Ok, last week we tackled what a budget is, and different methods to do so. Budgeting plans are great starting points to help build healthy financial habits. But each of us has unique experiences, and our finances are going to reflect that. I have used several variations of different budgeting methods over the years. My husband and I have found that we do best when we we take pieces of different methods to help us best fit our life and goals.
Save an Emergency Fund
One of the first things we did when we got married was build up a small emergency fund. We set aside $1000 (following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps recommendation) that we would have in case something like the washer goes out, or there are unexpected medical bills that come up. This keeps you from having to use the credit card unexpectedly, and rack up the interest. Depending on your personal situation, you may feel you need a little more, or a little less set aside in this fund. Do what’s best for you!
Prioritize Paying Off Debt
Remember this: debt is a form of bondage. It is a financial termite. When we make purchases on credit, they give us only an illusion of prosperity. We think we own things, but the reality is, our things own us.Some debt—such as for a modest home, expenses for education, perhaps for a needed first car—may be necessary. But never should we enter into financial bondage through consumer debt without carefully weighing the costs.Joseph B. Wirthlin
Paying off debt is such a great feeling! It frees up money in your budget to go towards other things, and eliminates stress.
Prioritizing paying off debt also saves money in the long run. There are several ways to pay off debt. Some experts recommend a snowball, paying off the smallest debt first. Others recommend attacking the debt with the highest interest rate. (The reasoning for paying smaller debts off first is to feel that feeling of success sooner. Paying off higher interest debts first saves money in the long run. Either plan works, it just depends on how you feel best motivated.) We like to pay more than is required if we can on our debts, so that more is going to principal each month.
In our home, we always have a running list of wants and needs. Currently, we keep it on a white board next to the calendar. That way, each time un-budgeted money comes, (such as a stimulus packages, bonuses, tax returns, etc.) we know what we want to focus on prioritizing. We always try to set half of those big chunks to debt repayment, to get ahead. Then we look at things like Christmas, birthdays, home storage, needs, or vacations that we would like to do, and agree on what is most important right now.
We also do this with our monthly budget. Right now, we are paid bi-weekly. and one check is pretty bill heavy, so the other weeks are much more flexible. By keeping track of things we want to do or get, we can keep on track during the looser half of the month.
In addition to short term goals, you may consider adding long term goals like buying a home, building a 3-6 month emergency fund, and retirement plans into your financial goal plan, to prepare for big dreams, or unforeseen events.
“We encourage you wherever you may live in the world to prepare for adversity by looking to the condition of your finances. We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. … If you have paid your debts and have a financial reserve, even though it be small, you and your family will feel more secure and enjoy greater peace in your hearts.”First Presidency, 2007
We like to start a few days before the first paycheck of the month. We set up a Google Sheet (We just make a copy of the previous month, and reset it.) where we have all of our regular expenses and anything we know is coming up added in. All expenses are highlighted red to begin with. Then as I pay the bills, I mark them in yellow, until they clear our bank. Once the withdrawals have been accounted for on our accounts, it is marked green. We often also have another page for the year that tracks all the account for big expenses for the year, and our Christmas budget.
Another easy way to track expenses is using an app, so that it’s with you wherever you go. There are several options like Mint that connect to your banking account and do most of the heavy lifting for you! I prefer to be a little more hands-on, so I find I like Every Dollar.
The most important thing about tracking expenses is that it works for you! Tracking helps you stay in line for your goals, and helps you control your money. But if the process is too intense, or you never remember to check the app, it’s not doing you any good.
Personalizing your budget allows you to make it more functional for you. As you become more proficient in creating and managing your budget, you will be able to stretch your money more creatively to meet your needs! You’ve got this, sister!
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts
- First Presidency (Gordon B. Hinckley, James E. Faust, Thomas S. Monson) All Is Safely Gathered In, 2007