Earnings for military folks can be very tricky to manage. It’s not just one easy, predictable payment that gets direct deposited into our accounts every month as it fluctuates; there’s family separation pay, housing pay, pay increases due to time in service, pay increases due to advancement in rank, hazardous duty pay, sea duty pay…there are almost too many to count! Add to that the earnings from a working spouse and things can get VERY crazy.
However, we have developed a pretty good system to manage our household finances in our one salary home. We call it the “Three Document System.” (Okay…maybe I’m the only one who calls it that, but that is okay as I am the resident budget master around here!)
These are the three documents:
The “Bills To Pay” document
The “Checkbook” document
The “How Much is Left” document
It sounds complicated, but I promise that it’s not. Here’s a breakdown of each document and they help us keep our finances in order:
The “Bills to Pay” Document:
Our “Bills to Pay” document is a Microsoft Word document that breaks down all of our bills between the two paydays of the month – the payday of the first and the payday of the fifteenth. (The only bill we pay on the first is our mortgage, as that behemoth is so large that it gets its own time of the month. Everything else is paid on the fifteenth). Each bill line has the account number on it, the username and password, the hyperlink to pay it online, and the amount due (or the projected amount due). We also list the amounts of money that are automatically withdrawn every payday. It is so easy to open this document every payday and click on the links to pay our bills.
Important note: The Bills to Pay document is password protected!
The “Checkbook” Document
This is where we record the payments we make for our bills. We add however much money we have left in our checking account to what we get for each payday. We then do simple math to record how much money we have left after all the bills are paid. (This is also an excellent spot to record payment confirmation numbers for the bills we pay online!) You can use an accounting program or excel spreadsheet to do this.
The “What is Left” Document
This is a simple loose leaf sheet of paper that hangs on our refrigerator for easy viewing. This constantly updated sheet of paper is where we hand write the amount of money we have left after all of our bills are paid. Here we record what we have after gas, groceries, pizza, ATM withdrawals, and everything else.
This “Three Document” system of ours has not made us rich, but it has made us much more responsible with respect to our finances. It has even pushed us to try to find other things we can do to become more financially responsible. Other things we do include:
Walking to run errands if at all possible
Carefully planning our driving (as we both drive gas guzzlers)
Conduct fifteen day meal planning before we go to the commissary for groceries
Buying gently used clothing on eBay
Not using our credit cards unless it is an absolute emergency
This is what work for us. What works for you? If you’ve got a great idea, let us know in the comments below. (I am always looking for ways to save more money!)