Welcome to 31 Days Inside the Vault! My goal with this series is to take a deep dive into how my husband and I spend our money. Personal finance is pretty important to us, and we’re extremely thoughtful about how we budget our dollars. I’m engaged in the “frugal mom” blogosphere (yeah, I know, I’m not a mom…), so I know a lot of other people are, too! I feel like there’s an unnecessary shroud of mystery around people’s household budgets, though. I won’t be telling you our salaries, or how much we spend in every single category, but I think there’s something to be said for some transparency. I always wonder if the amount of money I spend on, say, groceries in a month is “normal,” and maybe this series will help shed some light! We make choices with our money that reflect our personal philosophies and our priorities, and I’d like to share those with you.

31 Days Inside the Vault

Scroll down to read Day 1, or click to read the other days. (I’ll be adding a link once each post goes live!)

Day 2: The Biggest Expense
Day 3: Sometimes You Break Your Own Rules
Day 4: 15 vs. 30 Year Mortgage: The Surprising Better Deal (Guest post by Andy Lindeman)
Day 13: His and Hers: The Best Fixed Expense

The first full disclosure that may make some of you gasp is that I pretty much completely disagree with Dave Ramsey when it comes to the usage of credit cards. I won’t re-invent the wheel because I wrote about my thoughts extensively here. But knowing that we use credit cards, pay them off every month, and strategically earn cashback on our purchases is an important part of taking a peek inside our vault. (Okay…we don’t literally have a vault…but I needed a word to substitute in for “budget.”)

We use a budgeting tool called YNAB. I’ll quote here from this post where I explained how it works:

Andy and I keep very close tabs on our finances. We use a program called YNAB (an acronym of You Need a Budget) to keep track of our budget, our savings, our goals, and our spending categories. YNAB is a sort of grassroots budgeting software that grew out of one man’s budget spreadsheet that he built for him and his wife. As it kept getting more and more complex, he realized how useful a tool this software could be. It’s not the simplest program around, but it has a lot of features that we’ve found to be very useful. Plus, I like its backstory!

…we like to worry about where [our money] goes. Worrying about where our money goes is what allowed Andy the freedom to quit his job in Huntsville without knowing he had one to take its place. We were able to precisely track our expenditures for the previous 6 months and extrapolate precisely what we needed to live on for the next 6. We also were able to pinpoint areas of spending that could be cut if necessary. If we only knew vague spending categories, we would not have felt nearly as comfortable taking that leap as we did.

We’ve been married for 4 1/2 years, and over those years we’ve refined our system pretty well. The first month we were married, we did nothing but track our spending. Having never combined finances (and me having never lived on my own!), we had nary a clue how our spending would break down. So, we tracked. And then from there we began setting up budget categories that worked for us.

Today we have a wide array of categories that are really specific to our spending habits. That’s why something like Mint.com wouldn’t be ideal for us–we don’t want our numbers lumped into broader categories. Throughout the month of October, I’ll be examining some of our categories, talking about why each matters to us, explaining how we determine an amount to spend, and exploring ways to save on every line item. Read on!

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman