Category Archives: Budget

4 Secrets to Paying Down Debt

secrets to paying down debt, how to pay down debt

Today I’m sharing 4 secrets to paying down debt with you.

I hate debt.  I really do.  Debt is stupid, but unavoidable.  Most people don’t have $200,000 sitting in their checking account to buy a house.  I know I don’t have $25,000 to even by a car.  So I know when the time comes for J and I to buy our first house we’ll take a loan.  But I won’t be happy.

Right now J and I are getting our debt paid off.  That way when we are ready to buy a house we won’t have too many monthly payments to make.   Paying down debt can be hard.  It’s stressful, it’s not fun and people can lose sight of their end goal.

Here are my 4 secrets to paying down debt and staying out of debt:

SECRET ONE: start with your debt snowball.  

I shared how to do a debt snowball a few weeks ago.  It’s important to get a clear picture of where you currently stand.  Prioritizing your debt will give you focus.

SECRET TWO: have a budget that works.

Creating a budget doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes.  A budget is vital in getting debt paid off.  You can work on paying down your debt unless you know how much money you need to live off of.

SECRET THREE: stay motivated.

It’s easy to lose sight of your target.  There is a lot going on in your life.  You have bills to pay, work to get done, a family to love on and take care of, laundry to do, and so much more.  You are getting pulled in a thousand different directions everyday.

You need to stay pumped about paying off your debt.  If you don’t know what your end goal is then you will likely get off course of paying down debt.

SECRET FOUR: be creative.

Look for other ways to earn extra money.  Go through your closet and find some nice used clothes to sell on eBay.  Sell old furniture on craigslist.  Do freelance work on the side for a little extra cash.

You could also look for ways to cut your budget.  Get rid of cable and switch to Netflix and Hulu Plus.  Most likely the cost of those 2 won’t be nearly as high as your cable bill.

If you can’t get rid of satellite because you need your sports then call the provider.  Tell them you’re thinking about switching because of the cost.  They can probably work out a promotional deal to lower your rate.  The deal may not last forever, but it’d help to knock out some debt in the meantime.

Look for coupons and other money savings apps to reduce your spending.  That money could be put towards your debt.

What do you do to help pay down debt?  Leave a comment and let me know!

How to Use Google Drive for Your Check Register

I’m not going to lie, I’m obsessed with how to use Google Drive for your check register.

I love being able to create documents and spreadsheets that I can access anywhere with my laptop or phone.  My Google Drive is more organized than my closet with all of it’s sub-folders and color coding.  It’s beautiful!  Over the past few years I’ve learned how to leverage Google Drive to benefit me a little more.

One feature that I use is Google Spreadsheets and I use it as my check register.  If you’re familiar with Microsoft Excel then it won’t be hard to adjust to Sheets.  I can have it automatically add or subtract amounts.  I can label columns and color code using the highlight feature.  I can quickly add any charges while I’m out in town or sitting down at home.  It’s quick, which helps me stay on track with keeping it reconciled.

how to use google drive as your check register

Here’s how to use Google Drive for your check register:

Create a new Sheet and label is check register (or whatever works for you).  I have ours labeled with the name of our bank, too.

Add headers to your columns.  Here are the ones I’m currently using and have been for almost a year now.

Date
Description
Debit
Credit
Total
Cleared
Check Number
Notes

how to use google drive as your check register

Here’s what a blank check register looks like for me.

I also like to color code.  That way nothing slips through the cracks.

how to use google sheets as your check register

Yellow – a bill that isn’t due yet or a check that hasn’t been written.  We use the cash envelope system for a lot of our monthly spending, but not all.  We have auto-drafts setup for some bills, like – cell phone, DirectTV, gym membership, school loans.  I go ahead and enter them into the register on the 1st of the month, but they may not come out until the end.  I highlight them yellow so I know they aren’t coming out yet.

TIP: I highly recommend setting up auto-drafts whenever possible.  You’ll avoid mail delays, late payments and won’t have to remember to send it off!

Red – I use this color to highlight the “cleared” column.  That’s for any item that I’ve paid, but hasn’t hit the bank account yet.  That way I keep track of what’s come out and what hasn’t.

