Friday, September 12, 2008

How to Keep Track of Daily Expenses - EASILY!

I have used trial and error to keep track of my daily spending. I tried to use a computer spreadsheet and an accounting book. I have also tried cash only and in this day and age it doesn't seem practical for me anymore.
The problem is that I was trying to tackle the entire months worth of spending and I was getting overwhelmed. I finally honed in on my spending and figured out a VERY EASY way to keep track of daily spending habits and stay within budget.
Step # 1
Keep track of your money on a weekly basis instead of monthly. If you keep on budget during each week you will be on budget if not under at the end of the month.
First calculate your monthly budget and split it into 4 weeks or 5 in some months. What I have done to make this even easier is separate my bills from the budget because they are usually fixed expenses. I only keep track of my daily spending including groceries, gas, and other misc spending.
Step # 2
Create a Daily Spending Log: Once you know how much you can budget to spend for the week pull out a blank piece of paper and fold it in 8ths and open up. At the top of each folded square put the days of the weeks and the date. I always start with Monday and go through Sunday. On the last square you can put your budgeted amount for the week.
Step # 3
Your Daily Spending Log for the week can be easily folded up to put in the back of your pocket, your purse, or wallet. Probably easiest to put near your debit card or money. Each and every time you spend quickly jot it on your log for that day. At the end of the day subtract your budgeted amount for the daily spent and put the balance at the bottom of your daily square for that particular day. This will keep you on track and you will know EXACTLY how much you have for the rest of the week.
Step # 4
I did this for a month and realized that every week I usually spent the same amount on the same items. This will help you eliminate unnecessary spending. I noticed that I eat out every Thursday night because we're so tired from working during the week. So I started planning in advance and prepared a crock pot dinner on Thursday mornings. I just cut about $20.00 of unnecessary spending.
Step # 5
If you want at the end of the week you could set up a spreadsheet on the computer or paper and put your spending into categories so you can really see how much you are spending on each and think of ways to cut back that way.
Hope this helps you keep track of your daily spending easier!! Let me know where you figured out ways to cut back. Thanks for reading my blog!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ways That we Tend to Overspend

What triggers overspending? How do we avoid all these ways of spending more then we intended? I think the number one way is to plan ahead for situations you think you might overspend.

First, the number one way that people overspend is when they are bored. When you’re bored one option that comes to mind is shopping. “I’m bored; why not go buy something to take away my boredom.”
  • Plan ahead> Before you get bored think of alternatives to shopping. Keep a running list of things to do instead that are cheap or free that you enjoy doing.

Second, people overspend when they are around friends. No matter what the case may be when we’re around friends having a good time money is no longer an object. You just basically get swept up in the commotions and fun of things that you don’t even think twice about how much something costs. You just swipe your card or hand over a couple bills.

  • Plan ahead> When you know you're going to be around friends bring cash only. Leave your c.c. at home to avoid those temptations of "unconscious swiping." Also, before hanging out with friends plan ahead what you'll be doing. Think about cheaper alternatives then an expensive night out.

Third, we overspend on gift giving. When shopping for a gift it's hard to stay on a budgeted amount because what if you can’t think of anything in that price range? Most often then not we overspend because we found the perfect gift that just happens to be a little more. Plus, our friends and family are worth it. Birthdays and holidays only come once a year so why not splurge a little.

  • Plan ahead> Shop for gifts throughout the year. If not physically, do it on paper. Keep a list of friends and families birthdays and other occasions that you have coming up that you'll be buying a gift for. Write down ideas as you come across them. This way you are not stuck at the last minute trying to think of what to get and end up overspending.

Fourth, I’m starving and there is no food in sight. Take me to the nearest restaurant fast! Overspend.

  • Plan ahead> A real life saver can be to have snacks in your car. When you're running errands and doing other things that require a lot of hurried thinking you will get hungry fast. Always bring a snack even if you think you won't get hungry. You can also plan your route ahead of time to make it home around the times you get hungry.

Firth, we overspend when we don’t use cash. This has been said many of times that it’s harder to hand over your hard earn cash then to swipe a piece of plastic.

  • Plan ahead> Pretty self explanatory. Try to carry cash on you when you're buying something. You can also keep a list of things you need when going out so you stick to it.

Sixth, not planning ahead causes overspending as well. Just a small example: when you have to run out to the liquor store to buy milk after it runs out you'll probably pay a higher price because you didn't buy it at the grocery store.

