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The Beginner’s Guide to Savings: Week Two

Guide to Saving Money | Emergency Fund | Budgeting 101 | Saving & Investing | The Beginner's Guide to Savings | Retirement Fund | Financial Planning | Budgeting | Stop Spending

Part Two: Create a Budget

It’s been a week.  How’s that no-spending thing going?

Well, here’s the good news:  You can start spending money again.  Of course the bad news is that after today’s assignment, you might not want to.

Hopefully last week’s exercise started you thinking about the reasons WHY you’re spending and also got you to start making a serious distinction between the things you want and the things you need.

(NOTE: If you are new to LWSL or missed out last week, you might want to start at Week 1: Stop Spending before starting this week’s assignment!)

Before we go any further, I want to make a quick but important distinction that just because something is a “want” instead of a “need” doesn’t make it wrong or bad.  It’s okay to want a pretty house or good food or cute shoes.  What’s not okay is to want all those things at the expense of your financial well-being or your marriage or your children or anything else that we know is more important than stuff.

If you are not struggling with your spending or find that you have plenty of money leftover for your savings & retirement accounts at the end of the month, have no trouble paying all your bills on time, know exactly where all your money is going, and don’t stress out over unforeseen expenses, then you probably don’t need to be reading this series.   In fact, you probably could write it better than me because you are obviously doing something right.

But most of us struggle with money or budgeting, at least in some area.  I started this blog to chronicle my adventures of learning how to live well on less money, not because I had it all figured out already.  Believe me when I tell you there is plenty of room for improvement.

This week’s assignment is going to require a little more effort.   The hard truth is that no one can fix your budget for you.  There are no magic solutions or ten-minute fixes that will have permanent results.  Improving your financial outlook will require change, and change is HARD.  Do it anyway.

As I tell my four-year-old, never neglect to do something just because it is hard because it is the things you work hardest for that will reward you the most.

Don’t let fear stop you either.  It can be very scary to open up the Pandora’s box otherwise known as your finances, especially if you’ve been turning a blind eye.  In some ways, ignorance is bliss.  But if you’re still reading up to this point, you probably know, deep down, that this is something you need to do.  Take a deep breath, muster up your courage, and just do it.  You’ll be better for it.

And now that the pep talk is over, it is time to get down to business.

Here is this week’s assignment:

DIG DEEPER


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1. Assess your income and fixed expenses

Print out the nifty budget worksheet above, then grab your bank statements, your bills, your check register, & any other financial information you can think of.  A calculator might come in handy too.  Then grab a glass of wine, sit down (with your spouse if your married), and start crunching the numbers.

2.  Create a budget for your variable expenses

Use a pencil to fill in each category with what you are currently paying each month, then add up your subtotals and see how it compares to the number you are shooting for.  Then go back and lower different categories as necessary.  Obviously some things, like your water and electric, won’t be adjustable, but other things can probably be cut significantly.   Include SOMETHING in your savings budget, even if it is just a small amount.  If you have credit card payments, include those in your household expenses as well.

3. Take some time to self-reflect

This step may be the hardest, but it is also the most important.  Maybe you’ve realized it is time to cut up your credit cards, or, at the very least, put them on ice. (Fill a bowl with water, put your credit cards in, and freeze.  If nothing else, it will slow you down!)  Maybe you’re ready to start packing a lunch instead of going out or to give up cable.  What you spend your money on is a very personal decision that only you can determine for yourself (or with your spouse.)

4. Track your spending

Keep track of everything you spend.  At the end of each day, and then again at the end of each week, go over your expenses to make sure you are staying on track.  The more frequently you “check in,” the less likely you will be to let your spending get out of control.  Little things add up quickly!

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Keep in mind, once again, that I am not a financial expert.  You are welcome to use these worksheets to help you–they are what make sense to me–but there are lots of other budgeting books, worksheets, & software available that might work for you better.  In fact, you may remember Jesse Mecham from YouNeedaBudget.com, who guest posted twice last month.  Jesse is a budgeting whiz and created an awesome budgeting software program called–you guessed it–You Need a Budget!  If you or your spouse are more computerized record-keeping kind of people, you might want to check it out!  (And if you didn’t have a chance to read his 5 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Finances, do it right now!)

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Whew, what a week!  I know this probably seems like a lot, but please don’t give up on me!  I promise it will be worth it in the end, and your bank account will thank you.  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Wednesday and remember, I want to hear from you!  How did your first week of the challenge go?  What did you learn about yourself or your budget?

