I’ve never been one for spreadsheets, but then again I’ve never been one for monthly budgeting. In fact, I’ve never been one for focusing too keenly on where my paycheck is going every month. Sure, I’ve become quite an adept guesstimator of what’s coming in and what’s going out. And perhaps like some of you, I haven’t relied on the tedious chore of checkbook balancing. No, my system up until recently consisted of an ill conceived menage of ATM receipts, occassional visits to my bank website to see what’s left, and my all to often fallible memory.
Typically, this “system” resulted in more money going out every month then I had coming in. Obviously, this is how I ended up writing a blog about being a financial mess and trying to get myself off the path to personal financial destruction.
But lets face it, running in the red by a few hundred dollars every month doesn’t seem that bad does it? At least not for that month. I always found an excuse for my overspending and actually got really good at it – to the point where I believed it wasn’t a problem. “Don’t worry, you had a rough month and deserved those dinners out, that new toy, that weekend away. You’ll get ahead next month. Next month for sure is when you buckle down financially!”.
But inevitably next month comes and goes, next year goes, and here I am 30 years old with nothing to show for my hardwork except a pile of debt, no savings and my crappy apartment. Oh but I’ve looked so good getting myself nowhere! I haven’t told myself “no” for the last decade and it felt soooo good.
A visit from the ghost of my Financial Future over the holidays lead me to ask the question – “So how’s this working for you?”.
I feel there is hope though. And I’m pinning my hopes squarely on the capable shoulders of a monthly budget. That’s right, I’m going from tracking absolutely nothing to keeping track of everything. Every dollar out, every paycheck in. After 3 weeks of this “Where’s My Money Going?” experiment, I’m actually having a bit of fun. I’m tracking my earning/spending by pay period (so bi-weekly for me) and believe it or not, after 2 weeks I actually had money left over! Not a huge amount – only $35 – but I can see that amount improving each paycheck as I get better at saying “no” and more budget savvy. And the more I can save, the more I can put into my “Baby Step 2” – The Debt Snowball.
Here’s a look at a portion of my budget worksheet from the first half of January. Not terribly exciting – but I just want to show you how basic it really is.
There are plenty of already formulated Monthly Budget Spreadsheets available online for free.
Here’s a link to just one example – http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/personal-monthly-budget.html