  • Plan ahead> I think this one sums up a lot of our overspending. Most of the time try to plan ahead. I know that won't always be the case so be prepared for some days when you just didn't think ahead about the things you need.

There are probably thousands of more ways that we overspend. What ways do you overspend or see others overspending? How would you overcome that temptation?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Saving for a Down Payment on a Home

For me it's been up and down over the years trying to save for a home. I'm sure it is for many people. Most families get into a house by either inheriting the money or the house. For those that have to save for the down payment on a home it can be quite trying. I've used our home savings as an emergency stash plenty of times. How does a family save for home on a small income?

I've had money automatically taken out of our paychecks every month and put into an ING savings account. It usually generates about a 4.5% interest rate. My biggest weakness is that it can take years and years before we can see real results in savings. I'm going to take this process a step further in order to save up this big chunk of money.

# 1 is to figure out a time frame in which you would like to have the money accumulated. Since I get distracted easily I’m shooting for 5 years, tops.

# 2 Get the entire family involved, even the kids. Sit down and motivate everyone about the idea of having your own home. What does each one want? Their own bedroom, backyard, dishwasher, garage, etc. Write down all the features that each one dreams of having.

# 3 Think about and discuss what area you want to live and the price ranges you are looking to get into.

# 4 Once the entire family has agreed on what they want in a home, the area, price range, and time frame write out a specific goal of that. For example: "We are going to save for a down payment on a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom single family home with a 2 car garage in the Los Angeles area by January 2012." Type it up nice and big and even draw a picture of the type of home. Post this goal on your fridge or any area that the family goes by everyday.

# 5 Think about how you are going to achieve this goal and start writing down ideas. Become frugal, always be thinking of ways to do things cheaper or even for free. Lower your living expenses as much as possible to save the maximum. When you get a raise or bonus put at least half if not all towards the house savings. Same goes with money gifts.

# 6 Set rewards for yourself along the way. When lowering your living expenses one of the first things to go can be expensive entertainment that kids where used to like amusement parks, Chuck E Cheese, and things like that. Each month when your savings goals are achieved award the whole family with cheaper entertainment. At the beginning of the month think about what your reward will be and shoot for it.

# 7 Families with children usually get a big tax return in January-March. Take half that money and put it into your house savings every year.

# 8 Every year you will be saving up your money by having it transferred into a savings account-try to find the highest interest paying account you can find, most of these will be online. Add this money up with your tax return and put it all into a one year CD earning more then 5% interest. Make sure the CD is started right when you receive your tax return so that it becomes mature at that time the next year. You will continue adding your savings from the year past and your tax return money and opening up a new CD.

# 9 Essentially you are creating your down payment with compound interest. The interest you earn will be doubling each year because you are adding such a big chunk of money to your CD each time. You will see the savings add up fast, which will in return motivate your family even more!

# 10 Share in the progress with the entire family along the way. Let everyone know you are 15% towards your goal and so on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Free Organizing Ideas

Organizing your household is a pretty big chore. It can also cost a lot of money! Most organizing of stuff takes "special" boxes, bins, containers etc. When I decided to become frugal I cleaned out my entire house and got rid of everything I no longer needed cluttering up my space.

The stuff I did keep, I wanted to organize but didn't want to spend any money doing it. I started looking around and realized there are hundreds of free possibilities for organizing. This is what I came up:

1. Bread tabs can be used for dividers in filing or use the tabs for marking electrical cords like VCR, DVD, TV to easily find which one to unplug
2. Boxes painted, with stickers, paper, etc. for organizing stuff
3. Glass jars for organizing small items (toys, hair ties)
4. Plastic containers from food (paint them)
5. Boxes from different food products
6. Plastic bags can be used for storing blankets or towels
7. Film canisters for little things like paper clips and tacks
8. 6 pack glass bottle boxes for pens, pencils, scissors, etc.
9. Toilet paper rolls for extension cords
10. Lay a mac n cheese box down and cut off one side, put in drawers for organizing office stuff or kitchen stuff.
11. Cut cereal boxes to make magazine holders
12. Cans for holding pens & pencils
13. Use a piece of cardboard for a bulletin board
14. Pill bottles for paper clips
15. Shoe boxes for socks, gloves, or anything else
16. Bubble wrap for delicate items. Put in the bottom of a box before putting stuff in.
17. Put grocery bags in a Kleenex box
18. Paper towel rolls: roll up table clothes or fabric on them.
19. Put bills and mail in a napkin holder
20. Use a clean dust pan to pick up toys like legos
21. Use a clean pizza box under the couch with coloring books
22. Egg cartons for organizing desk drawers
23. Coffee cans
24. Line 15 toilet paper rolls in a tissue box for organizing pens, markers, etc.
25. Berry baskets like the ones strawberries come in-put a suction cup on one and hang in the bathtub to hold soap.
26. Berry basket-hang and put screwdrivers through the holes
27. Berry basket-to hold seasoning mixes
28. Use the boxes that checks come in to hold things
29. Cut off the top of a 2 litter bottle to store tools, toys, or anything.
30. Use cat food or tuna cans stacked up with stuff inside them
31. Use any kind of can
32. Use the plastic mold that comes in cookies for organizing drawers
33. Pringle cans to hold large utensils like spatulas, soup spoons, etc.
34. Muffin pans to organize jewelry or even kids toys

