You may not equate budgets with root canals, but many do. The self-discipline you need to look at your expenses in detail takes focus and effort. You may find a continuous budget instead of an annual budget makes the process mesh with day-to-day living in a practical way. While it doesn't guarantee to make your budget painless, continuous budgets may work for you.
Add a month to the following year to convert an annual household budget to a continuous budget. As January ends, for example, use the current results as a basis for planning next January. Add a column to the right side of the budget spreadsheet and delete past month columns from the left.
Create values for the new month through a combination of the actual amounts of the month and the projected budget. This allows you rolling control of spending variances or previously unaccounted conditions. For instance, if your original budget factored heating costs conservatively, your budget amount for the added month adjusts based on your actual heating bill for the current period.
Add a factor for cost-of-living increases. For example, the Social Security Administration estimated a cost-of-living increase of 1.8 percent in 2012. Adding 2 percent to variable budget categories in continuous budget months would have helped you anticipate increased costs.
Adjust discretionary spending and savings accordingly to accommodate increased costs or to recover spending shortfalls. Have your partner "sign off" on the new monthly budget as agreement on financial action.
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