Part Two – The Big Picture

This is Part Two – of my five-part, eight-week series The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting.

Now that you have all those entries, receipts and statements that contain your entire expenses for one full month, what exactly do you do with them?

1. List out the categories you think you spend your money on along the top of a sheet of paper:

Well, first we are going to list them all out into categories to give us a bigger picture. This exercise is to get them onto paper if you didn’t already.

If that seems even too overwhelming at first you can just list them all out in one big long column and to the right of each one label with  what or why it was purchased. Those labels will become the categories that you can then create and place the amounts under.

What are some of the basic major categories that you spend your money on? Housing, utilities, food, car maintenance, toiletries, personal (grooming, clothes)…etc. Those are some of the basics that you can start with. As you come across purchases/expenses you don’t have accounted for add a new category for those as you go (and if you used my Monthly Bills & Expenses Worksheet from Part One you are already ahead of the game).

2. Enter your amounts under the applicable column:

3. Better yet open a spreadsheet and let that do the work for you (I ♥ spreadsheets):

Here’s an abridged version of what it might look like:

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4. Don’t forget to make a Misc. column for those items that are either hard to categorize or are FLUFF (i.e. little Johnny’s piano lessons or your furry kid’s monthly spa treatment) we’ll figure those out later:

Once you’ve placed all your expenses under a categories take a moment and pat yourself on the back. You completed the first step in becoming more aware of your money. Now take a look at the columns. See any common themes? Is one column a little longer (heavier) than another? Is there a lot of items in your Misc column that you didn’t know exactly where to put? Do you see 45 <insert coffee shop name here> entries under your Food category or do you have a Caffeine category all it’s own? You are starting to see how you get a bigger picture overall on where your money is going.

5. Add up the totals for each category and then add up the total of the totals:

Now comes the scary part, let’s add up the total of each of your categories and then the total for all the categories for the whole month. That amount, while it might be hard to swallow, is a real tell-tale sign of whether or not you are living within your means.

So from the example above:

Total Monthly Expenses

This is your total month’s worth of expenses. Pretty scary, huh? Probably a lot more than you think you would spend in one month and there are some exceptions in that total – property taxes and brakes for the car and if you weren’t prepared for probably went on a credit card, so let’s remove those amounts for now and during Part Three I’ll show you how to plan for those Expected and Unexpected Expense Exceptions (EUEE, or better yet which I like to call the ‘ex’ factor).

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6. Compare that to your monthly income:

Next to that total amount write down your monthly income (usually two paychecks). Is your income number greater than your total expenses or vise versa?

If your income is larger than your expenses there is hope. If your expenses are larger than your income we can get you help.

And by help, I mean more spreadsheets :-) because I ♥ spreadsheets, remember.

This will allow you to further pinpoint where your money is going each month and allow us to fine-tune it later on.

7. Break it down:

So let’s take it a step further and categorize out even more. For example, break down the Food category into Groceries, Out To Eat Evening, Out To Eat Lunches, Coffee, Work Treats, School Lunches. Auto could be broken down into Car Payment, Car Maintenance, Gas…you get the point.

So your homework this week is to take each of our basic categories that we started with and break them down even further. I have provided printable spreadsheets below, of course, to help you do just that. Or use your own spreadsheets on your computer. Whatever route you choose this will allow you to differentiate between your financial ‘wants’ and ‘needs’.

You will have your ‘needs’ – those Fixed Monthly Bills (FMB) that are due every month and then you will also have your Fixed Monthly Expenses (FME) those things you need to purchase every month, you know, like food to eat and Kleenex to blow your nose with, that stuff. And then you will have your ‘wants’ the things that I like to call FLUFF or better know as: Fun Life purchases Under False Finances – those impulse items, those things you don’t-really-need-because-you-really-can’t-afford-butreally-REALLY-want-so-it’s-going-on-the-credit-card, yeah, those things. they are FLUFF.

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So see you in a week, happy spreadsheet-ing!

Part One – Track Your Expenses

This is Part One of my five-part, eight-week series on The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting

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If starting a budget seems overwhelming, let’s go old school for a moment, shall we.

1. Get out a sheet of paper, or heck even a notebook and a pen or pencil.

2. Now write down EVERY amount you spend for an entire month and where/what you spent it on. Every. Penny.

That’s it. The first step towards budgeting your money is to track every cent that leaves your bank account/wallet.