Friday, July 13, 2007

8 Interesting Things About Myself

I've been reading all the interesting things that others have posted about themselves and have now been tagged by Millionaire Mommy Next Door to do the same. This is a project going through the PF Blogs asking that we share 8 personal facts about ourselves.

The Rules:
1. Each player must post these rules first.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

8 Interesting things about myself or not so interesting ;-)

1. I type about 85 words per minute but make a lot of mistakes.

2. I usually only read half of every book I have because I get bored easily.

3. In 4th grade I got an award for the best posture in the class, what's that?

4. I have a hard time cleaning my own house but I clean my Mom's all the time.

5. I lived in Mesa, Arizona for about 10 years. I now live in California and plan to stay here!

6. I used to spend my money like it was going out of style and I had nothing to show for it. I now save 20% of my income every month.

7. I'm happier making less money and thinking of ways to save here and there by being frugal.

8. I love to eat ice cream cones!

The 8 bloggers that I tag are:

Journey 2 Retirement
Stop Spending and Start Saving
Stop Buying Crap
Saving Advice
Wise Bread
Binary Dollar
Blunt Money

If you have already been choosen you can ignore :)

Savings Tip # 4

Save all your receipts. This will save you money big time. When we go shopping we tend to buy things we don't necessary need or end up not even using. When you get home from the store or even a few days after, go through the stuff that you bought and see if you have actually used it. If you haven't then why not take it back to get your money? I threw a party a couple months ago and in the end realized I had too many party supplies. I just took them right back to the store instead of throwing them in a box to collect dust.

Yet Another Way to Rent Movies-Cheaper

I just rented from the new DVD kiosk we have at our local Von's store. It was one of the easiest ways to rent a movie!
I really enjoy watching movies. I used to go to the theater a lot. Then I started renting movies. I would rent from Hollywood Video every week. I knew I was saving money compared to movie theaters but the problem was I was still spending on average $20 each time I rented. I brought my son along and he would get some candy with the movie and I would end up getting a soda. We added two movies and probably a game rental each time. We were spending about $80 a month just to rent a couple movies.
Once I heard about Blockbuster Online I looked into the cost and figured it might be a better deal. I signed up and the first month I got tons of movies for a great price. I pay about $16 a month. What I get are two movies in the mail as well as free trade in. They just added this bonus as well, you can trade in a movie for a video game at a cheaper price for $4.99 instead of the regular $7.99. Plus you get a free movie or game rental coupon to use in-store. I average about 16 movies a month plus another free rental for $16 a month. That's pretty good at $1 a movie. I rent two movies online for the weekend and then trade them in on Sunday night to watch over the week. I noticed that we didn't really watch the ones over the weekdays as much so I changed our plan to one movie rental out at a time. That's still a great deal for only $11 a month and being able to trade them in store for free.
So today I tried yet another option movie renters now have which is a "movie kiosk." You can rent movies out of a machine! That's pretty cool and very convenient. I was taking my son over to my mom's today and thought it would be fun for him to watch movies while he's there. The video stores are not open and we only have a scary movie from Blockbuster so how easy would it be to stop at the machine on the way there?
I walked in, picked two movies and slid my ATM card. Done.
They stock the machines every Tuesday with the latest rentals. It costs $1.49 for each rental, per day. As long as you turn them in the day after before midnight you are getting a new released movie for $1.49. That's probably the best deal considering we might not always rent enough with Blockbuster.
These machines seem to be well stocked with movies. I'm sure most people turn them in right away considering their credit card is on file to be charged each and everyday. So check it out. They are popping up all over the place. The one I used is DVD Play. You can look up DVD Kiosks to find others too. Check it out, saves big on entertainment for the whole family!