Leading on from last week’s post on our grocery shopping efforts I thought I’d go into a deep dive into how we generally monitor our family finances – by keeping a budget. Just in time of Christmas too 🙂
To give you some context – we’ve practiced keeping track of all the money coming in and all the money going out since Leki and I started seriously thinking about our future together. This has been helpful because talking openly about our finances helped us make clear goals on how we can move forward as a family.
For example, when we started thinking about having a family it would mean moving from 2 x incomes down to one as we prepared to have someone at home full time. This planning took place 18 months before our little Emelina arrived. That might be a topic to discuss later 🙂
So back to our budget – how do we go about it? As I mentioned earlier we track every little bit of spending. The best way to do that is to spend some time tracking how you spend your hard earned money! Attached is a FREE Excel spreadsheet download that we have used for over 10 years (and still use!):
Feel free to use it anyway you like either electronically or print it out and fill it manually as you move through the week. Personally we like the electronic version because it automatically adds up the numbers as you enter them in.
Great! So how does this spreadsheet help you exactly? Try your best to fill it in every day! Every little thing to big purchases… fill it in! We started with committing to daily entries for a week. After we go the hang of it we continued on for a month. Month after month we got to review how we were spending and saving money. For instance, if you start tracking your spending today and continue on for the week then month then a couple of months you can see what you are spending money on. More importantly, you can evaluate your spending habits and determine whether you can save some money by cutting back on some purchases or looking for more cost effective options.
Using the FREE spreadsheet provided you can see how we’ve laid the template out. There’s quite a few columns but focus on the first bit (in red) above which is the description entry and then enter in the amount/figure into either the income column or the expenses column. An easy way to think about it is:
- Income = money going INTO your pocket
- Expenses = money going OUT of your pocket
So in the example above – making it to payday is money going INTO your pocket so it’s income. Plug that figure into the Income column! In the example below let’s say you’ve filled the car up with petrol so you’d enter that in the description and move across to the Expenses column and enter in the amount. Easy peasy 🙂
**NOTE: There’s little extra bits in the spreadsheet to factor for Tax/GST but ignore this if it doesn’t apply to you. If you do want to factor tax please speak to your appropriate tax professional! Let’s keep things simple.
Now let’s say you’ve been using this spreadsheet for 3 months and you’ve become pretty confident with putting in the figures. Now you can establish your budget! You now can estimate the ‘average’ weekly spending on grocery shopping, or the weekly petrol cost, or how much you can budget for take away because you’ve spent 3 months accumulating your own data! How good is that?
Below is a snapshot of our own template from September 2015. You can see how we’ve filled it the table to give you an idea of how regular our entries were and how they varied across different types of personal expenses.
Let me give you my Top 3 reasons on how this spreadsheet and keeping a budget helps our family:
1. Help renegotiate lower monthly fees for regular expenses like utility bills (gas, water or electricity), insurances and phone bills
Once you get really good at this you can see how much you spend on regular bills. We usually get billed every 3 months for our utility bills. If we notice that this last 3 months was a higher amount then the previous 3 months – we can figure it out using our spreadsheet. For example if it was the colder months of year then you would expect a higher gas and electricity bill. If you feel that the bills are rising but your use remains the same – it might be time to switch to another provider. That’s what we did with our gas and electricity provider. We said that we’ve tracking our use for the last 12 months and that we were unhappy with the cost. They reviewed our account and offered a BIG discount!
2. Determine where we are spending too much money
The phone bill is one where you can easily overspend. Keeping track of your budget will ensure that you don’t go over your limit 😉 Or maybe you are having too many nights out on the town, eating out too often or spending too much on your pay TV subscription.
Whatever your unique situation is, once you have determined what you’re figures are you can budget accordingly 🙂
3. Fast tracked our savings!
If you keep track of what is coming in and it is greater then what is going out – the leftover is that magic word… SAVINGS! We can all do with a little bit more savings but wishing for it won’t make it so – challenge yourself to create more savings so you can spend on the things that really matter for you and your family!
Unfortunately if money coming in is less then money going out of your pocket you’ll have to come up with the way to make more income or reduce your expenses. There’s no way around it and it’ll be crystal clear because you are using your own numbers!
This is not something you need to follow strictly. Take whatever you feel was helpful and use it in a way that is meaningful and actionable for you and your family. We are not professionals in this area and we are not giving you advice on what to do although we highly recommend that keeping a budget will give you a sense of freedom because you know exactly where everything is!
I genuinely hope this post was helpful and as always happy to receive feedback on what seems to help you on ways to save.
Have a great day,