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EDINBURGH, Scotland (LifeSiteNews) — Yesterday I tried to save the health, wallets, and souls of the English-speaking world with a stirring advertisement for oatmeal porridge, and today I’m going to recommend my best softcover friend, the budget planner.

I think I can get away with writing about this during work hours because, let’s face it, household management is an important family value. It is also a truth universally acknowledged that when married couples fight, money is often the reason. In my house, it’s because I didn’t close the fridge door properly, but that is because my wonderful budget planner resolves any money disputes before they begin.

My first budget planner was an ordinary notebook in which I began to write down every penny my husband and I spent, carefully recording when, what, and where. This in itself led to fights, however, as my husband was reluctant to ask for receipts every time he bought something. Thus, I gave up in despair.

But only temporarily. There is, after all, a mortgage to pay off. As we are both inveterate users of debit cards, the next time I began recording our expenses, I learned how to bank online. This way, I didn’t need to badger my husband for receipts: I could just look at our electronic debit card record whenever I liked.

Meanwhile, my initial experiments in writing down everything we spent gave me a clear picture of where all our money was going, and what categories our purchases seemed to fall into. By the time I got my third budget planner, I had the confidence to begin forecasting how much we were likely to spend in each category (Mortgage, Gas, Electric, Home Insurance, Phone Bill, Food, Clothing, etc.) going forward.

The purchase of my third budget planner, a nifty green pre-printed number, was duly recorded on the first page for April, the first month of the British fiscal year. The planner was categorized as “Book” and cost £12.98. It also became, next to my husband, my most cherished friend. I wrote in it and consulted it every day of the year. When a page prompted me to do so, I confided in it our financial goals. When another page asked me where I had the most trouble saving, I told it the truth. When I thought I had left the planner behind at an Airbnb in South Lanarkshire (£242), I cried.

It is possible I am addicted to my budget planners, but I wouldn’t consider that a bad thing because, like the bathroom scales, they keep me rooted in reality. As much as I might lie to myself about my lack of thrift, the budget planners do not lie. They also remember.

At this point you may be asking yourselves what my husband has to say about all this, and I am happy to report that in Scotland managing the household accounts has traditionally fallen to women. When men were still paid cash in brown envelopes, it was the pride of every thrifty working-class Scot to hand over his “unbroken pay packet” to his mother or his wife. It was her duty to open the envelope herself, hand him some money for his personal expenses, and then bank the rest — or hide it somewhere in the kitchen. My mother, whose grandfather and father both kept up this fine tradition, once told me this procedure ensured that the money didn’t accidentally get spent at the pub on the way home.

Of course, I can see how the mothers and wives of Scotland could have gamed this system, but presumably it was their pride to manage the family finances with utmost probity. And, returning to the present, I must say it is great fun to tote the numbers up at the end of the month and see how much we have saved.

And we do save because, in the pursuit of excellent household management, I have   eliminated some wasteful habits, like recreational browsing for bargains in second-hand shops, buying expensive cosmetics, and snacking on croissants whenever I am near my favorite bakery. British super-model Kate Moss once controversially said, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Well, be that as it may, no purchase feels as good as a beautifully balanced budget book.

I am sure that this is old news to many of our readers, who are wondering why I didn’t have this figured out by the time I was 12. But if you are like my former self, wondering where the money all goes from week to week, I strongly recommend writing down everything you spend for a month or two, and then treating yourself to a budget planner.

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Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and has contributed to Catholic World Report. Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013). Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.

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