I hope your bougette is bulging


My daughters are obsessive animal lovers. They cry at roadkill, and we have so much wildlife buried in makeshift graves around the yard we joking call it Pet Sematary. I’m a pro at performing impromptu funerals now; I can handle squirrel, bird, or mouse at a moment’s notice.

So, when a particular animal-themed festival sparked their interest, I agreed to take them. Travel costs are on me, spending money is their responsibility. With that, they are suddenly THE BEST planners I’ve ever seen. Schedules, checklists, separate envelopes for different goals. Sticky notes everywhere. It’s impressive.


Noun: An estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time. The amount of money needed or available for a purpose.

I’m also an obsessive planner, so they come by it rightly. I also realize that everyone isn’t wired this way, so I thought I would share my household budget tool here.

You’ll need a basic understanding of Excel to make it work, and I’ve included instructions as well. It guarantees we’re saving when we need to, and forces us to carry over enough money from week to week to cover the big monthly expenses (yikes, the mortgage is due?). It categorizes our income and expenses, manages our cash flow (spouse and I are paid on different schedules) and lets us plan ahead for bigger events (birthday party, summer vacation, holidays, back-to-school clothes). You’ll notice the use of cash in the instructions as well. Yes, I also use my 8-year-old’s envelope/checklist method.

After doing some digging, I’m grinning a bit at the envelope system. It turns out the word “budget” comes from the the Old French bougette (leather bag), from the Latin bulga (leather bag, knapsack).

Notice the similarity to the word bulge – the lumpy back pocket with your wallet sticking out?

The word pops up in the 1500’s, sees a slight increase in usage through the 1800’s, but a huge spike through the 20th century. In the 18th century, one would literally “open the budget,” when treasury ministers kept financial plans in a wallet. By the early 1900’s the world was facing war and the United States economy collapsed in the Great Depression. Home Economics emerged as an effort to train women to manage the household, be smart consumers, learn about nutrition and meal planning. Budgeting was a hot topic.

Rapid globalization meant attention to finances worldwide. Families at home were feeling the pinch under rationing and unemployment. This book is a stitch to read now:

“Do you know that sometimes people spend too large a percentage of their incomes for one thing and then have nothing left for fun or for giving?” – Household Arts for Home and School, Volume 1, 1920Here “Mrs. Edwards….had to learn [about the budget] through experience, which is sometimes a strict teacher.”

household budget in 1920

As the U.S. government grew larger and more complicated, the U.S. Bureau of the Budget was established in 1921 under president Warren G. Harding (reorganized as the Office of Management and Budget in 1970 under Nixon). The new law, The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, required a national budget system and independent audit of the federal budget. For the first time, the president would submit an annual budget to Congress for approval. Some scholars believe this was a turning point in our nation’s governance. “The modern presidency, judged in terms of institutional responsibilities, began on June 10, 1921, the day that President Harding signed the Budget and Accounting Act.” – James Sundquist, The Decline and Resurgence of Congress.

My kids’ envelopes are beginning to “bulge” as they built their plans for summer spending. Eventually I’ll coach them to more modern methods, but for now, their 18th century strategy seems to be working just fine.



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