Over the past few days I've been working on an Excel spreadsheet trying to help myself budget my money. I've always had a good handle on my money but, as the organized person I am, it always helps to list everything out.
I've been using my banking website to track some expenses and help see where my 'leftover' money goes.. have you looked at your online bank? My bank (Wells Fargo) has something called My Spending Report - SO helpful! It basically breaks everything down to show where I spend money, it allows me to reclassify something if it's not right [for example if I go to the gas station and spend $3-$4 on a drink and some chex mix, that's going to get put under 'Gas/Auto' - while it really should go under 'Grocery']. Anyhow, I've know about this for a long time and use it quite a bit. You should check and see if your bank offers it - it's a handy tool when trying to figure out finances.
The one thing I've learned... and need to try and put in check is how much money I spend eating out! I really can't afford to eat out like I do, especially when a huge part of it is alcohol. I went to lunch with my girlfriend last week, a sushi lunch so you have to expect to spend a bit more, we drank wine... on our bill there was $31.00 in alcohol alone! Isn't that just f'n ridiculous?! On top of the actual cost with markup, you have to tip someone just for pouring it and bringing it to you... it's so much cheaper to drink at home. I eat out way too much and way too often, I just feel it's so much more convenient to have someone make my food and bring it than for me to do it at home. I'm lazy. Not to mention the people who get paid to do it... do it sooo much better than I. The restaurants that come up with this stuff... are in business for a reason and generally it's not stellar service.
I also realized how much money I put into saving each month ... my saving account has to have a certain amount of money put into it each month to stay active, perfect... I have it set up to take that amount out with EACH paycheck, to cover my ass. I also have a ING Direct saving account that earns hella interest, which I have a lump sum transfered to twice a month. I try really hard to not touch my savings, unless I'm dying for it.. and even then I try to put it back once a paycheck comes in. I do use my savings to pay for car insurance though, as I figure having money put into saving twice a month, one of those transfers can be for insurance (cause it's just the right amount).
Anyhow, if anyone out there has any magical advice or personal little tips they use for budgeting, I would love to hear them. I wish I could be one of those people who budgets every penny, but I enjoy going out way too much.