The notes section is for anything that’s out of the ordinary.  When we first moved we had to pay some deposits for our utilities.  So I marked those as deposits to remember down the road why it was an odd amount.

how to use google spreadsheets as your check register

I love how Google Sheets (like Excel) has an auto-sum feature.  I can use the total column to add any debits and subtract any credits to automatically.  There are no mistakes by having it automatically do it for me.

I also love how easily accessible Google Spreadsheets is.  I downloaded the app to my phone, which is called Google Sheets and iPad so I can get to it anywhere, anytime.  Plus, it really helps keep us on track with our budget.

How I Meal Plan {FREE Printable}

how i meal plan, free meal planner template

Here’s how I meal plan, I’ve even included a free menu planner download to help you get started.

I have a confession.  I’m not the best cook in the world.  I’m not the worst.  But I’m so not the best.  I think to be the best at something you have to enjoy it and have passion for it.  For me, most days are a struggle when it comes to cooking.  It’s not that I mind it, but I just don’t always enjoy cooking.

I think that’s because most days I’m tired.  Work was long and stressful.  When I get home all I want to do is change into sweat pants and a baggy t-shirt.  I’m tired, I’m hungry and I’m starting to get cranky.  The last thing I want to do is be cooking for an hour before even getting sit down and relax.

I have found what helps me best to control my crankiness and our budget is to meal plan.  I have to admit our budget is looking a lot better since I started meal planning.  I keep it simple and easy, too.  I only plan for 2 weeks at a time.   To avoid being overwhelmed.

TIP:  Find easy recipes on Pinterest or list out ones you already know.  It makes preparing dinner 1000 times easier if the recipe isn’t complicated. 

Make your plan then write  a list of every ingredient you’re going to need.  Go through your freezer, fridge and pantry to check off what you already have.  That way you don’t buy something you don’t need.

Afterwards I make a master grocery list.  I plan ahead with using my favorite money saving apps and coupons.  Then

I go grocery shopping early Sunday morning or late Sunday night to avoid crowds.  I try to get everything we need for 2 weeks in one trip.  Sometimes I have to go back for fresh produce, but those trips aren’t costly.  I always make sure I have enough in our grocery budget by checking our cash envelopes.

meal planner - merelynne

Usually the breakfast section is just for me.  J has me buy those breakfast sandwiches and he tends to stick to them during the week.  On the weekends I like to cook a little something.  Right now with it being tax season and me working 6 days a week, Saturdays are pretty simple.

Same with the lunch section .  J tends to eat the same thing every day.  So I just make sure I buy enough for his lunches and he’s good to go.  I like variety so I use the lunch section more for me.  If we plan it right then I usually get to take left overs the next day to work with me.  That’s what L/O stands for.  If I know that I’m planning to take L/O the next day to work then I will make sure to make a little extra the night before.

Remember to keep your meal plan simple.  Don’t plan these elaborate meals, buy all this food and then not feel like cooking it.  That was my biggest fault.  I like what I see on Pinterest, but I had to be honest with myself.  If it requires chopping, sauteing, baking, and poaching in ONE recipe it’s not for me.

We also start our weeks on Monday.  I like to go shopping on Sunday afternoons (at least that’s what I aim for).  So by Sunday we’re pretty sparse.  By starting our week on Monday then I know exactly what I have left in the freezer and pantry, and what I need to buy.  I left the 2-week meal planner undated so you could start on any day that works best for your family.

As promised!  Here’ the 2 week meal plan template for FREE.  Click the link to open a PDF version.

2 week meal planner

two week meal plan

5 Secrets to Why Your Budget isn’t Working

5 secrets to why your budget isn't working

5 SECRETS TO WHY YOUR BUDGET ISN’T WORKING.

Sticking to a budget and paying down debt is hard.  It takes dedication and strength.  You must be willing to go without now so you can have more later.

You may go through phases with your budget.  One month you are strict with yourselves and your budget.  You know where every penny goes and you keep a watchful eye on your spending.  You even allocate every extra dollar to your bills.

In other months you slack off more. You go out to eat too much or you spend too much on groceries.  You don’t keep track like you should and you know it.

Those are the months that come back to bite you in the butt.

There’s a balance with paying down debt and budgeting that must be kept.  In order to be successful, you have to have order.

There are 5 secrets to why your budget isn’t working.  Over the years J and I have found what works for us.

