We’ve talked about budgets and how to save money, and today we are going to share some of the tools that we use to keep ourselves organized. These aren’t fancy, and they may or may not help you, but here we go…
First, get a 3 ring notebook. If you are me, you will get a white or black one from Walmart. If you are Dana, you will get a nice pink one with a floral print. Regardless, it is worth it. Put these deliverables into the 3 ring notebook and keep it in a handy location. I think the correct Blog Word is ‘Printables,’ but as Luke would say, “That is girlish.” So I will call them “Deliverables.”
Monthly Bill Page and Occasional Bill Page: | Click Here and Click Here |
This is extremely important! The purpose of this page is to make sure that you remember to pay all your bills on time. This will save you money on late fees, and help your sanity. An unexpected benefit for us has been that by writing in the bill amounts over the year it helps you track and trend how much you spend on each bill. This will help you to actually notice if you have a bill that is abnormally high, such as when your water softener breaks and runs an excessive amount of water into the drain. Just an example. (The Monthly Bill Page is for bills that you pay every month-phone, utilities, mortgage, etc. The Occasional Bill Page is for bills you pay here and there-car insurance, Retail store credit card, etc.)
Passwords Page: | Click Here |
Dana has finally turned to the Dark Side of paying bills online, thus single-handedly sending the Post Office into bankruptcy. She has this sheet in the binder to make the bill-paying process as easy as possible. We wrote our User Name and Passwords by hand instead of saving them all on the computer.
Receipts That Have Been Broken Down: | Click Here |
We track our expenses as we go along and categorize them. We download the transactions from our credit card website and our bank’s website, and then place them into categories, sub-categories, and stores. Sometimes this process is easy: Home Depot is usually House. ALDI is usually Food. Old Navy is usually Clothes. However, sometimes we buy weird stuff at ALDI, and how do you know what you bought at Walmart? It could be lunch meat or an oil change. So, when we are on our A-game, we will use this worksheet to keep track of these transactions that will not be easy to categorize. How that looks is we will take an $80 Walmart receipt, use our calculator to figure out that about $45 was food and $35 was clothes. We will log that on the sheet, and when I do my budget review I will make the corrections in my spreadsheet.
Other Budget Tracking Sheets: | Click Here and Click Here |
We use these sheets for whatever happens to be important at the time. This year we are planning to log our cash payments on the first sheet, meaning that if we pay cash we will bring the receipt home and write it down on this sheet. (Usually we carry the receipts around for 6 months and then throw them away.) You could also use it if you are trying to rein in your spending on clothes, gifts, house expenses, etc. Or if you want to keep track of a special project or babysitting expenses. The Category Deliverable is used for the above ideas. For categories that you usually pay check or cash for like tithing or school expenses you can use the Category 2 Deliverable.
Annual Report: | Click Here |
We have an annual tradition where we get a babysitter and I take Dana to McDonalds and we have The Budget Talk. It is usually the first or second week of January, after I have figured out the previous year’s financial information in my nerdery with my calculator. The first year’s conversation was very short. Dana and I were not mature enough in our communication skills, and so we were not able to delve very deep into it. I basically said, “Here’s how much money we made, this is how much we spent, this is how much we saved. We are doing pretty well and heading in the right direction. How are your fries?” I tended to see money very objectively and therefore was blunt and insensitive. Dana saw money more personally and took our conversation as an attack on her spending habits. So tread lightly, gents. After doing it for at least 5 years, maybe more, we have both gotten better at it so we can go into more detail and really have a good discussion about where we want our money to go. Your Annual Family Report does not have to be exactly like this, but I really encourage you to objectively look over your numbers together so that you both know where your finances stand. I don’t have space in this post to talk about why this is important, but trust me, it is!
Gotta Love Excel !
The following documents provide the information that you will put in your Annual Report. I did not upload them, but if you are interested in any or all of them, please email me your request at firstname.lastname@example.org Tell me a little bit about what you are trying to accomplish, and I will try to give you the tool(s) that will help.
Full disclosure: Most people use Quicken or QuickBooks or Microsoft Money to do this. I am an Excel nerd, and too cheap to pay for such a program, and too picky to use their features, and so I do it myself with macros and pivot tables. If you aren’t able to do this, you may want to buy one of those programs. Or, the old-school way is simply to use your printed bank statements and credit card bills, a pencil, and a calculator. The point is that you keep track of your spending. All of them. And the more up to date you are, the better. We try to review our spending on my payday, which is every 2 weeks. If you are disciplined enough to do this every 2-4 weeks it is not overwhelming, and at the end of the year your work is almost all done for you!
We use this to keep track of our retirement accounts and college 529 funds.
Cash On Hand Worksheet
I log in to my bank and check my balance on payday. (We have 2 banks and an online savings account…long story.) By keeping track of this I know exactly how we are doing.
Net Worth Worksheet
This is very important for 2 reasons: If you are in debt, it shows you that you are poor and should not spend money on crazy things. And, when you work very hard to pay down your debts and save money in the bank, you are rewarded with the objective numbers moving in the right direction. I usually fill this out on January 1st and again in the summer.
This is simply the evidence of your decisions about how to spend your limited amount of money. The numbers don’t lie.
Having the right tool makes all the difference! We have put these together over the years, with input from some very good friends. We hope that they inspire you to keep a tight rein on your finances this year. Please give us your feedback: Are these helpful? What do you use? We are always looking for new ideas.
PS: If you hover over “At Home” and then click on “Budget,” it will show you all of the essays that relate back to budgeting. That is always an option any time you want to read a variety of posts on the same topic.