The other day I was thinking back to a few years ago. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the idea of budgeting, and there were some very real tactical challenges that I was facing. While these days tracking is second nature to me, let me revisit some of the issues I was having:
1. Convenience - Lugging my laptop and my spreadsheet around everywhere we went simply wasn't practical. But keeping all receipts and remembering to give them to the person tracking the budget (in this case, me) wouldn't always happen either. In the end, this caused my tracking to be incomplete and would make me want to throw in the towel.
2. Collaboration - While I loved the idea of the envelope system it seemed next to impossible to execute when multiple members of a family pay expenses separately. We were doing fine with food money because we tend to grocery shop together so both of us would have knowledge of what was spent and what was left. But for things like gas, that we almost always pay for separately, we had a hard time keeping on top of things.
3. Cash - Again, the envelope system has always made a lot of sense to us but using cash together meant that we had to keep the stash of cash at home, and run home to grab some of it before heading out to make purchases. This just wasn't realistic for us. We try to minimize driving as much as possible, and so we often pick up something we need on the way home from work or another errand. On top of that, we couldn't figure out how to account for spontaneous purchases, for example an item that we randomly find on sale that we've been needing but didn't bring associated cash with. Plus, we want to be earning those credit card points for cash back rewards, so cash is not doing us any favors.
If any of you are running into similar problems, I've got some great news to share. I recently signed up for a free app that solved my problems called "Easy Envelope Budget App," and before you ask, let me say that no, I'm not being sponsored for this post. I just think this app is great for someone who's getting started and needs a convenient way to track their spending across multiple family members.
It's really easy and straightforward. All you do after downloading the app is set up a "household." Then have everyone else in your family download the app as well and use the household name and log in to access it the shared budget. Then you set up your envelopes, and you can create whatever categories you want. We set up our shared expenses like gas, food, etc. and we also set up individual envelopes such as "Phoebe's Fun Money." Then you indicate what your income will be that month and you "fill" the individual envelopes with the appropriate amounts.
Then, you simply enter any payments you make, and the app will track it.
If someone else in your household makes a payment, your phone will update immediately, so you'll have an accurate view of what you have left in each of your envelopes at all times. This will allow you to make the right decisions about what you can spend on, with up to date and accurate information.
I haven't been using the "EEBA" app for long, but I'm already loving it. Instead of keeping receipts to try to remember what I spent, and foraging through the credit card bill to find charges that my husband made for different categories all I have to do is check out my phone. At this point I'm still transferring these amounts into my spreadsheet (because, well, I'm a dork) but if I had access to this app a few years ago I may have used this instead.
You have to find what works right for you, so give it a try if you're struggling and if it works, wonderful, and if not, don't give up! Keep trying different techniques until you find what works well for you and your family.