SECRET 1: Don’t be too strict with yourselves.  Everyone needs to be able to spend money on something they want without worry. 

My mom told me this story right before I was married about a cup of coffee.  (I’m sure she read this or heard it somewhere, but it has stuck with me.)  A young boy and his brother were brought up by a single-mom.  The mom was struggling, but once a month she would make the boys a cup of coffee.  They could do whatever they wanted with that cup.  They could trash, drink it, give it away.  She never asked questions.  It was theirs.

Everyone needs a cup of coffee of their own.  You need some money that you’re able to do whatever you want with.  No questions asked.

You have to decide what that is between you and your spouse.  J can save his money to go the boat (casino) and I don’t care if he blows it all.  I can spend my money on shoes, getting my nails done.  Whatever.

We make it fair.  We each get a specific amount to spend.  Part of mine goes towards Crossfit so I end up with less cash than J does each month.  J spends some of his money on breakfast burritos.  It doesn’t matter.  We do not care what we spend it on.

SECRET 2: You’ve lost your motivation.  

Money is stressful.  Bills are stressful.  Sometimes you get overwhelmed and start to lose focus.  You need to be reminded why you are following a budget.

I recommend pulling out your debt snowball information or your budget.   Look it over and remember why you are doing this.

SECRET 3: You’re spending too much in one area.

You need to check your budget on a monthly basis (or more!).  Make sure you aren’t spending too much in one category and coming up short in another.  If you’re cable bill is over $100 and you struggle paying for gas to get to work then you have a problem.  Look at cutting your monthly expenses to free up money where you need it.

SECRET 4: Realize that media is affecting you.

Commercials, advertisements, social media are made to influence consumers.  Everyday people are bombarded with outside influences that scream “buy me!”  You have to realize this and think hard before purchasing.

Everyone needs a cooling off period when mad or overwhelmed.  So why not do the same when buying something?  Don’t let the cute little kid pushing Halos on TV influence you to buy them.  Especially when no one in your family will eat them!  You have to be smarter than Marketers.  It’s hard, they are good.  So good.

I recommend taking cash with you when shopping.  They way you spend what you have and nothing more.

5 secrets to why your budget isn't working

SECRET 5: You’re not prepared.

You need to think like a boy scout – always be prepared.  That’s why having an emergency fund is critical when paying down debt.

I remember when J and I were on a roll with paying down debt, we woke up to our fridge going out.  I worried about paying our bills and not being able to buy food.  At that point, J  reminded me about our emergency  fund.  We had a little over $1,000 in that account.

We went to a discount appliance store, you know the kind – scratch and dent.  We found a great fridge for a fraction of what the other stores were charging.  It had a few scraps down the side, but the way our kitchen is, you can’t even see them.

There was no struggle.  Every bill was still paid.  We were still able to eat.

You must be prepared for the unexpected.

There you have 5 secrets to why your budget isn’t working for you.  Now you have the ins and outs of making a budget work for you.  

 

Tips on doing the debt snowball

The Debt Snowball is a tool to help families and individuals pay down their debt.

The end goal is to be debt free.  If you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey then you’ve probably heard of the debt snowball before.  I wrote a post on it before, but it’s been a long time.  I think it’s time to go over it again.

debt snowball tips, how to do the debt snowball

It’s a simple concept.  Start with one debt, work your way to paying it off by putting any extra money towards the debt each month.  When that debt is paid in full, you take the money you were applying towards it and roll it into another debt.  You continue this snowball effect until all bills are paid off.

It’s important to continue paying the minimum payments on your other bills while building your snowball.  

It sounds simple, right?  But there is much more to it.  First you need to decide which bills to pay off.  Second you need to decide on an order.  Third you need to find extra money each month to allocate towards the bill.  Fourth you need to actually put the money towards the bill.

Before you start on your debt snowball it’s important to build your emergency fund.  It’s not going to help you if you get hit with an unexpected bill.  You will be working hard towards getting out of debt just to put yourself right back in the thick of it.

Let’s start with the first step: knowing which bills to put in the debt snowball.

The snowball effect is open to ANY debt.  I mean it.  Any debt you have can be paid using this tool.

