we had two incomes for most of that time, so while we wanted to keep to a budget, we knew we were spending less than we earned. Thus, we didn’t really have to turn every penny over twice [as they say in German].
In Tanzania, we also tried to budget. But it was boring to budget there because we spent our money on exactly the same things every month. There weren’t that many options as to where we could spend money. Plus, we had other things to deal with – like plumbing catastrophes and puff adders.
Well now, we’re both students and living on savings and one half-time job at the moment. So we needed to find a way to budget that works for us, and we have a winner. We’ve started using a website called Money Strands. We’ve been really good at keeping a budget for four months now. These are the things I like about Money Strands:
- It’s in the ‘cloud’, so we can enter expenses any time we’re at a computer – not bound to one particular computer on which a piece of software is installed.
- We can input items in any currency. That may not be a selling point for most people, but we routinely use three currencies, so it’s great to see the overall picture at today’s exchange rate.
- The graphics are very attractive and dynamic. I particularly like the monthly pie charts with the breakdown of budget categories – you can keep on clicking on pie segments to get more and more detailed information about expenditures. I also like the splash page bar graph that moves as you spend throughout the month, tracking your “progress” in reaching the budgeted max for a category.
They also have a feature that allows Money Strands to sync with your online bank account and credit cards records. It’s a cool services, I guess, but we don’t use it. I suppose we still like to have that element of privacy, even in these linked-up, modern times.
Like a lot of things in life, I think budgeting is something that you have to figure out what works for you. So if you’re a paper-budgeter, an envelope-budgeter, a got-it-all-in-your-head-budgeter, or good-ole-excel-spreadsheet-budgeter, keep up the good work. However, if you don’t have a system or don’t like what you use now, then you should have a look at Money Strands.