Methods of budgeting

Methods of budgeting

I have worked out a strict but doable budget to finish paying off my credit card in 8 months. Since most of my bills are a fixed, predictable amount that happen once a month, I'm not too worried about them. However, there are certain categories of spending that aren't set in stone and get spent over time (groceries/house care, pet food, dining out, and the tiny "cushion" I built in just in case I had to go over on any of the above categories). These are the categories that I've historically had problems budgeting--by which I mean I didn't really have a plan and therefore didn't really budget them except for stopping spending when I ran out of money. I've heard of "envelope budgeting", which in this case would mean putting the cash I have budgeted for each category in a separate envelope and only paying with cash, not my debit card. My concern would be a) having that much money on hand at my house and b) *not* having it available if I'm out and decide to stop at the store for some things I hadn't anticipated needing at our weekly shopping trip. For those of you who do this kind of budgeting, how do you make it work? (General advice that doesn't specifically pertain to these two concerns is welcome also.) Alternatively, I've thought of using my receipts and a spreadsheet, or some similar system, to keep track of how much I've spent in each category per week. The upside of this that the money stays in my account until needed and is instantly available; the downside is that in the past, when I haven't been draconian about keeping track of my spending, I've ended up spending way more than I thought. Obviously that's something I can do better at simply by working out a system to keep track (I wasn't really trying before). So, for anyone who manages to stick to a budget without the "envelope system", I'd love to hear how you do it. Short version: how do y'all make budgets work for you when it comes to those areas that aren't set in stone?
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State of my garden.

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