Here’s a list of what we currently have:

1) credit card
2) personal loan
3) truck loan
4) school loans
5) furniture store credit card

You could also have:

1) loan from a family member
2) health care expenses
3) anything

Next is step two: decide on the order of your bills.

This step is a bit more complicated.  You could follow Dave Ramsey’s advice and start with the lowest balance debt first.  Then work your way through your debts.  I do it a little different.  I also take into consideration the interest rate.

Here’s an example:  J has a furniture store credit card debt.  He got a promotion of 0% interest for the life of the debt as long as he doesn’t miss a payment.  Pretty sweet deal, huh?  I have a credit card with a little higher balance (less than $2,000).  I have an interest rate of 18%.  It makes more sense to me to pay down the credit card first.  I will be hit with interest charges each month I carry a balance.  The furniture store debt has zero interest.

I think it’s best to look at interest rates.  If it’s complicated or you just don’t want to think about it.  Then follow Dave’s plan.  Start with your lowest balance debt and work your way forward.

Step three: find extra money to allocate each month.

You should have created your budget and started using the cash envelope system already.  If you are then you should have no problems finding extra money each month.  It doesn’t have to be a lot.  An extra $50 will make a huge difference.

For instance, your credit card’s minimum payment is $75 each month.  You were able to find an extra $75 a month to put towards your bill.  Now you’re able to pay $150 per month.  Your debt will start to decrease quickly!

tips on doing the debt snowball, how to do the debt snowball

The fourth step: actually putting the money towards the bill.

If you make a plan and don’t stick to it then you won’t get out of debt.  I like to immediately put the extra money to our debt the moment it hits our account.  That way we can’t accidentally spend it on something we don’t need.  By having an emergency fund built, if something comes up then we are covered.

Once a bill is paid off, keep that extra money allocated to bills.  Don’t relax and start pulling money away.

Let’s use the example above.  Your credit card is paid off because you’ve been putting $150 towards each month.  Now it’s time to move on to your personal loan.  Your monthly payment is $130.  Now you take the $130 and add the $150 to it.  Now each month you’ll pay $280.  Boom!  You’ve more than doubled the minimum payment.

These bills will be paid off in no time!

Does the debt snowball actually work?  Yes.  You have to be dedicated to it.  You have to be honest with how much debt you’re in.  You have to want to be debt free.

Here’s the workbook I personally use, soon to be debt free.  It’s from One Beautiful Home Blog.  Yes, I could have created my own workbook, but why?  This one is great!  It has all the benefits I was looking for.  Now I didn’t need all of it.  I didn’t print every page.  I only printed the paycheck schedule, payment tracker, debt priority list, and enough snowball calculators for each one of our debts.

Dave Ramsey has a pretty nice debt snowball tool on his site.  If you need more information, then I suggest checking it out.

My Favorite Money Saving Apps

money savings app

I love saving money and I hate spending money.  Makes sense, right?

J and I work too hard to just blow our money away.  Don’t get me wrong, we like to have fun and don’t deprive ourselves.  We’re just smart with everything.  We have our budget that stick to.  We update it every 2 weeks when we get paid so we stay on target.  We also use the cash envelope system so we don’t over spend.

Another way I save money is shopping apps that I’ve discovered.

I broke down my favorite money saving apps to share with you.  I personally use all of them so I have firsthand experience with these.  I did find them from various sites like The Krazy Coupon Lady and Coupon Wizards.

Snap by Groupon

Snap lets you shop at any store, which is nice.  All you have to do is download the app then shop like normal.  Select the items you’ve purchased that are listed on the offer page then upload your receipt.  Once they process it your account will be credited.  Cash out once you reach $20.

money savings app

You can redeem multiple offers with one receipt!  I like to check the offers to see if I can substitute any brands for what is being highlighted that week.  That way I can really bulk up my rewards.  Join Snap by Groupon using my referral link

Walmart Savings Catcher

This one might be the easiest one out there.  Once you’ve shopped at Walmart, just upload your receipt to the app.  That’s it.  They do the work to scan for nearby savings and sales.  If an item you purchased is on sale then it will credit your account.  You can transfer the money onto a gift card to be used for future purchases.

money savings app

Don’t expect a huge refund every time you shop.  The first time I used the Savings Catcher app I add a credit of $0.66.  That was on 3 items, too.