You will have your Fixed Monthly Bills (FMB) those that are due every month and then you will also have your Fixed Monthly Expenses (FME) those things you need to purchase every month, you know, like food to eat and Kleenex to blow your nose with, that stuff. And then you will have the things that I like to call FLUFF or better know as: Fun Life purchases Under False Finances – those impulse items, those things you don’t-really-need-because-you-really-can’t-afford-them but really-want-it-and-it’s-going-on-the-credit-card-so-I-don’t-have-to-pay-until-later so you go ahead and buy them.

It can be hard to change your lifestyle and habits in one week so this step is going to take place over a whole month. You need to know where your money is going and what it is doing for a full month to get an idea of even where to start with a budget. This is a process and the first step is awareness.

I’ve even created a worksheet for you to use (because I ♥ spreadsheets) so if you would like to keep everything organized and in one place here you go (hint: it will make Part Two a little easier).

Monthly Bills And Expenses Worksheet

If you run out of room go ahead and print another one, they’re free!

But no worries, if it is easier to just save up receipts in a folder or envelope then have at it. I just want you to keep track of every cent you spend for an entire month: on groceries, on coffee, at the gas pump, with your credit card, on gifts for others, on coffee, that parking meter with the change in your pocket, on gifts for yourself, every bill you pay….EVERYTHING.

Meet you back here in a month with that list, or in between worksheet entries, you can keep checking back here for more fun things NOT finance related, like maybe food!

The Beginner’s Guide To Budgeting

Ok, we are a month into 2015 now and those financial resolutions are going strong, right?

Not so much?

Well, if you’ve fallen off the budgeting bandwagon, let me see if I can help get you back on board or at least help you book another trip.

Budgeting can be confusing and overwhelming and some might not even know where to begin when it comes to budgeting your money. This isn’t something that is taught in school (though I HIGHLY believe it should be!), nor is this something that comes naturally to many of us.

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So, I am offering a five-part, eight-week series that starts tomorrow to help you take the steps to becoming more aware of your finances and more mindful of your money.

Disclaimers: Now, I am not a financial planner or expert by any means…. I just know what works for us. It might not work for everyone but it will at least get you thinking and possibly taking a step in the right direction.

Part One (Week 1-4): Track Your Expenses

Part Two (Week 5): The Big Picture

Part Three (Week 6): Tell Your Money Where To Go

Part Four (Week 7): Re-Adjusting

Part Five (Week 8): Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?

So come on back for some financial fun!

Monthly Roundup Memory Sheets

I am a habitual list-maker. Ask my husband, I probably have 45 post-it notes all over the house (and a drawer full of notepads) with lists for just about anything you (I) can think of. I am also a reluctant scrapbooker. I love the thought of it, just never seem to have the time.

And with age I am starting to forget those little moments that I want to remember so I started writing things down in one spot to keep with my photos (that I do manage to print out) so when the planets align and I can spare a few moments I have everything in one place and everything recorded. So when you marry my love for list-making (or my lack of memory, you decide) and my love of documenting our family you get this:

Monthly Roundup Memory Sheet

I created these Monthly Roundup Memory Sheets and decided they were too great not to share. So record all your family moments on one sheet for each month and when it is done you can simply store it with your photos until your planets align and you have time to scrapbook or you could even add the entire sheet right into your scrapbook. It does have your handwriting after all. There is a whole set for the year. So start documenting those moments.

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And a reminder to myself that life’s moments are fleeting. Don’t forget to savor them while preserving them.

Debt-Free Christmas Pledge

Now that the shopping madness is over, the gifts have all been torn into and the dust is settling on all the Christmas Frenzy and we look ahead with dread at putting ALL THIS CHRISTMAS STUFF AWAY, let’s make a pledge here and now to not go into debt next Christmas!

Part of those New Year’s Resolutions that I am re-affirming is to revisit my budgeting/spending/debt pay-down and a major one for me is Christmas. It is so easy to lose control of your finances during Christmastime and justify just about anything. “Oh, I’ll pay it off later.”

But I have a little secret for you… I already made that pledge, a year ago, and IT WORKED!

One year ago I saved all my receipts from my shopping endeavors and when it was all said and done I tallied it up (and after recovering from a small stroke) I vowed to never go into a Christmas season again without planning my budget out ahead of time.

