Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Frugal Files: Springing Ahead in our Budgets

Hey frugal folks!! It's March!!

We've seen snow, but it's almost time to Spring ahead in the time change, so we should get ready for Spring and make a financial change too!! Are you on track with your initial goals for 2012? We're at the end of the first quarter, so if you're off the path, it's a great time to saddle back up to finish this period. It's almost time for the next few goals.

I've been learning about couponing and getting FREE items!! However, I still haven't gotten a grasp on teaching it locally or getting my church's pantry fully stocked. I am creating a specific goal plan and putting it in place this month. See, we all have work to do.

For March, I thought we'd focus on Spring cleaning, so topics will include budgeting, credit reports, paying off debt. Don't worry, I'll still be blogging about couponing on my personal blog at Frugalicious Diva Then, in April, Belle Noir has a surprise in store for you, so stay tuned!!

If you've been following this blog weekly, then you know I've always thrown around the "B" word. You know, BUDGET!! What did you think? LOL Anyway, if you were reading then you know it's not a word to be feared and it's not a word meant to deprive us of what we want out of life. It's an assistant of sorts. It helps to guide us around as we maneuver our money. Sometimes it says we can't have everything at once, but it allows for us to have what we want with just a little creativity, patience and compromise.

I realized I always talked about creating a budget for ourselves, but never really expounded on how to take on such a task. Over the years, I have met with individuals looking to get their money in check. I personalized budget sheets and guided them through the physical and emotional process of using what they have and sticking to their budget. So, let's begin this class. I'll begin by describing the type of budget sheet I personally use. It's easy and I have committed to using it. I've tracked my spending since 2006, so it's safe to say, I know where my money is and where it's going.

The simple rules are write down your goals, everything you earn and everything you spend. My budget sheet is two sided. The first side is the Projected Monthly Budget side and requires a little bit of prep work on your part. It may be a little difficult the first 1-2 months, but it will get easier as you continue, if you're committed. This side is broken up into four boxes:

#1: Expected Income
Here you list what you anticipate earning or receiving for the month. There's a space for your Current Balance, so you'll know the amount with which you're starting off the month. Then there's other spaces for Employment, Business Income (if applicable) and two other "streams" of income. These can be spaces for gifts, another business, sales, etc. The Frugalicious Diva is about wealth, so multiple streams of income is a must!!

#2: Fixed Income
This area is for your Housing and Debt amount you expect to pay this month, including categories such as Rent/Mortgage, Utilities, Phones, Credit Cards, Car Maintenance/Insurance, Layaways and Auto draft savings plans like Mutual or Emergency Funds. Whatever applies to your household that you MUST pay monthly will go here. For those of you who pay tithes at church, this is where that category goes.

#3: Variable Expenses
These are expenses you may or may not have every month, but if you do, the amount vary based on your needs for the items. Here is where you'll place items like Groceries, Dining Out (which should be separated), Clothing, Gas for your Car, Toiletries and Entertainment. In light of our couponing efforts, the amount we spend for groceries/food should decrease since we're getting items for less and cooking more, as we have food at home. There are usually "Other" boxes for extras. In those months you know there are birthdays, you're taking a trip or attending a special function, you can budget your amount here.

#4: Totals
Total Expected Income (#1) - Total Payments (#2 + #3) = Ending Balance
If your ending balance is over $100, then adjust your payments. Perhaps you can save more or, better yet, pay more on one of your debts. My advice is to leave about $50 in the Ending Balance box, just in case of incidentals. If there are none and you stick with your budget, you can carry that amount over to the next month. Again, if there's extra, consider paying off more debt next month.

The back is the Actual Budget; where the rubber meets the road. This is what you ACTUALLY spend and every category from the front is on the back, waiting to be filled in. At the end of the month, tabulate the amounts across and down; the ending numbers should match. The result is your Actual Total Saved/Lost. After evaluating your budget sheet, go back to the Projected side #4 and in the Comments, write how you can improve for next month.

See, it's not bad at all. You can find a slew of budget sheets online, but I would love to share mine with you. if you want a copy of it, feel free to email me at FrugaliciousDiva@yahoo.com. I can also be reached on Facebook: Frugalicious Diva and be sure to connect with me on Twitter at @FrugaliciousDva

Enjoy and Happy Budgeting!!

Frugalicious Diva

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