You’ve decided to pay off your debts. Or maybe you want to take that stress-busting trip around the world. You are bound and determined to make this happen. So, the first step is to develop a plan of action. How? By using simple budget spreadsheets as your main tool.
As you set off on your grand plan to live a debt-free life (or whatever plans you have that involve money), you absolutely need to have a plan of attack for getting from point A to point B. You have some serious debt or serious savings goals which is going to take some serious planning to solve. Your budget needs to be a fluid and flexible, meaning that it’s going change on a regular basis. Why is this important? Because change freaks us out. So don’t freak out when you have to switch up your budget—because all budgets are different. You’ll need to use your budget spreadsheets to account for your personal income and expense “fluidity”.
As an example, consider how your utility bill changes between the seasons. When I lived in New Mexico, my winter heating bill was, shall we say, atrocious. But, in the summer, my utilities dropped by nearly one-third. Now that I live in Alabama, it’s just the opposite. Winter is wonderful and summer is terrible. Also consider that your grocery bill is probably a little higher in November and December when most people cook more, or, of course, attending what seems like a month long holiday party fest. Consider too that if your elementary age kids are in after-school care while you work, you will need to budget for the kids to be in full-time care during the summers. These are just a few of the many factors that can make your budget spreadsheets change from month to month.
Some people will make one budget, and then factor in extra funds to account for these fluid factors. Other people will find that it’s easier for them to do a different budget spreadsheet for each month of the year. The bottom line is that you need to do what works for you. Do whatever helps you plan your budget better. One method is to figure out how much you pay in each budget category on a yearly basis. Then divide that yearly amount by twelve to get your monthly figure. Yes, you’ll end up paying more in some months, but that’s the point. The “extra” you pay will cover your overage months.
Nobody is going to frown at your budget so develop a system that works for you and stick to it. Use your budget plan on a regular basis by looking at it each time you pay bills and make sure that you are still on track. If you need to, look at it on a daily basis until you have trained yourself to rein in your extra spending. There’s nothing worse than having to plow through a week’s worth of receipts to figure out where all your money went.
Budget spreadsheets are a wonderful tool that can really help you in realizing your financial goals. But as with any tool, they can only be helpful if you use them. Plan to use these tools on a regular basis, and find a way to work them into your life so you can benefit from all that they can offer you.