Because I’m sure no one else has used that for a budget-related post, right? Right?!
Okay, yes, it’s cliche, BUT there’s also a nugget of truth in there in that monitoring our finances (just like making our own meals) means we’ll make better choices if we’re reminded of our financial status on the regular. It may not always be a pretty picture, but hopefully it makes us want to be better.
At least that’s how it’s working for me.
Used to be I’d just write down all my bills in whatever journal I was using that year and check them off as they got paid. What wasÂ left invariably went to gas and groceries and whatever else popped up for that month. When I designed my prototype planner last year, I created a budget page to include with each month and moved my money out of my journal.
This worked pretty well, but it left a bit to be desired. A lot of things had to be summarized (like a single line for gas and groceries, when those are multiple per month purchases), for instance, and so I tended not to use those lines and not track my spending as much.
While a lot of people make ‘get healthier’-style resolutions, I’m more interested in getting my finances in better shape, and that means delving deeper into my spending habits and actually budgeting for certain things as opposed to just using what was there (and, let’s be honest, maybe a bit more, dipping into savings or using credit cards).
Speaking of savings, it’s never been something I’ve been great at. There’s a lot of big thinking out there about money attitudes and how much you had or didn’t have growing up. The idea that windfalls must be spent now to avoid being frittered away is a common one, or just not being able to think beyond the immediate needs. I admit that I held a lot of those attitudes over the years and am actively trying to break them/make better money associations, but that early programming is tough, you know?
On the other side of not saving enough is spending too much, as in using credit that you don’t pay off each month. I have that. A fair amount, actually, and I realized that while I do look at more than just the minimum payment line on my statement, what I tend to focus on is not the balance of credit used but the balance of available credit. Two sides of the same coin, right? Yes and no. See, while I liked seeing the ‘available credit’ increase as I paid down the balance, it gave me a skewed perspective since the important number (the statement balance) was sort of an imaginary, ignored number. It stopped having meaning. Do you do the same thing? I doubt I’m alone in this.
All of those reasons and more were why I completely revamped the budget worksheet for the 2015 Creative Days Planner. It’s now two pages, has room for the budgeted vs actual expenses for those variable spending categories, and includes balance tracker, trend, and interest columns for the debt section so that I am sure to not just look at but copy over those amounts, meaning they become more “real” to me and keep me on track to start getting them paid off, not just down!
The budget worksheet is something I tackle the first weekend of each month and I schedule the payments through my bank’s Bill Payer at the same time, getting as much of it out of the way at one time as possible (certain bills don’t generate until later in the month, so there’s usually a second round around the 20th. While it’s sometimes approached with a tiny bit of dread, that’s another money attitude I’ve been working on changing. Instead I remind myself that I’m grateful to be able to pay all of my bills–even the credit cards!
Is your budget something you want to get more control over this year?