I know. It can be insanely overwhelming. Bill paying, budgeting, meal planning, etc… not all of us learned this before we left the nest. To make matters worse, you may be trying to figure this all out two days after your wedding while your new husband or wife is out in the field for a week.
Never fear, ladies and gentlemen. I’m going to share with you the most basic, simple, no-brainer Newbie Spouse’s Guide to Running a Household Alone.
I’m just going to cover the basics today. I’m going to show you the most non-over whelming way I know to make a budget, pay the bills, and meal plan. No craziness, no fluff, and a ten dollar planner I bought from Target.
Find A Good Planner
First step to keeping all of this adult-ing nonsense organized is to find a nice planner. No, it doesn’t have to be designer and cost forty bucks. My absolute favorite style of planner, that I’ve been using since I got married is a weekly/monthly planner from Blue Sky Planners. I buy the same brand every year for ten dollars at Target. And yes, they make them in all sorts of pretty colors and patterns if you’re in to that sort of thing.
Mine is set up like the pictures below, with a month page, and the week pages behind it.
These planners are simple, but have all the necessities.
Paying the Bills
As soon as all my bill paying info is set up, I immediately write it down in the back of the planner in the “Notes” section. I separate it by bills due in the first half of the month, and bills due in the second half. For those of you in military households, this is also known as bills that fall on the 1st of the month check, and bills that fall on the 15th of the month check. I include what bill it is, what company it’s by, the username (account number, etc.), and the password (passkey, pin #, etc.). This way I know which bills are due when, and exactly how to go about paying them. I like to pay all my first half bills on the first (rather than waiting for the day they are actually, individually due), and the second half bills on the 15th.
Here’s a picture so that you can get an idea of what this section in my planner looks like:
As I pay each bill, I write the info (amount, time paid, confirmation number, etc.) down on the weekly page under the day it was paid.
* Excuse the fact that I’m a TERRIBLE speller. Seriously, every time I go to write the word PAID, I spell it PAYED. Every. Single. Time.*
Making the Budget
Before I do the actual physical act of paying the bills, I make a budget for that specific check. I know this can sound daunting, I know you might think you need fancy printables and work sheets, but all you need is the info you already have (amount of the check, amounts of your bills), and a piece of loose leaf notebook paper.
Simply: Write down how much the check is. Than, write down what bills you owe and how much they each are. Next, total the amount below. Than write down how much is left over. There’s step 1. Here’s step 2. Write down anything else you know you have to afford on this check…groceries, gas for the car, savings, etc. Total that, then again, find out how much is left over.
Here’s an example:
See! That wasn’t so bad.
In order to keep track of how much I have to spend, and what I’m spending it on, I simply open up a new tab in my phone, write down the amount I have (in the example above, this is $80), then keep a running list of what I spend, and how much the new total is afterwards. Like so,
It really doesn’t have to be complicated and stressful.
Again, all you’re going to need is some notebook paper, a pen, and a cookbook, Pinterest, whatever opened up in front of you. (Coffee helps, too.)
Now, count how many days you need food for. For this example, I going to say it’s ten days. This means I’ll need breakfast, lunches, and dinners for ten days (plus I’ll usually add one or two extra options so that I always have a few more days covered than I actually need).
Next, write down one meal at a time. I only specifically plan dinners. As far as breakfast & lunch, I just make sure I have breakfast and lunch foods on the list. I like to keep it simple.
At the bottom of the page, write down all the things you need to buy in order to make this dish. Remember to make sure you don’t already have it in the house. Also, try to pay attention to having some dinners you can make that use some of the same ingredients. For example, I can buy a jar of pasta sauce, and get 2 homemade pizzas and a spaghetti dinner out of it. Once you’re done with all of that, simply add on anything else you need (milk, toilet paper, etc.)
I like to keep a small running list on my refrigerator so that I can write down as I run out of things, then I can add it on my to master list before I go shopping.
If you’re looking for something pretty, here’s my favorite printable note paper.
Now bring this meal plan/shopping list with you to the store, and you can use it to keep a running total as you add things to your cart. This is the number one best advice I can give to keep within budget. Groceries add up FAST.
Now you have your month planned out, your bills paid, and two weeks worth of groceries purchased within budget.
Deep breath. Sigh of relief. You are well on your way to being a grown up.
Keep these last few helpful tips in mind:
- Make sure you have a power of attorney for your spouse, and access to all bank accounts & bill paying accounts. You need to be ready to be on your own and keep your life running at a moments notice.
- Make sure your spouse has access to all of this, too, and knows where to find all of this info. That’s one of the biggest reasons I like to keep all the info in my planner. This way my husband knows where to find it if he ever needed to.
- Have fun with it! Doodle in your planner, use stickers if you want, write quotes and affirmations, or funny things to make you laugh. This planner is about to be your best friend. Might as well make it entertaining and nice to look at.
- Join our community of military spouses here for more advice & support!
Now, because I like to be helpful, I’ve rounded up several of my favorite posts about adult-ing in the military below!
Remember! Comment below with your best advice & share this with all of your friends!