Financial Management Tip Day 8: Do you know where to start in creating a budget?

Financial Management Tip Day 8: Do you know where to start in creating a budget?

I know many people see the word “budget” as a bad word but it really doesn’t have to be nor is it complicated or complex. I am a believer that the key is to start and you will work out the kinks in the plan as you go. The first month might be a little messy so it is important to keep notes, write down questions and any possible issues you encounter along the way.

Look at it carefully and frequently. Are you missing a category? Did you spend money this month that you couldn’t account for on your budget? Did you over spend in a category- why and is there a way to better control your spending or do you need to increase the budgeted amount for this category?

Budgeting is really about looking at the reality –money in and money out and making choices about your priorities. Be realistic.

Steps for beginning your budget:

  1. Get Organized– Gather your spending journal information, bank and credit card statements, gather current copies of your bills *for variable costs like your power bill you might want to look at 6 months of previous bills to discover your high and low points or an average, your pay stubs, and your debt statements.
  2. Be Exact– Do Not, I repeat Do Not use estimates! Write down the actual numbers down to the penny.
  3. Format– Start with a form you can find online or make your own. You can do it all on the computer or paper and pen. I like to print off a form that I fill out throughout the month by hand. I keep past month’s budgets to go back over and review. It let’s me compare from month to month.
  4. Don’t forget to Include Savings– Don’t forget these important categories. For example, if you start early, your retirement savings will cost you less per month. Do you want to stop renting and would rather own your own house, start saving for a house down-payment. Emergencies are bound to happen, unless you start an emergency fund, you will rely on credit during these difficult times.
  5. Remember Debt Repayment– Many of us have debt repayment in our life’s and this may range from student loans, mortgage, car payments, credit cards, loans from family or friends, line of credit, payday advance stores, past due amounts on bills, or items bought on buy now pay later plan. Start with a list of all your debts (who do you owe, what is your total amount owed, monthly minimum amounts, and interest rates)- we will look at debt repayment more closely this week.
  6. Try a 3 Column Approach– I like to use a three column approach to my budget sheet.                                                                                                                            1. Budgeted Monthly Amount– What I have budgeted for spending in each category                                                                                                                         2. Monthly Actual Amount– How much did we actually spend this month in each category                                                                                                                           3. Difference– Did we over or under spend?

I am going to provide a blank budget page that you can use for your family (edit the cells to work for you and your family’s needs- add categories that are relevant for you). I like lots of categories- be specific. For example, you might need to add some categories for kids or planned spending such as vacations. Blank Budget Sheet

Here is a Sample Budget Sheet for you to check out. Is this person missing categories? Think about next steps? Is this person saving enough? What about increasing payments on their debts? Why is there budgeted amounts this month that were not spent- where does this money go etc?

Financial Management Tip Day 6: The Blurry Line Between Needs vs. Wants

Financial Management Tip Day 6: Do you understand the difference between your needs and your wants?

We live in a world full of consumerism. We get into a mindset of want, want, want but we need to work towards shifting our priorities and thoughts. It takes time to make such shifts. And you will make mistakes- slip-ups from time to time. I think its important to look at small changes before going radical.

A need is something you have to have (essential)- you need it to live. There are really 5 categories of needs: a roof over your head, healthy food and water, basic medical and hygiene products,  reliable transportation, and basic clothing. Some people consider there means of making an income as being a need. Other people consider life and disability insurance as a means of providing for their family.

Everything else is a want. A want is something you would like to have (nice to have but not essential). You want brand-name clothing, you want designer shoes, a new car, a fancy house, the newest technology, etc. I want junk food or cable.

There is a blurry line between our needs and our wants- we need a reliable cell phone but do we need the latest technology in our cell phone? We need a reliable car but do we need a fancy car?

It definitely seems like these words are now the same in advertising. There is a popular tv ad right now that uses the words “I need that” when advertising a tablet and speakers. When did we become so greedy?

Am I suggesting getting rid of all your wants, no but I am suggesting you take a look at where the bulk of your money is going and making sure that your priority (you pay first) your needs and than you can add in an appropriate amount of wants based on what you can afford.

If you lost your job today, recognizing where your wants are and that there is room for cuts within your budget helps you realize what is truly necessary and important.

For example, a few months ago we took a pay cut so we started looking at our budget and what we could cut out- we lowered our cable, internet, and home phone bill (changed companies for a better rate and better service), lowered the package on both of our cell phones, lowered the amounts we were spending on our variable spending just to name a few changes. These are small changes in our lives- do we really notice these changes? No, we don’t really notice them.

However, did we take out all our wants? No, we still have netflix, we still get the newspaper daily, we have money in our entertainment jar but we spend our money much more wisely now than before.

Every thing concerning money is a choice- some choices are easier than others to make.

Do you know where you could cut back if you had to? What ways have you tried to cut back in the past?