Recurring Expenses Will Kill Your Budget-Choose Wisely

Budget Cuts

As someone with a bunch of regular expenses, I know that they add up.  I also know that you’d have to pry my laptop from my cold, dead fingers before I’d voluntarily give up the internet.  In my husband’s case, cable is a necessity.  How do you choose between one recurring expense and another? Prioritize.
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Wedding Questions With Anja Winikka Editor At TheKnot.com – Presented By Married On MySpace

Wedding+Rings+Flower

I had the pleasure to interview Anja Winikka, editor at the well-known wedding website TheKnot.com. We discussed affordable weddings and how the current economy is affecting wedding decisions.

Hope you enjoy!
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Do You Have What It Takes To Manage Your Money?

Growing+Money

Do you have goals, dreams, and ambitions? Chances are you do, which brings me to my next question.  Do you have a budget?  If you don’t have a budget then the chances of you reaching those goals, dreams, and ambitions are smaller than if you had a financial road map to follow.  Unfortunately, too many people attach negative connotations and misconceptions to what budgeting actually means for you.
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Eating Healthy on a Budget

fruits and vegetables

Eating is a basic human need, yet for many it is often surrounded by mystery, mystique and confusion – differentiating healthy from non-healthy is often a difficult task.  This, coupled with the challenge of eating healthy while on a budget, intensifies the issue to epidemic proportions.  Searching out the proper way to eat, while also saving on costs, can be an overwhelming task.  Below, I outline the best ways to eat well on a budget, and I hope this will aid in your mission!
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Excuse Busters For Not Having A Budget

Watch Over Your Money With A Budget

Yesterday I wrote about 9 common excuses why you don’t have a budget. Today I’m going to bust those excuses and show you why you need a budget.

Excuse Busters For Not Having A Budget:

  • You Don’t Want To Be Told What To Do – Really?  You don’t want something to tell you how to spend your money.  Well how do you like the bills you pay every month?  Or looking at your bank account and being told you don’t have funds to cover an expense?  Truth is, when you have an effective budget you are in control of your money and you can see what you are doing.  The only one doing the telling is you with a budget.
  • You Feel Constrained - Yes, a budget tells you how much money you may have for different expenses.  And you may not be able to spend indiscriminately.  But the truth is a budget can be liberating!  You know exactly what you can afford and you know where your money is going.  When you know your expenses you can re-allocate your spending to fit your needs and wants.  Without a budget it’s more like a high wire without a net.
  • You Can’t Do What you Want – Not the case.  A budget will tell you what you can afford.  With a good budget you can change your spending to allocate more money for things that are important to you.  You cut out the frivolous spending for things with more purpose.
  • Can’t Give up Your Ego And Admit You Need to Control Your Spending – Get over yourself and take a good look at the bills you have and the stress you go through every month to pay them.  Look at how quickly your paycheck disappears and how your bank account dwindles.  You want the best stuff, I get it.  But you have to reign in your spending.  The lifestyle you are trying to live is an illusion and it’s much healthier for you to truly live your life instead.  Don’t worry so much about appearances because appearances lie.  Be!
  • Your Expenses Are Too Big To Get your Head Around – It can be a daunting task to start a budget if you haven’t done one before.  Start small.  Gather up your bills.  If you don’t have them then as they come in write down their totals in a spreadsheet (or a notebook).  After you have put together your expenses, compare that to your income (for most that’s you paycheck stubs over the month).  Once you can see you expenses and income you can start to go more into the details.  Start holding on to receipts as you spend and mark them down.  Track down the little expenses.  Take a look at those bills and see what they are made up of.  The point is, if you want to start a budget you can.  Don’t think you have to do it all at once.  For most a budget is  work in process.
  • You’re Afraid – Liberate yourself from this fear.  If you are afraid then you probably think your expenses/spending are out of control.  It may not be as bad as you think.  Even if it is, once you can put a definite figure on it you’ve taken a step to start attacking it.  It’s not going to get better until you decide to do something about it and a big first step is starting a budget!
  • It Takes Too Much Energy And Time – Maybe at first it takes some time.  But once you know your recurring bills it gets a lot quicker.  Get yourself organized and you’ll find it doesn’t take much time at all (personal finance software like Mint, Mvelopes, or Moneydance – review can help).  And you will also find that tracking things like your taxes expenses will be easier since you’ve been keeping track of spending all year.
  • It’s Depressing – It doesn’t make me happy all the time to see what money I have left for the month.  Or to see how much I pay out.  But a budget is empowering.  With you budget you are in control and you see exactly what you spend.  What makes me happy (not depressed) is knowing that I have a handle on my money.  It’s a powerful feeling in fact!
  • You Manage To Get By Without One – That’s great if you get all of your bills paid and still have money left over without a budget.  You might even have money going into savings and a retirement account.  Some people are naturally good at keeping track.  But if you put together a budget you may find lots of small “money leaks” that you weren’t aware of previously.  You may find that your savings and such will grow considerably when you see exactly what your spending is.  From personal experience, my wife and I were surprised to see how much we spent on the weekends on little things.  Had we known then what we know now we’d have much nicer savings!
  • Your Spouse Isn’t On the Same Page As You – You need to sit down and talk to your spouse and have a serious money talk.  A budget doesn’t mean you can’t use money any more it just means you know where that money is going and why.  A budget allows you to align your goals for your family.

