Budget|er: A Money Resolution

This quarter I’ll be writing about my new goal: To Keep a Budget.

Objectives include: Keep track of my purchases, Use the Envelope System to live within my means, pay off my Christmas debt.

I’ll be writing about these objectives and strategies I learn and use throughout this process. Read more to see how I’m recording my purchases!The first step was to choose a way to record my purchases:

Here’s my process.I finished this in a few hours and my outcome was:

  1. A record of the majority of my 2011 purchases
  2. A rough idea of how much I spent in each of my categories each month

I researched a few different methods and tips using Pinterest [I use it instead of Google a lot because the results are in a prettier format, give me better summaries, and are often more relevant because people like me probably posted them.] with search terms like ‘budgeting’ ‘make an excel budget’ ‘budgeting tools’ Here is my favorite from Becky at OrganizingMadeFun.com

  Organize your Finances

I exported all of the data I had about my transactions. (From Mint.com)

I exported as a .CSV file and opened in Excel.  Many financial institutions also allow you to export to a CSV. I would recommend calling your bank if you can’t find how to do it easily.

I cleaned up my excel document Using a few simple headers

Outflow is what I spend, Inflow is what I earn.

I also added columns to track the current balance of my checking and credit card accounts and for notes.

I double-checked my Category column

Having categories established is essential for the type of budgeting I want to attempt, so I reviewed my purchases, checked for errors, and simplified my categories (didn’t need to be as specific as Restaurants vs. Fast Food)

If you do not have Mint or a way to categorize your purchases, you may have to do this manually or import your information into Mint. It will guess categories for you that are often pretty correct. You can also program it to have rules such as:  ‘Hen House is a grocery store, when you see a purchase from here – it’s groceries’

I now had: A record of the majority of my 2011 purchases

I added up my category spending for each month

This took quite a while and I’m sure there’s a better way to do it, but going through manually helped me really see where my money had been being spent.  next to the columns for the end of the month, I  added each category.

For each month, I had a total row and compared to my income to see if I spent more or less than my income that month. There was a very clear shift from Green Green Green to Red Red Red when I started using my credit card more and my frugality less.

I also made a table for money spent in each category by month and ended up with: A rough idea of how much I spent in each of my categories each month.

Additional Articles:

6 Ridiculously Simple (Free) Budgeting ToolsTips for Excel spreadsheet budgetsPinch those pennies: 50 tips to be frugal

Image is from Istock

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