Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More on Budgeting...

                As a few of the readers have requested (okay one of my friends…), I’d love to share my budgeting tips with you.  Unfortunately, I am by no means an expert, but maybe something I type will be an inspiring tidbit.

                Here’s what seems to be the best trick (so far).  The first step in having a budget is to write everything down and keep track of it in some sort of spreadsheet (online or a hardcopy).  You can't create a realistic budget without knowing where your money usually goes and where you can cut back. Now, I am not technologically savvy and I have taken a brief computer modeling class in Excel, but that was a while back.  Anyways, point being is that I simply use the “sum” function and otherwise just plug the information in. 

                When using the sum function, you simply choose a box you would like a total (of whatever you want to add) to appear, then type “=sum.” A box should appear with a bunch of other functions that are totally scary looking.  Just disregard all the others and double click “=sum.”  (see below)

From here you have a couple of options.  Hint: you have to have the parentheses or the function won’t work.  So far, your function should look like this “=sum(“ (please note that the quotations are not a part of the function.  So the first option will be to add a range of numbers.  If you have a set of numbers in a column or row (depending on how your spreadsheet is organized) that are all next to each other, you can use this function: =sum(B6:B12) OR =sum(B6:F6).  This function will total everything in between those boxes (B6, B7, B8, B9…OR B6, C6, D6, E6…) and include the “sandwiching” numbers (B6 and B12). (see below)

The other option is to select particular boxes that are found all over the spreadsheet. This function will look similar to this: =sum(B6,A2,F17). (see below)

Again, all of the selected boxes will be totaled and appear in the new box you have highlighted.  For both of these options, you do not necessarily have to type in the box numbers, but can click on the desired boxes to be added (if that’s not super confusing). So you can type =sum( and then highlight a box and either drag down a column/row or put a comma after the first box is selected and keep adding boxes from there with more commas.  Yes, this sounds confusing, but practice first with the function and the best part is if it doesn’t turn out or there is an error message you simply delete everything you typed and start again. When you do have that "A-HA" moment, it’s a magical experience! You don’t have to do any math (although I’m weird and like math, could you tell?)!

Okay, so now that I have totally confused you… I have been keeping track of EVERYTHING!  This includes lunches, coffees and the six nuts I bought at Ace for a grand total of 72 cents (okay, I didn’t actually include that one, but I considered it!). Then I enter them into categories that include income, rent, utilities, insurance, groceries, essentials (toiletries, gas, etc.) and non-essentials.   It definitely makes the work load easier if you update the spreadsheet every couple of days.  I keep a little folder where all our receipts go and I also have a notecard in it for online and cash purchases. At the bottom of the spreadsheet I have also included a section of savings for things such as discounted ski passes bought at Costco and how much we saved instead of buying them at the mountain or “used a forty percent off coupon at Michael’s and saved this much _____.”

So far, I have just started our January tab of the budget.  When we have entered everything for January, I will total our expenses and compare to our total income.  I can already tell you we are over as we have gone on a couple of ski trips and had a hefty car repair charge along with auto insurance.  These, however, are not monthly charges and only a portion will be included in expenses.  The point is that I wouldn’t have had any clue of how much we were already over if it wasn’t all typed in one convenient location.

If any other helpful tips come up, I will gladly share them.  The best part about having everything in front of you is that you can see where all your money is going.  For example, I can see that we spend way too much money eating out.  We also were spending quite a bit on gas until both the hubby and I started walking to work almost every day.  Obviously this may not be feasible for all, but living in a smaller city and close to both work places allows us to save on gas if we get off our lazy butts and actually get some exercise!  And doing exactly this has decreased our gas consumption substantially.  We have filled up gas once this month and only for one car. As opposed to the once a week filling that was occurring just last month. 

Other ways to use less gas can be to bike if walking is too far or even to consider public transportation.  I recently was offered a free 2 year bus pass for simply working in downtown Missoula.  Of course I jumped on that deal, but walking is just so much easier than figuring out bus schedules. And besides, I’m getting exercise along the way!

Well, I hope this super vague intro to budgeting was helpful to someone.  Let me know if you need clarification on my absolutely perfect descriptions of Excel and if you have anything to add that could be helpful as well.  When in doubt, google/youtube how to do something and it’s usually there!

Happy budgeting!

P.S. I did figure out how to take screenshots on our computer (which is a miracle for me), but now internet explorer won't let me upload pictures.  So usually I do it on Chrome, but that's not working even though the icons show up.  I give up! (but not really...I'll figure it out and add them eventually)

Yay, the hubby figured out the problem! So here is a screen shot of part of our budget.  It displays a trip to Costco and the highlighted box is where my function is.  That particular box is the sum of all the items purchased during that trip.  When the month is done, I will add all the red numbers (which are all totals of money spent or received) and have an amount for how much we have spent or gained.

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