Cash Flow and Other cool things to keep your money organized


So my first post today was about my debt and how I hate it, and how I wish it would disappear magically.  I used to work in finance, my husband works in finance and his degree is in finance.  We went through college without student loans, we used to pay off our credit cards each month. But then we went from two incomes to one.  I wanted to be at home with my child at the time and now my children and instead of cutting back and making lifestyle changes, for awhile we used credit cards.  Then we bought a house and it needed stuff, then kids would need toys and clothes, I wouldn’t feel like making dinner and each little thing would just add to the snowball of debt, which we are now at. 

For the first Christmas in a long time I didn’t use credit cards because I didn’t have any with money on them.  I went to the grocery store and tried to use a credit card and it was declined- first time in my life and I was embarrassed. 

I have charts and spreadsheets and goals and plans.  I just overspend and it’s so bad, because we could be doing family vacations, saving more, paying for private school, instead we have debt and have to worry about running short on cash.  My husband has a really good job, but we still have problems stretching the money.  Not because we don’t have enough or don’t have a plan, but because I get bored and try to treat the kids or my husband and I overbuy.  But this year I want to change.  I want things to be paid down and then off. Because a few months ago I was able to pay off a store credit card and it is such a feeling to know I’ve been tempted to use it since then but I have not. 

So while I can not offer great tips on not spending lots or spending too much, I can share with you some of the tools that keep our money organized and keep me sane.  I don’t know how friends that don’t budget can manage, to just spend and hope there will be enough.  I would go crazy without the control.

One of the best things is open communication.  My husband and I share an account and he tells me what he’s spending on so I can always keep the budget up to date.  I’ve had friends say that would never work for them, but that’s the only way it works for us.

We use a cash flow on excel.  We made it ourselves and it looks like this:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010 Walmart ($16)  
Wednesday, January 06, 2010 Target ($31)  
  bank balance   $500
Thursday, January 07, 2010 Gas ($35) $465
Thursday, January 07, 2010 Electric ($20) $445
Thursday, January 07, 2010 Medicine ($15) $430

 

Now mind you excel doesn’t transfer very smoothly on WordPress, so there should be lines separating the items.  But basically we take our bank balance, minus any outstanding bills/checks and use that total for the bank balance.  We then put any expenses for the month (it takes me about 30 mins once a month to create and a few mins each day to update) on the sheet below the bank balance.  Anythings that are paid or will be paid go up above it so we can keep track of where our money is going. 

On top of this I also have a list of Jan-Dec for each year where I have every budget extra that may come up- birthdays, anniversarys, school things, doctors bill, pet bills, kids activities, vacations, etc.  Each month when making my cash flow I reference this list and the general monthly budget to get the items that will be in our budget. 

This is the system that works for me, I then reconcile everything to the bank.  It does seem tedious sometimes, but without it, we wouldn’t have any idea where our money is going. 

I also have folder files to store bills and track large expenses each year on excel sheets to compare, such as home heating bills.

We have our goals and I want to pay these debts off and be debt free so I can go back to grad school and send my kids to private school and I want to feel good about being debt free.  I know we can’t all be people who cut cable and eat noodles in order to pay off debt.  I’m sure that would work, but I am way to stubborn and pampered to do so.  So I can’t complain too much, I could do more.  But I do feel better knowing that I can see where our money is and how we are spending, then I can make changes in those areas.

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