Hey, you know what? A budget isn’t that tough!  Stop making excuses and get started on one.  You just might find things are easier once you see where your money is going.

Bonus: I just discovered these templates to help manage your finances in Google Docs!  They’re free and there’s a whole bunch of them!

No More Excuses!

See Part I: 9 Excuses Why You Haven’t Started A Budget
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

9 Excuses Why You Haven’t Started A Budget Yet

Budget Spreadsheet
I was thinking about why more people and families don’t have a budget.

It’s really the thing to do to keep track of your expenses and income and make sure you don’t go over with your spending.  I thought about all the different excuses I’ve heard and seen from people.

So why haven’t you started a budget? Here are some common reasons:

You Don’t Want To Be Told What To Do

A budget can tell you how much you actually have to spend and what you can afford every month.  You don’t want to be told where your money has to go and you don’t want to hear that you can’t spend when you want.

A Budget Constrains You

You feel choked by the limitations of a budget.  Can’t spend what I want on clothes.  {Cough, cough.}  Can’t go out for coffee drinks every day.  {Choke.}  The mere thought of a budget starts to make you feel walled in.

You Can’t Do What You Want

What fun is it to know you can’t afford to go out to eat four times a week?  Who wants that.  You want to be able to spend freely and do what you feel at the moment.  That’s what freedom is, isn’t it?

Can’t Give Up Your Ego And Admit You Need To Control Your Spending

You refuse to believe that you have a spending problem.  You’re living an illusion.  Even though it causes stress you always find a way out of your financial messes without learning the lessons.  When there’s a will there’s a way and you can spend what you want.  Everything’s ok.

Your Expenses Are Too Big To Get Your Head Around

You want to have a budget but you don’t know where to start.  You’ve tried to get a few bills together but the task seems too big so you end up giving up.  You’re not organized enough to get everything together.  You may not even know all of the bills you pay every month.  It’s too much.

You’re Afraid

You don’t even want to see what your finances are!  To actually put a number to your expenses would give you a heart attack (not literally but close enough).  You know it’s bad but you really can’t stand to see the actual figures.

It Takes Too Much Energy And Time

You don’t have the time to put all of your receipts and bills together.  You work a 9 to 5 five that’s rarely just that and when you come home the last thing you want to do is more work.

It’s Depressing

It just doesn’t make you feel good to see your finances in a budget.  You would rather not put yourself into a funk so you ignore the idea of a budget.

You Manage To Get By Without One

Your bills get paid.  Money goes into savings.  You invest.  What do you need a budget for? (I’ll answer that one in another post).

That’s nine excuses a person might not have a budget.  Does one of these resemble you?  Can you think of others?

See Part II: Excuse Busters For Not Having A Budget!

