About two years ago I started Money Mondays. Early Monday morning I get up and get my affairs in order if you will. I balance our bank account. I get deposits ready if I have any. I pay bills. I generally use the time to increase my awareness of what’s going on financially around here. It occurred to me that as I strive to be more present in my spending and focused in my saving I have actually established some pretty good routines. So here are my top four Money Monday (and rest of the week) practices:
- Track spending. Write down in your check book, a notebook, your cell phone-wherever, everything you spend and where. Choose the method that’s easiest for you. I tried Mint before and while it is a fantastic idea, it was more than I could handle organizationally. I’ve gone back to it recently and will report back soon if I made it work this time. People swear by Quicken too and of course there are a million phone apps for budgeting. For me, I needed simple and clear. I have a black notebook where I write down everything from bills to lattes. Not only does it keep me conscious of my spending, it helps me budget for the future. If you figure out what school supplies cost one year you know what to expect the next.
- Pay Bills Online. I utilize both my bank for bill pay and one or two companies’ online pay sites too. This not only helps me see in black and white what our monthly bills equal as soon as the paycheck hits, but it saves a ton of time. I could schedule my bills but I am still at a place where our monthly expenses aren’t totally consistent. So, I manually input information every month. My goal is to know exactly what comes in and goes out every month so that I can input bill information once and then they’ll just magically get paid every cycle by the bank without me having to do it myself. A girl’s gotta have goals right?
- Discuss spending with your mate. I am in charge of the bank here so I handle the budget and financial plan for the family. However, my husband has expenses of his own from month to month. After some frustration and more overdraft fees than I’d like to admit, I finally got him to give me some advance warning for when he needs to withdrawal cash. Now we chat at least twice a month (with paydays looming) about what he needs for travel, meetings, etc. He also reports to me what is coming in as far as reimbursement so I know where that money goes. Our money meetings have really helped our bank account and subsequently our marriage. Life is much easier when I know we’re a team.
- Re-Budget every 30-60-90 days. For many of you an annual budget may be enough. For us, as we learn more about our spending and continually chip away at debt, we are constantly in flux. We need to reassess frequently. For every bill we have payed off, there were more that needed our attention. Often the payments change and with an ever growing family our monetary needs change frequently too. It is imperative that we don’t consider anything “free money”. When we paid off the car, we put that money toward hospital bills or other debt as well as increasing our saving. We re-budget every season right now. I have a rough idea what we spend and make, but I sit down every 30th of the month and figure out what the next 30 days will look like. If they’re very different we talk. If not, I save the sit down for when the seasons change. It seems each new weather pattern brings new expenses! There are fewer surprises this way and we get to celebrate each little victory as it comes.
The last thing I’ll say that’s not really a tip just a practice. I go over the logs of the last two years pretty often because even though some days it still feels like we’re under a huge mountain of mistakes, we have made huge progress and even carved a pretty large slice in the mountain. Guilt never increased anyone’s IRA so reminding myself and The Husband of our success every month helps us to keep from wallowing in regret. We tear up bills. We check off lists. We high-five. We take a minute to imagine the day when it’s ALL gone. Then, we pat ourselves on the back and quickly head back to the business of the day.
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