I am by no means a financial planner, but I know how someone can get overwhelmed with their finances and that can lead to neglect and careless spending. I have personally been there, wondering where all my money has gone and looking at my desk with stacks of paper that I continue to ignore. This list will give you simple things you can do today to feel more in control of your finances and have less clutter in your brain and on your desk.
1. Autopay is where it’s at
The first thing I recommend doing is setting up autopay on all of your bills and credit card payments. Trying to keep track of every single bill and its due date can become overwhelming quickly. You have a busy life and will find yourself forgetting to pay on time. If there are certain bills that do not have an option to set up autopayments, then set a reminder on your phone a couple days before it is due so that you don’t send in late payments. You will be saving money by avoiding those late fees.
2. For utilities opt into “Budget billing”
My energy bill is the same every month because I signed up for their budget billing plan. This means they take the last 12 months of your usage and come up with an average to charge you every month. My energy provider reviews it every 6 months to adjust for more or less usage and then either adds or reduces that amount over the next 12 months. Budgeting is much simpler when you know exactly what a monthly expense will be. Check your utility providers website to see if you can sign up.
3. Track your expenses for 3-6 months
Go back through your bank statements for the last 3 to 6 months and determine how much you spend in every category. Common categories include: groceries, gas for your cars, entertainment, pet care, gifts, charitable contributions, subscriptions, clothing etc. Look at each expense and assign it to a category. You may even come up with a miscellaneous category that would be used for expenses that do not happen often, but you can set aside a specific amount for it each month.
4. Make an average budget for things that do fluctuate.
For those categories such as, groceries and gas, you will want to have an average amount you plan on spending monthly/weekly. You can do this by using the expenses you tracked in the previous step. If you find you don’t seem to have enough money to cover all your expenses these would be the categories that can be modified to reduce your outgoing money.
5. Pick certain days per week for fluctuating expenses
I typically do my main grocery shopping trip on Wednesdays. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, so that I can track when the weekly budget will come out of my checking account. Secondly, to have myself set up a meal plan for the week. Lastly, I am a huge Aldi’s fan because they have mostly everything I need at a cheaper price point and on Wednesdays is when they get their shipment for new items.
I know not everyone has a set work schedule and this may be tricky for some,
but if you can make it work, it is a huge help in solidifying your finances.
Are there certain places you go to save money?
6. Utilize your calendar for budgeting
Now that you know when bills are due and how much each category needs, you'll want to record this information. Use the calendar on your phone/computer to mark each day you have a bill or expense due and the exact amount set aside for it. You can easily create it as a recurring event and this will come in handy when preparing your budget. Add your paydays days as well.
7. Find a budgeting app that works for you
I personally use the Every Dollar app by Dave Ramsey. It is a simple tool and the basic version is free. You simply enter your income for the month then program all your bills and expenses, Use the information you got from the previous steps. You can easily copy it from month to month and alter things here and there, saving you a lot of time!
Have you heard of other apps that can help you with your budgeting?
8. Sign up for alerts for your transactions
Download your bank's app and sign up for transaction alerts. When you make a purchase you can get a text immediately after letting you know how much was charged. This means you don’t need receipts, you can decline them at the register or toss them out as soon as you get home. Yay to less paper clutter. This also helps prevent unauthorized transactions as you can reach out to your bank if you were not the one who charged the card. Check your bank’s website to see if they offer this feature.
9. Sign up for paperless statements
Another way to reduce paper clutter would be to go paperless. Many people rarely look at their statements. If you already have text or email alerts for expenses and billing statements I recommend opting out of physical statements. Some banks even charge for paper statements, so not only will you reduce clutter in your home office, you could be saving some cash in the process. You can always access all of your statements online if you find yourself needing to review them for tax season. If you feel you do have to keep credit card and utility statements, experts say you only need to keep them for one month, so shred the previous month once you receive the current one.
10. Work on your budget once a week
Every Sunday, usually while having my coffee, I spend about 15-30 minutes working on our budget. After having everything in place it shouldn't take you very long to make sure your finances are in order. I spend this time making sure that we have not overspent in a certain category and that we have enough money in our checking account to pay for the bills and expenses we need before the next payday. This also helps me decide when and how much extra I can put towards debt and savings. Pick a time in the week that works best for your schedule to devote to your finances.
This is an example of what I review on my Sundays (the numbers are made up to make calculations easier):
First I will go through the week and be sure every expense is recorded in my budgeting app. For some apps you can link your debit card to the account and have this done automatically. I prefer entering it manually to see my expenses (and hopefully make me want to spend less and stick to the budget after seeing how much money I spend)
Your digital calendar should be marked with each expense:
1st - Mortgage due $1200
2nd- Phone bill $100
5th- Car payment $200
10th- Credit Card payment $50
15th- Energy bill $150
20th- Car insurance $100
25th- Internet $50
For each month your income will most likely fall on a different day, mark the days in your calendar as well.
This months income:
6th- Paycheck 1 $2000
20th- Paycheck 2 $2000
If you determined you spend $200 per month on groceries and $100 on gas then you would break this up into a weekly expense.
Groceries: $50 per week (Wednesdays)
Gas: $25 per week (Thursdays)
Let’s say today is the first of the month and you are starting with $2000 in your bank account. You would start with that amount and work through the week to ensure you have the income you need and put any additional money in savings/extra debt payments.
$2000 current amount in checking account
-$1200 mortgage (1st)
-$100 phone bill (2nd)
-$200 car payment (5th)
-$50 groceries (5th)
-$25 gas (6th)
+$2000 payday (6th)
Thanks for reading! I hope this helps get your budget on track and reduce the amount of paper clutter in your home. As an organizer, I work with clients to help them use more digital tools to simplify their budgeting and banking processes.
Need some help setting up these systems? Visit my website here.