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The LWSL Beginner’s Guide to Savings

Week 1: Stop Spending!

Week 2: Create a Budget

Week 3: Save on the Big Things

Week 4: Save on the Necessary Things

Week 5: Save on the Fun Things

Week 6:  Save on the Special Things

Week 7: Save for the Future

Week 8: Make More Money

 

23 Comments

  1. July 20 at 08:00PM

    Ruth, I’m going to follow these weekly steps, but I am going to start Aug 1. We are going on vacation this weekend and I know that will blow it out of the water.. so I’d rather start with a clean slate and have August as a good month to start and save with. Course it’s back to school so Ill have school supplies/etc. to buy. BUT.. nonetheless.. it needs to be done.. especially with christmas right around the corner! Thanks so much for putting this together..

  2. July 20 at 08:54PM

    I’m sooo starting this! We need to! Thank you!!!!

  3. Elizabeth
    July 20 at 10:15PM

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I failed miserably last week with the “Stop Spending Rule.” I am thankful for new mercies every day and intend to try again this week.

    I am also thankful for the guest post during Take 5 from the creator of YNAB (You Need A Budget). My husband and I used the trial software and loved it, we have since purchased a full copy and therefore, have this week done. It might be worth it for other readers to check it out during this week of creating a budget. Good Luck!

  4. rose
    July 21 at 03:40AM

    Just to want to say u are the BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m going to start Agust 1 too……

    thanks for your hard work. : )

  5. July 21 at 04:01AM

    Excellent tips, Ruth! I always tell myself, “track your spending”! It’s really helpful to take down notes and do a little money spending reflection from time to time. I’m sharing your post with some friends who are struggling with saving. Thanks again!

  6. Leslie Burns
    July 21 at 02:43PM

    I thought last week would be easy….I just stay home and I won’t be tempted to spend…boy, was I wrong! Am trying again this week.

    Thanks for putting words to what I need to do! A plan makes all the difference!

  7. July 21 at 05:18PM

    Great post. I believe you can accomplish anything with a plan.
    Ann

  8. Randi
    July 22 at 09:31PM

    Here’s another great resource for creating a monthly budget which also allows you to input your spending and see how you are doing throughout the month. It’s based on the Dave Ramsey program, and allows you to adjust as you need to!

    http://www.mdmproofing.com/iym/products/cash-flow-budget/

  9. Shari
    July 27 at 09:23PM

    Ruth,
    Thank you so much for this series. I just started using a budget spreadsheet that I found on line. Each month I type in the anticipated expenses in the different categories. As the month goes by I record what I have actually spent. It let’s me know how much I have left to spend in each area. It has really kept me accountable and I actually have money left at the end of the month!
    Thanks again,
    Shari

  10. Amy Gamblin
    May 7 at 08:38PM

    Hi Ruth! I love your blog so much 🙂
    My husband and I are both university students, and we just completed week 1 of your Beginner’s Guide to Saving, and what a change already! As students, money is of course tight, but we’ve cut back our expenses so much that we might just finish our degrees debt free (I’m at the Master’s level and he’s finishing his Undergrad). Thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement and advice! (PS, I love your printables, they’re so cute!)

  11. Lù Solis
    May 11 at 08:45AM

    I am 28 years old… and i have never worked on a budget, i’ve always been the free-single-party girl… but now.. i have decided to settle down with the man of my life. Credit cards have always been to the max, because i never did worried about lowering them… and always used them.. now.. we have decided to go for an apartment… and you did guessed well.. I NEED A BUDGET! i am following your steps week by week.. to tell you the truth… for week one.. NO SPENDING… i’ve done that for quite some time now.. still seeing no positive results in our banking accounts.. i really DO HOPE your steps help us continue and live on a budget that’s planned for the future.. thanks for taking your time on creating this posts for dumbs like me that never did really care for savings! <3

  12. Sara
    June 9 at 03:36PM

    So far i have read week 1 and week 2.. I am super excited to use your worksheets and get my life on track.. i have another baby on the way and decided I need to do something fast before i can’t pay something. Thank you for all your tips.

  13. June 13 at 03:25AM

    This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
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  14. October 1 at 03:39AM

    What a great plan! Once your budgets are start paying yourselves first and begin to have a bit of savings, the next thing to consider should be to put together a strong financial/estate plan. The plan should include a good life insurance policy, a will, power of attorney (in case you are incapacitated), just to name a few items.

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