Several years ago I used to read financial/debt reduction/frugal living blogs. One of them had a terrific excel budget spreadsheet, which I downloaded. It wasn't anything fancy, just a basic worksheet where you would list your monthly income along with fixed and variable expenses. It could be continuously updated and was a great way to plan for my year. Finance for a Freelance Life offered it again for 2010 along with some other spreadsheets that look interesting.
I have tweaked this spreadsheet several times over the years, adding a breakdown of each catagory and linking cells to auto-fill. At the beginning of the year I can plug in my anticipated monthly income and known expenses, and guesstimate how much I need to set aside monthly for things like car repairs. I can plug in how much I'll put into savings (lol.) And on payday each month (yes, I get paid once each month! It's actually pretty easy to adapt to that), I check to see if I'm on track.
This year depleted the nice little savings account I had been building. A few thousand in brakes, rotor grinding, new tires, 60K mile service, and some other unexpected bills took the egg out of my nest. But the good news is that I had carefully built that nest and can start over again. I already have.
It's a little more work than just setting cash aside in envelopes, which I have done in my more distant past. But it is entirely worth it just to see your money grow as you become more disciplined in your spending/saving. It's comforting to know that the cash for property taxes will be sitting in an account because you've budgeted for it for all these months.
I travelled the internet looking through finance blogs and came up with some interesting sites offering spreadsheets. If you are interested, you may want to check this one....it's like working with the envelope system. Or this one from Microsoft. Or perhaps you already have a terrific system and can offer advice?
It's a good time to start planning for next year....let's make it a great one!