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I wanted a way to be able to buy my family thoughtful gifts without using credit cards or breaking the bank and then spending the following 3-6 months guilt-ridden as I paid my monthly credit card bills.

So, here’s my steps to a debt-free Christmas if you are willing to take the pledge with me:

1GatherYourReceipts

If you kept your reciepts gather them up or try to write them down from memory. You can also get each line item off of your bank statement/credit card statement that you spent on Christmas this year. Include family, neighbor and coworker gifts as well as wrapping paper and postage. I found a few items I had missed from last year so it is a great time to re-adjust my plan.

2AddUpTheTotal

Be brave, it take’s alot to face that number and realize how much you actually did spend but it’s good for us to do this. Instead of seeing $20 go here, $15 go there, we can see how much this really does add up to be in total. This is where my spreadsheet comes in handy. It helps me set an amount and as I purchase items I add them to the sheet and you can SEE wether or not you are on target.

3DivideBy26
Divide that total by 26 – the number of paychecks in a year.

4PutAwayEachPaycheck

That is how much you should put away each paycheck in an envelope or seperate savings account and you will have this IN CASH by next Christmas. Oh, the freedom!

Say you spent $910 on everything this year:   $910/26 = $35  That’s it!!

$35 a paycheck squirreled away and you will have $910 to spend on your loved ones next Christmas and the best thing is it is guilt free! You still have to reign yourself in and not go bonkers just because you have the cash-cushion. You still need to figure out a budget that you will spend on each family member or group and stick to it. This year now I know I have to readjust what I am putting away because there was some items that I didn’t have accounted for last year so I went a little over, but it is okay. As with all goals it is not necessary to focus on what didn’t work, but what DID work and learn from what didn’t.

And have some fun with it! If you use the envelope system get creative with your envelope and watch it grow every month. Then in a year you will have one less stress for the Holiday season and can spend more time living the true meaning of Christmas.

Here are some fun ideas for those that want to add the money to a Christmas Cash envelope:

Fun printable Christmas Cash envelope

For you sewers a fabric envelope

So get started today and here’s to a Happy Debt-Free Holidays and Happy Savings for years to come!!

A New Year A New You | Resolutions To Live By

HappyNewYear It’s that time of the year again when we make those new year’s resolutions; commit to living a better life and ultimately set ourselves up for failure. And, of course I am no different. I have big dreams of having a completely organized home where there is a place for everything and everything in it’s place, I dream of having all our debt paid off and never again having to use a credit card, I fantasize about being a size 10 8 again and effortlessly throwing on whatever cute ensemble that happens to be in my closet.

I also realize that those are really huge hurdles and kind of unrealistic goals for where I am at right now. This is life afterall.

So, I want to try and make more overall intentions that will happen slowly over time with small achievable goals. I also have some habits to improve on from last year and some to reaffirm (again) this year.

1. Live Healthier | The most important part of that to me is eating healthier. I don’t want to state that I will lose 50 pounds this new year (I’d really like to lose 65), I want to make a true lifestyle change and commit to eating healthy and ridding my house of those awful temptation foods. Once and for all.

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2. Get Back on Budget | Another intention I have for this new year is to reaffirm my budgeting goals. I think we did good last year but could have done better in some areas and I have learned a few things also along the way.

3. Be More Creative | I want to get back to creating things, just for the sake of being creative. I miss that and want to make time for it again.

4. Work On Home Projects | Not just the house renovations we’ve had going on but the scrapbooking and organizing projects on my to-do list.

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As with all lifestyle changes it is an ebb and flow process. And it is not a one-size-fits-all either. Some paychecks are easier than others to stay on track, some mealtimes have to be grab and go, some (okay, all) of those photos on my camera need to be edited before I can print them off but who has the time. Intentions are not only about setting goals for yourself but also about giving yourself a hall pass so you don’t just throw in the towel altogether and quit because you feel so defeated.

So, I am going to make this year about making better choices overall in every aspect of my life. So what if we have to grab McDonald’s because we are in-between practices and that is all we have time for, they do have healthier choices. So what if the van needs new brakes, I will have a plan in place (car maintenance envelope) to cover it.

Good goals are also about having your own back, so make those intentions but as well make a backup plan (or two or three) for those times when you do veer off track and you’ll be more likely to swing back into the right lane again.

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