Today's task is to create a budget. A budget allows you to be the man with a plan.
If you already have a budget, then check it over, look for ways to increase how much you're saving and putting towards retirement, and check out some of the resources we included to help you keep track of your expenses.
What are some of your budgeting tips and advice? Share them with us.
I've finally gotten over the thrill of graduating and getting a job with decent pay, so I've just about tamed the reflexive instinct to buy Stuff (the same kind of Stuff-With-A-Capital-"S" that I should be decluttering my home of).
Student loans are out of their grace period, rent is due monthly, and the second baby is here, among other things. At least for the next two or three months, we'll be running in the red. But not by much.
My wife keeps my credit card safely tucked away in *her* wallet, and we only use it for larger purchases (and get the amazon.com points). She tracks most of the big stuff (groceries, bills, etc.), and I keep track of my personal spending. That's a real eye-opener. I suspect most people don't do it because they're afraid of what the results are.
Anyway, I'm gritting my teeth and regularly reviewing the ugly truth. Usually, I'm under $20 a day and have one or two "no spending" days every week.
Parallel to the more substantive journal I'm going to try to keep going (per the Challenge), I'm keeping a little Moleskine with records of my spending, exercise, and progress on my other long term goals (e.g., schedules for reviewing language vocab). A little notebook like that--small enough to take everywhere and have within reach whenever you need to log a purchase-- goes a LONG way in helping you feel organized and eager to be productive. Do stuff.
We budget already, and we're as tight with it as we can be. Unfortunately, there's nothing going to savings right now and that's a sore point with us as there's nothing left TO go to savings. The only way that's changing is if I get a better paying job (not easy in this economy) or if my wife sells a book or gets a job. She's headed off to grad school this week, so I'm hoping that in a couple of years we'll start making headway towards some retirement money.
I've had a budget for a while now, all in my head, but I only have 5 posts in it. (Rent 50%, food 30%, tax 10%, emergency fund 5% and stuff I don't really need 5%).
Got the emergency fund on a automatic monthly transfer so that they don't dwinle away on other stuff.
It's not for everyone, but I can give you an example of something I find very motivating:
Everytime I get rid of a monthly expence, cable for instance, I tranfer the amount I used to use on cable automatically to a splurge account. It makes it feel less like a sacrifice and more like a relief.
This of course relies on the theory that money left in any account with a debit card will disapear (almost) by itself.
Reading about budgets from time to time refreshes my resolve. Just recently went from full-time to transitional period - on my way to part-time so my son I'm raising on my own can have adequate time. Budgeting helped because I budgeted three months living expenses and everyone's wondering how I'm doing it. They must think I'm rich or my retired parents give me money - neither of which is true. I do give credit to my ex-husband though who is entirely faithful with child support. I'm actually depending on it right now. Kudos to all men who are faithful there.
Sweet - one that I already do to give me time to catch up on some of the others.
I think the savings for variable expenses is my favorite part of the budget process. Money can be a big source of stress, and it takes away some of the worry to know you are prepared (financially) to get your car repaired or air conditioning unit replaced if the need arises.
My "Freedom" accounts that I save for each month to cover irregular expenses:
Property Taxes and HOA dues
Home Maintenence and Repair
Probably a bit over-done, but I really like to separate it all and see how much gets spent on each thing.
Being a graduate student, first off, I have almost no expenses. I don't own a car so my transportation costs are maintenance on my bicycles and a T pass (our subway/train/bus system in Boston). I mostly buy food and pay rent with my paltry but livable stipend for being a researcher. Anyways, on June first I started tracking how I spend my money again, like I should be in the habit of regardless of my situation. July 1st I will analyze the data and develop a reasonable budget. I need to put this one on hold because as a scientist/engineer, I love and need my metrics.
Right well, this is another "James can cheat" day. I already have a budget sheet set up. My girlfriend and I put one together based on a sheet she's been using for the past few years. I'll start actually using it in a few weeks tho, when I get my first pay check. Till then, I'm keeping track of what (very little) money i have by limiiting myself to the money in my pocket, and not touching whats left in my bank account till I get my first paycheck. Other then helping with groceries and gas, at the moment, I have no other expenses (until about June 30th), so its not too hard to track things just yet
Automatic checkmark for Day 16. I've used Quickbooks for several years now, and it has served us well. The software allows you to not only create a budget, but also to create reports relating to past expenditures. This way, you not only can see where your money will go, but also where it has gone. I typically eschew technology just for the sake of technology, but this is a very useful tool. What I accomplish with a few mouse-clicks would be very painstaking and time-intensive to do with a traditional written checkbook register. I tend to make entries into the check register at least a month ahead of time for all of the known expenses (mortgage, vehicle, insurances, utilties) and this provides some advance notice of how the income-versus-expenses situation is panning out.
We run a fairly tight ship, after several years of learning how to be frugal and creative. We're not in the clear, yet, and there's certainly room for improvement, mainly in the have-it-now attitude (however well-intentioned).
As of a couple years ago, we spent the previous few years sweating it out trying to get financial things under control. When we had a handle on it, we were able to pay cash (not out of debt yet, but able to pay cash for everything else). We got an AmEx, and now we use that as much as we can for purchases. We pay it off each month, and frequently get rewards cards, which we then use for dates or special purchases.
We're no financial gurus, and it's been a long haul having to learn about finances (we didn't grow up with money knowledge, and learned the hard way after marriage and a couple children), but after we learned the simple basics of keep more than you spend, and could practice it (there was a lot of tension for a few years as we weaned ourselves from wanting so many things), we've been able to pay the fixed expenses AND buy other things (when affordable) happily out of true desire, not feeling that we NEED things.
I checked out the links that Brett sent -- thanks for the options. We use Crown Money Map Financial Software from Crown Financial Ministries, though I tried out a couple of the spreadsheets. In addition to our current software and plan, I'm working on another, simpler spreadsheet that's easily available where i can get a snaphsot of what we make, keep & spend. Thanks for the challenge!
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