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(Finally) building a budget. I know it would be unreasonable to say that I won't spend anything on frivolities, but I have to be honest with myself and build a budget that is realistic and attainable.

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Depending on your view of the security of the product, online services like mint.com can help you see what you have been spending on what in the past few months pretty quickly. –  MrChrister Nov 29 '09 at 7:38
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what do you class as entertainment? does it include gym or sports costs or do you mean eating out and trips to the zoo? –  Rich Seller Nov 29 '09 at 19:27
    
Not sports, but all the eating out and coffee that goes along with following your child's team all over the province with a hoard of parents and kids in tow. –  Nat_Rea Nov 29 '09 at 23:26

2 Answers 2

How much have you been spending? I took that number and shaved a bit off so it would be a challenge but not impossible to obtain. I also tried not to limit my kid's fun because I want to save money.

In out house, for our area and our idea of fun, we budget almost $200/month. That really might not do for a larger family with older kids though.

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The problem is that I don't know how much I've been spending, and frankly, I'm afraid to look! We are a family of four - daughters are 13 and 5 - we drive around a lot for sports so tend to eat out more than our fair share, which I think is our only extravagance. $200 sounds so low, but with a recent career change, it's time to start scaling back. –  Nat_Rea Nov 28 '09 at 19:28
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The first step is to find out what you are currently spending. That will let you set a realistic goal. "Afraid to look" is the first step to uncontrolled spending. –  DJClayworth Jan 5 '11 at 16:14
    
Also a little hint on spending on extra activities: There's too much to do and too little time to do it, so why not pick the cheaper alternatives? Drastic examples would be a membership in a golf club vs. riding a bike :D –  Lagerbaer Dec 13 '12 at 1:07

I find the budgeting process should start by tracking spending, every last dollar for a bit of time, even a year to be sure to get through the seasonal items that aren't monthly. Even then, you won't have the new car tires (I just needed a set, $700, after 40K miles / 64K Km.) this exercise will help you identify the non flexible expenses, mortgage, property tax, utilities, as well as those you might impact but with effort, such as the grocery bill. Last comes the really discretionary spending, the eating out, the gadgets, the movies for $75 for 4 vs $4 for a stay at home pay per view.

In the end, the money isn't unlimited, so it's a matter of priorities. Me, I love to cook, and would rather cook for 6, and have people over than to pay the restaurant prices. I'll still eat out, but pick and choose to go for meals I can't make myself.

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