dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
‘Fail to plan and plan to fail,’ goes the saying that I saw on my friend’s fridge when I was in high school, and while I probably rolled my eyes and thought it was silly at the time, these days, it is a mantra I do my best to live by—just short of squeezing all the fun out of life.
When it comes to finances (a lot or a little of them) planning—aka a budget— is the best way to make sure that you end up with food on the table and don’t go bankrupt. This goes for Ms. D and her family as well as AIG and Freddy Mac.
Thanks to library school, I was finally forced into really learning how to use Microsoft’s nifty little Excel program, which saves a lot of paper and pesky calculations. If, like me, you’ve been a bit slow to familiarize yourself with Excel, there are a myriad of useful tutorials to bring you up to speed—or at least to a functional level.
Here are a couple options I used:
Using the Excel formulas, I can total up our income (one solid paycheck, one variable and any other randomness I can rake in) and then itemize our expenses, which remain fairly constant. Using our bank’s online checking and direct deposit of our major income certainly helps, too, because that way I know what’s coming in as well as what’s going out.
There are a few strategies I follow to help us keep from overspending, also known as losing track of what you’ve got. It’s nothing fancy, but by planning and sticking to these parameters, we stay mostly out of debt and stretch our miniscule income to cover what we need. For instance, I write as few checks as possible, and everyone else besides me, the CFO of the family, deals primarily in cash. That’s the beauty of cash—you can see exactly what you’ve got, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. All three of us (soon to be five) have cash allowances stashed in our own labeled envelopes to cover whatever our little heart desires, and in the case of my young child, doled out for anything from art supplies to underwear and presents for friends’ birthday parties.
Our methods are neither complex nor complicated, and I’m sure I could be more technical with my spreadsheets and penny-counting, but it’s quick and manageable and allows us a little fun. It’s planning enough to keep us from failure, and as our income increases we’ll stick to our plan, so we continue to know where our money is going.
Do you know where your money’s going? How do you keep track of it?
And furthermore, if you want to get your kids started on being budget and money savvy, check out this great blog post by Intentional Jane.