ShopKick

This one is super convenient.  ShopKick doesn’t even require you to actually purchase anything!  You can earn kicks from walking into a store, scanning products on the shelve and of course, purchasing.

money savings app

Here’s how it works:

1) walk into a store and open the app
2) click “find nearby kicks” to see what is available.
3) scan item barcodes.  Next to the item there will be a number with amount of kicks you can earn

Kicks = money.  The money can be exchanged for merchandise and gift cards.

Click here to join ShopKicks (this is my referral link).

Ibotta

Ibotta was the first money saving app I downloaded.  The tagline “better than coupons” stuck out to me.  Ibotta allows members to shop online, submit a receipt and link a store loyalty card to your account.  You need to unlock rewards before you go shopping.  Again, this is where I like to see what brands their offering a deal on and if I can switch what I’m buying.  Sometimes you have to watch a video, take a poll, or other simple tasks.  Once you have unlocked the reward, you need to verify the product by scanning your barcode and have to upload your receipt.

money savings app

They deposit cash into your account.  You can transfer your reward money into your Paypal account.  If you don’t have a Paypal account then you can have it given to you in form of gift cards.  Click here to get Ibotta (this is my referral link).

Checkout 51

Checkout51 is another new money savings app that I like.  It’s very similar to the others.  You purchase items listed, scan the receipt to prove you bought it and the date it was bought.  Money is then credited to your account.  Once you hit $20, you can cash out.  I like Checkout 51 because a lot of times it’s not brand specific.  Purchase bananas?  Get a $0.25 credit.  Purchase any type of yogurt?  Earn a $0.50 credit.  It’s pretty nice.

I love using all 5 of these money saving apps together.  When the stars align with my coupons working, the apps offering rewards and the items being on sale is a beautiful thing!

How to set financial goals and reach them!

how to set financial goals

I love, love goals.  They push us to better ourselves.

To reach for the stars and dream big.  The problem with most goals is that people don’t create a plan for them.  You have to have a plan to reach your goal.

I want to be the best ballerina in the world.  

That’s a goal.  In reality, I have never taken one dance lesson.  I’m too old to learn world-ranking skills and I’m way too out of shape to even try.  See, I don’t have an effective plan.

I want to have $5,000 in my savings account within the next 3 years.

That’s another goal.  I will find an extra $140 every month I can put back.  I will continue to set aside money until I reach my goal.  That’s a plan.  I can reach my goal.

There are 4 rules that can help teach you how to set financial goals that you have to follow:

how to set financial goals

Rule One: Make it realistic.  Know your spending habits by creating a budget.

You have set a goal of saving $20,000 in one year for a down payment of your first home.  You only make $30,000 a year.  Your goal is not realistic.  There are exceptions – you live with little rent cost and food costs.  If that’s the case, then perhaps you can put back ⅔ of your annual salary into savings.  I doubt it.  That’s not reality for most people.

A more realistic goal is to put back 10% of your earnings each year.  So if you setup your bank to automatically transfer 10% of your paycheck to your savings account each time it hits.  It’s realistic and very doable.

how to set financial goals

Rule Two: Stay motivated.  You need motivation to reach financial goals.

Create a sheet that hangs on your dresser mirror of what your big goal is.  That way you see it every morning while you’re getting ready.  Your goal stays on the forefront of your mind every day.  It’ll help the next time the girls call because sushi with the girls sounds like a great idea.  But spending $60 on a random Tuesday night will not help you get to your goals.

how to set financial goals

Rule Three: Have a support team around you.  You need people that know about your goals and want to see you succeed.

They can be your voice of reason when you find a super cute dress on sale.  We all know you don’t need the dress, you want it.

how to set financial goals

Rule Four: Set mini goals.  Baby steps are key when reaching for a bigger goal.

They always say don’t tell yourself you want to lose 40 pounds, tell your self 5 pounds.  Then when you hit that goal just say it again.  “I want to lose 5 pounds.”

It’s hard to grasp a big financial goal, like saving $20,000.  You can start to feel overwhelmed.  When you feel overwhelmed then you lose your motivation.  When you lose your motivation you start to slip on your spending.  You’ll lose sight of your budget.  Then you’ll pull from your emergency fund for non-emergency events.

