Sounds like you've made a lot of progress over the past couple of years!
I use mint.com to track spending...not as closely as I did at first, but I still keep an eye on it there. It automatically categorizes most transactions for you, so it's a lot less effort than tracking it on your own in Excel. Of course, there's a security risk to consider by having your info stored online.
I am wary of sites like mint.com due to the security risk. Also, my bank categorizes spending as well for me, but there's an issue with that. Some of the stores we use are multiple-category stores. For instance, we buy certain groceries at COSTCO (it's the only place on island we can get milk for less than $5/gallon), so that would fall under my groceries category. We also buy paper goods (TP, paper towels) and cleaning supplies there, which would fall under household goods. Recently, they had a deal on motor oil where we purchased 4.5 oil changes worth of fully synthetic oil for the price of one oil change at Jiffy Lube, so that would go under car maintenance. Since household goods and groceries are two of the categories I suspect we can do better with our spending, I think a spreadsheet makes more sense for now.
Ditto on the kudos.
Getting a handle on your spending and tracking your expenses is definitely helpful, but personally I've never found budgeting much help except for monitoring "spending creep" where my spending goes up in areas that I think are wasteful or unnecessary.
Thanks for the kudos as well. I understand what you mean that sometimes getting into the weeds of budgeting can be tedious and unnecessary. Starting out with six months, I want to get a baseline and also see if there are places we can cut back. From there, I can determine whether I need to continue with the minute detail or if we do well with a more generalized budget that doesn't track every single penny.
Did someone say monthly budget? Love those.
LOL Eagle. I don't get too excited about the idea of a monthly budget, but the idea of building awesome spreadsheets sends my heart aflutter. I am a little uncomfortable posting such personal information like salary and such, but I've seen your budget breakdowns on other threads and can definitely use those as a starting point. Also, thank you for the link on saving money.
You make a great point about fixed vs. variable expenses. Regarding our fixed expenses, I'm pretty comfortable with those the way they are. I'm currently at least a year ahead on paying off the car. If I only pay the monthly amount due from here on out, I'll knock out that loan a year early (this Dec). My goal, though, is to have it paid off by the end of the summer (16 months early).
I think our three main categories of variable expenses in which we can improve are groceries, eating out, and household goods. Once I can get a handle on what we're actually spending, I'll be able to determine how we can be more efficient with our money.