So we’ve talked about what a budget is and how to make one. You’ve set your goals, and you’re sticking to them! Between budgeting sessions, though, is the budgeting check-in. The purpose of a check-in is simple - account for the expenses you’ve had that day (or, for our pros, in the past week) and make sure you and your partner are on the same page.
So what does a check-in look like anyway? Unlike your budgeting sessions, the check-in has one task, and one task only - review and document spending.
Pull up all of your bank/credit card statements, Venmo accounts, and any other financial service you use for daily transactions. Go through each purchase, label it according to its partition (grocery, personal care, dining out, etc), and then add up your partitions. Write this number down, either on paper or on a computer screen, in an easily referenceable location. Briefly compare each partition’s spending so far with the total allotted for the month, and see how it lines up (hint - if you are halfway through your eating out budget after one week, you will have to emphasize homecooked meals for the next three weeks to come out on point).
Check-ins make your life much easier when your monthly budgeting session rolls around - you have all your data available to inform your goal setting. It may be helpful to roll your check-in into a weekly routine you already have (such as taking out the trash, going on a date, or attending church). In general, check-ins should not take more than 10 minutes, and the fewer transactions occur, the less time it will take you (how’s that for frugal motivation?).
Very occasionally, an impromptu budgeting session may emerge from a check-in. For example, a spouse that is feeling highly restricted by a particular partition may say so, and ask that the budget be amended to better meet his or her needs. Likewise, a spouse that notices their other half is going over may gently ask what can be done to help that spouse maintain the agreed on partition amounts. Most often, though, it is best to leave that conversation for the budgeting session. Even when these concerns do arise, it is often best practice to think on it until the next budgeting session to allow time for brainstorming.
On the other end of the spectrum, individuals and couples who are on point with their spending habits (and, particularly, have fewer daily transactions) may elect to add up their spending less often. The main danger in waiting is that a) it can make the budgeting session overwhelming with how much needs to be added up, and b) it can be easy to forget what that $30 impulse purchase at Target was (was it a gift for the littlest nephew, extra Mac and Cheese, or a that one new shirt?). There is also the risk that less frequent check-ins may be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of daily living, and their non-routine nature makes them fall by the wayside. In summary, know yourself and your partner when determining the best schedule for your check-in sessions.
How often do you and your partner check-in with your spending? If you are single, how often do you check-in with yourself?
I spend most of my spare time playing with spreadsheets, my violin, or planting vegetables in my garden in hopes of bringing new insights into frugal living. Please enjoy, and don't forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter here.
Disclaimer - Mrs. FB is not a financial advisor. Nothing in these articles should be construed as investment or other professional advice, but rather personal opinion. Some links in these posts may be to affiliate sites - no products are advertised through this site that have not been personally used by the FB family unless expressly labeled.