I believe in the cash envelope system.  It can help you stay on track and keep your end goal in sight.  Just make sure to keep saving a priority.  You don’t have to sacrifice a lot to reach your goals, just the unnecessary and unneeded spending has to go.

 

How to Hit Your Savings Goal

how to hit your savings goal

Here’s tips on how to hit your savings goal:

I want to talk to you about savings today.  I’ve talked about budgeting.  I talked about using cash to pay for your stuff, but I haven’t shared how to hit your savings goal.  I love savings, I love investments and I love compounding interest.  It’s amazing.  But I’m going to keep it simple today.  I’m only going to talk about your savings account at your local bank.

There are three different types of savings you should have.  Now these can be in the same account or you split them up.  I have 2 savings accounts.

FIRST: emergency fund.  Now there are many different opinions about emergency fund accounts.  My belief is that they should be accessible but not too accessible.  I don’t want to be able to pull cash from the account without giving it too much thought.  But you should be able to get to it when you need it.

TIP: When starting out, make it connected to your checking account.  That way you can easily transfer money into it.  Be sure to be mindful when you’re pulling money out.  

There are many places to have an account.  At your local bank is an option.  Another is at an online bank or through a brokerage account with your investments.

Your end goal is to have at least ONE YEAR’s worth of living expenses saved up.  When you hit the goal then I would recommend talking to your financial planner.  You may want to put the money into an account to earn some extra interest.  If you’re not at that point yet then I would suggest leaving it with your local bank.

how to create an emergency fund

SECOND: start with a small goal.  Make it attainable.  I would recommend starting with $1,000.  That seems to be a popular amount for deductibles.  If you do have an emergency of more than $1,000 then you at least have a sizable  down payment.

THIRD: Set a date to hit your mark.  Look at the budget you created a few weeks ago.  Do you have any extra money each month?  Can you cut back on eating out to free up some money?

Let’s say you can put back $100 a month.  So take your goal ($1,000) and divide by what you can do each month ($100).  That will be how many months it’ll take you to reach your goal (10 months).

creating an emergency fund

FOURTH: Stick to it.  This is the most critical step. You have to commit to it.

Tickets for your favorite band is not an emergency.  The new shoes that just hit the clearance rack are not an emergency.  Your fridge going out is an emergency.  Your husband getting injured and needing to go to urgent care is an emergency.

Be wise with what makes up an emergency.  Keep at least $1,000 in your account at all times.  If you pull from it (for an emergency) then quickly replace it.

It’s important to have financial goals, too.  Financial goals are different than saving for your emergency fund.  These goals can be paying down debt or saving for a home.  While emergency funds are just that – funds for emergencies.  Once you have your debt paid off and reach your other financial goals, or almost reach them, then start increasing your fund.

How to Make a Cash Envelope System

how to make a cash envelope system

Let’s talk about cash envelope systems, shall we?

Last week I shared how to create a budget in 10 minutes or less.  If you haven’t seen it then I recommend reading it first.  I do take all the complicated figuring out of the equation.  Budgeting doesn’t have to be hard or stressful.

If you’re budget wakes you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat then it’s time for a change.

Today I want to share tips on how to switch to the cash envelope system.

You may be thinking debit cards are just like cash.  They are so much more convenient to carry around than cash.  Who has time to go to the bank every few weeks?

But I would have to tell you that you are WRONG.  Debit cards aren’t anything like cash because they are so easy to use.  You see if you want to kick your budget off and knock out debt than cash is the way to go.

Once your cash is gone, it’s gone.  You can’t assume you still have money in your bank account.  Don’t swipe your magic card at the gas station for that bottle of water.  You have to be deliberate with your spending.  You have to plan, save and account for every dollar.

I’m the girl you see digging for change at the register.  When the cashier says my total is 29.16, I’ll find the exact amount.  I do not want to break my last dollar bill.

If you have your budget ready then go ahead and pull it out.  Add up everything you can pay cash with – your gas, groceries, eating out, so on.  Then tally up how many $20s, $10s, $5s you need.

For us we do a budget every 2 weeks.  I get paid every 2 weeks so it just makes sense.  I add up what all we need for each category.  Then I figure out how many $20s, $10s, or $5s  I need.  Once I get that then I head to the bank.  I hand the teller my little sheet so it’s easy for them to follow.  They do not mind. 

