The Budget Couple

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Episode 38: Debt Forcing a Budget

Nate and Danielle reflect on recent changes they have made to their budget as answer a listener question. They talk about budgeting apps, mindset, and the need of goals when creating a budget.

Show Notes

First a quick update on our attempt at controlling our misc expenses. We decided to go with putting $400 in savings each month to be used as a misc fund. If you didn’t listen to our episode about this, what we’re trying to do is spread our random larger expenses out across the year. In this way we keep our monthly budget more consistent. Car insurance, life insurance, minor repairs, events/entertainment, pets, gifts, home improvement. We transfer money from savings on months when we need to use this fund. Here’s how it works in practice:

Let’s say we spend $150 on new smoke detectors and an oil change – instead of transferring $400 over to savings that month and $150 from savings to pay for these misc things, we just transfer to savings $250. 

Let’s say we spend $500 one month on insurance – we transfer $100 from savings to cover that and transfer nothing to savings that month

On months where we don’t spend any on misc crap, we just move $400 over as normal.

We are trying to get a grasp on creating a budget and where to start is overwhelming. Have you used MINT or is excel what works best for you? We have larger debt for the first time and just want to take the best steps to keep on track.

We’ve tried a couple budget apps and even have an episode on our month using Every Dollar. Nate used Mint for a bit in college, but it’s likely evolved a lot since then

But we just keep coming back to excel. Maybe because we’re accustomed to it. I find that it’s really about preference and style. They’re all just tools, the really important things is decide on the numbers and agree on a strategy.


  1. Decide long and short term goals (money wise) – so you want to pay off debt, how quickly? How much do you have to put toward it a month to do that? 
  2. I do actually advocate writing everything down for a month at first. This is highly enlightening usually – you can do retrospectively by looking at your bank statement and credit cards as well. 
  3. This will help you know what your post-tax/post-insurance paycheck is each month and what your expenses are. 
  4. If your expenses are higher than that income, you’ve got some work to do. Even if you’re breaking even, that’s not going to help you pay debt quickly. So….
  5. Separate want and need (need is literally just what you need to live and work)
  6. And determine where you can cut (eating out?, clothes?, cable bill?)

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