Creative Commons License photo credit: sarae

Never Mind A New Economic Stimulus Package – Save Yourself!

There’s been a lot of talk in the news about a new economic stimulus package.  Some are talking about a new one being approved this year while others speculate that it won’t happen until President-Elect Obama takes office.  There’s been talk that a new economic stimulus package would be more infrastructure and not checks as the last package was.  And there definitely has been a lot of talk of whether we even need a new economic stimulus package; questioning if it even makes a difference.  Here’s what I say:

Never mind a new economic stimulus package – Save yourself!

Don’t count on the government to come through with legislation to help you make ends meet.   That attitude will never get you ahead.  You need to take matters into your own hands.  If you are in a bad financial situation you need take control and ownership of the problem and fix it yourself.

Here are 12 ways you can take matters in your own hands and save yourself:

  • Make sure you excel at your job.  Unemployment is the highest it’s been in quite a while and I’m sure there will be many more layoffs to come.  Don’t be the robot at work that does just enough to get by.  Get yourself interested and make yourself valuable to your company.  Don’t just get your job done – get it done well!  If layoffs are coming you may be able to save yourself from the chopping block.  Hey, maybe you could even get a promotion?
  • Build networking relationships with friends and co-workers.  Sometimes, as unfair as it seems, it’s not what you know but who you know.  Keep up with co-workers when they move to other jobs.  They can be your foot in the door if you leave your current job.  Stay in contact with friends as well.  Even if they don’t work in your industry they could prove to be a valuable contact.  Network!
  • Pay your bills on time.  Lenders are getting shy about giving out their money these days.  If you pay late you may find your interest skyrocketing.  Universal default allows one credit company to raise your interest rate if you’re late on a different company’s card.  A late payment can make all of your credit cards have high rates.  If you aren’t paying off your balances every month you can find yourself sinking faster into debt.
  • Put money away for emergency savings.  Really you don’t know what the future holds and as the saying goes: “when it rains it pours!”  What happens if you find yourself out of a job?  Then the car breaks?  Then you need a doctor’s appointment?  Hopefully you don’t need your savings but put yourself in good shape by having savings in place.
  • Make sure your credit report is clean.  Errors on your credit report can be costing you in higher interest rates on your credit cards and loans.  Make sure your credit report is accurate.
  • Check you credit score.  Your credit score is like your code of honor among credit agencies.  A low score means higher interest rates and could also mean you won’t get a needed loan or credit.  Credit scores are also used in housing and in job hunting.  Get that score up!
  • Cut costs.  Remember that emergency savings?  A way to help build that up is to cut costs.  Cut a few corners here and there and you can find yourself with significant savings!
  • Analyze your tax withholding.  Are you paying too much?  Pay what you need to and no more.  Many like to get a big tax refund but you’re better off having that money in each of your paychecks instead.  You don’t earn any interest when the government is holding your money!  Adjust your tax withholding so you maximize your paycheck.
  • Re-evaluate your holiday spending.  The holiday spending frenzy is starting.  Don’t get caught up in the current!  You don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts on every person you know this holiday season (here’s a challenge: see if you can keep a $100 holiday).  What really the point in spending so much if it puts you in a bad financial situation?  Budget what you can spend on gifts and don’t go over.  Make sure your budget is within reason of your financial situation (don’t spend more than you have!).
  • Go to school.  Yes, school is an expense.  But taking some extra courses or pursuing/finishing up a degree can help make yourself more marketable to employers.  This can be as simple as taking an advanced Excel course to working on a higher degree.
  • Work on building alternate sources of income.  Try your hand at blogging.  Work on developing a hobby that could earn money such as photography.  Other streams of income are a good thing, especially when money is tight.  And you never know, what you start could develop into something bigger.

It always sounds nice when the government offers to give us money back but we have to remember there’s a price to this.  It could mean less services somewhere else or more taxes down the line.  Remember the money has to come from somewhere!

Don’t hope the government will do something to ease your situation.  Get a hold of your finances and take care of it yourself!

What other ways could we take financial matters in our own hands?

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