I’ve had one teller act a little annoyed with me.  I told her what I was doing and explained I don’t like being in debt.  By the end she was in total agreement and said she should start doing it that way.

cash envelope system

Then I head home or back to the office to divide out my envelopes.  I have these categories:

-groceries
-gas
-eating out
-dog food
-misc.

The misc. is something J and I both get.  Every two weeks I pull out a set aside amount for both of us.  We can spend or save this money anyway we want.  No questions asked.  If I want to save my money and go get my nails done then that’s what I do.  Everything else is pretty self-explanatory.

I’ve seen cash envelope systems where people keep track of their spending.  Almost like a check register, but that didn’t work for me.  I needed easy.  So I purchased this cash budgeting wallet from Etsy.  It’s been great.  I can label each envelope and they all fit into a matching wallet.  Most of the time when I head into a store I just grab this wallet.  I leave my debit card in the car or at home.

Once the envelope is empty then I know I don’t have any more spending in that category.

I also ‘borrow’ from one category sometimes.  Let’s say I’m out shopping at the grocery store.  I didn’t plan too great and need about $20 to cover food for the next week.  I look and see that my dog food budget has about $40 left.  I do a quick check and learn that we have enough food and treats to get by until I get paid again.  So I pull $20 out of the dog envelope and go on my way.  I never borrow from the bank account.  I must borrow from one of my cash categories.

For all other monthly bills I have them setup on auto-draft or I write checks twice a month.  I know where every single dollar is going.  That is why I don’t pull more money from the bank account.  That money is already spoken for.

How to Create a Budget in 10 Minutes

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Budgeting isn’t sexy.  It’s not even fun.  But it is necessary.

So many people seem to be afraid of budgets.  They run from them like it’s chasing them with a knife.  But budgets can be your best friend.  If that friend is there to help you succeed, hit your goals and retire comfortably.

Yes, budgets can do all that.

Budgets aren’t complicated either.  In less than 10 minutes you should have a working budget to go off of.  Don’t believe me?  Then give yourself 10 minutes and try me.

Here’s my no fail guide on how to create a budget in 10 minutes.

Step One: Gather your bills.  I’m assuming you know where your bill information is kept.  So, if you can’t find them in less than 10 minutes then that’s not on me.

Grab a pen and paper or use Excel.  I prefer Google Sheets because you can update it and check it from anywhere.

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Step Two: Create a column for monthly bills.  Another column marked for due date.  A third one for the estimated amount due.  Start filling in.

TIP: It’s best to calculate the monthly amount for quarterly or annual bills.  That is how much you should be setting aside every month to cover that bill.  For instance, you real property tax is $822 due by December 31st.  If you are creating your budget in January then you need to take $822 divided by 12 months.  You would get $68.50.  You should be putting back $68.50 a month.  

Now let’s say your tax is still $822 but you’re creating your budget in February.  You will take $822 divided by 11 months to get $74.73.  You should be putting that amount into a savings account each month.

This tip will help those type of bills from creeping up on you.

Once you have your bills entered in then you can move on to the next step.

This section is for your monthly bills and your debt.  So to be sure to list out your credit cards, personal loans, car loans, etc.

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Step Three: Other monthly spending should be accounted for.  I’m talking about groceries, gas money, eating out, savings, retirement, etc. The easiest way to see how much you’re spending is by logging into your bank account.  You can pull a month’s worth of charges and add them up for each category.

TIP:  You need to lower these amounts if you find yourself in the red at the end of every month.  If you’re spending $400 a month for groceries for two people then look at reducing it.  You’ll have to shop smarter.  I recommend keeping your calculator with you while at the store.  

how to create a budget in 10 minutes

Step Four: Mark your income.  You need to know about how much you have coming in every month.  Don’t count on bonuses, just put your monthly salary down.

Step Five: Done.  You should now be able to see how much you’re spending each month.  This will also show how much you’re saving and how much you’re bringing in.  If those numbers don’t line up then you need to lower your spending down.  Cut in areas that won’t hurt you.  Stop eating out as much.  Opt for cooking at home.  Cut your cable bill by lightening the channel lineup.

Like I said, budgeting is not sexy, but it’s necessary.  You should always have an idea of how much you’re spending each month.  If not, then you could run into some serious cash flow problems.