Finance Friday: Six Month Check In

Good morning! With July on the horizon, I thought it might be fun to share a six month check in. This check-in is based on our budget, track and spend spreadsheet, which you can download for free and use yourself!

Our sheet has several major categories for spend tracking. We deduct as we spend from each category’s assigned value. The biggest category is just called “Stuff.” From here we deduct, say, spending at the comic book store; gifts; hotel stays; pretty much all the stuff of everyday life. We gave this category $5k for the year, and we’re not yet at the halfway point. Woohoo!

Home/Oil

This category includes any spending on home repairs/home needs. We allocated only $2k, since we’re not renovating anything, and we’ve spent most of it already. The purchase of new dressers for our bedroom last winter is the culprit. I got them on super clearance and they’re nice hardwood bureaus, but still, money’s money. We may well go over our budgeted amount, depending on oil prices in the fall. We’ll see.

Cats

One category we’ve overspent dramatically in is pet-based. This is a sad story, though; we’d budgeted enough for food and cat insurance (yeah, I know) and some vet appointments, but had no way of anticipating how the spring would go. We’d tried to add a third cat to our clan. This went horribly, and put one of our cats in the vet’s office for several hundred dollars’ worth of services; the organization we’d worked with didn’t even offer to refund the fee we’d paid for the new cat. Then our injured cat suddenly died a month later, and we had him cremated and returned to us. His passing then led to a very thorough checkup for cat #1. The overage here is pretty much meaningless to me, given that it was born of so much sorrow.

Other Annual Categories

We’ve barely used our clothing allowance–we’ve spent about $500 this year and probably won’t spend too much more. We keep a running tally of work expenses for deductions next spring, so we don’t worry too much about that area. We’re just about at our usual charitable giving threshold because of the fee paid to adopt the cat that didn’t work, so we’ll likely end up over the top in that area too.

Monthly Categories

Dining Out and Groceries are our major monthly categories. They get a designated amount and we spend that amount down. And down. and into the next month. We’re bad at these categories.

Together, dining out and groceries get about $800. I’m thinking that if I’m honest, I need to budget more here, at least for the summer. Mr. Tenacious and I are both home during the summer, and occasionally we have days where we need to get out of the house as the proverbial walls close in. We have more outings with friends, too. We have no willpower to say, “nope, we’ve hit our threshold” on those days–in the dining category, we just deduct the overage from the next month, and the next month, and so on until we probably won’t have any dining dollars for December. Mr. Tenacious also isn’t as keen on saving so much for saving’s sake as I am, and I don’t like to argue about it at this point. So, um, this area may need some attention.

So there you have it–the Tenacious household’s six month accountability check-in. The good news is that these categories are built for post-saving spending–we automatically deposit into our savings account and 401k, and the extra money I get from work for a program I run during the summer offset the impact of suddenly paying off the mister’s student loans. The only loan we have remaining (besides mortgage) is my car, and at a 3.5% interest rate, I don’t worry too much about it.

So let’s hear your six month check in! How are you doing at mid-year? Are you saving and spending where you hoped to be? What’s gotten in your way?

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Finance Friday: FREE Downloadable Budget and Spend Spreadsheet!

Is this you? The Street reported this week that as female breadwinning grows, so does financial anxiety. They report that women tend to a) earn less than men and b) worry more about money than men and c) worry about retirement more than men. It would appear that money–duh–is gendered, or at least sexed. Nine out of ten women, they say, are the main support of their families at some point, and many women support themselves alone. Having some sense of what money you have, where it is going, and where you might change those paths to meet particular goals (so long, student loans), brings at least some sense of calm. My free Budget and Spend Spreadsheet is here to help.

I am the primary breadwinner in our household and my husband has fluctuating income as an adjunct professor (we should talk about labor exploitation in academia some other time, as well as women-as-breadwinners ). We’ve had some hefty expenses over the years—hello, front steps needing replacement; sick tree in front yard; kitchen reno we sloooowly did ourselves—but we never quite seemed to be getting ahead. Mind you, we are very, very fortunate; we’ve been extraordinarily lucky to live comfortably since I started my job in 2008. Even so, I was surprised that every year our balances seemed to be exactly where we started, and our credit cards were constantly in use, creating high monthly balances we paid off.

Where did the money go? I expect I’m not alone in my wonder here. Many Americans don’t keep track of their funds, and the stuff they buy—little and big—add up over time (google the “latte factor” –the idea that buying expensive coffee frequently is a money pit). Many Americans don’t budget, either. I was one of them, even after my financial adviser suggested doing so. Budgeting seemed like a pain to do, and it could bring up some painful truths I did not want to face. So I ignored her.

But ignoring my advisor’s advice and my own internal monologue telling me something could be better meant that I wasn’t making my money work for me. Spending it with no plan is fun sometimes (buying new front steps less so), but it came with an opportunity cost—that money might be put elsewhere, better used. I had no real way of knowing. Those Target runs might have added up to something more consequential.

Good thing I like spreadsheets.

I built this one originally for me in a much simpler form. This version features all the bells and whistles I’ve added in five months of working on and with it. William Buffet (evidently) once said that what you spend is what remains after you save (thanks, feministfinancier.com!). So let’s get a handle on what we’re actually spending. And maybe—if we’re feeling brave—consider a budget, so as to better save.

spreadsheet snap
Spreadsheet snapshot

This Budget and Spend Spreadsheet allows you to do both. It’s set up with pre-build categories for both expenses and income, so you can just punch in some numbers and get rolling. It’s also got blank spaces for new items. That’s just the main sheet. Subsequent sheets are set up for each of those expense categories; you just punch in the number you allowed on sheet one at the top of each subsequent sheet and enter your expenses in that category as you go. For example, there’s a sheet for dining out. Say you allot $5k/year for that (you crazy minx, you)—you put that number in at the top and fill in the rows as you go and it does the math for you, allowing you to see what you have on balance to spend.

I like spending down. Beats spending up.

piggy bank
Feed the piggy.

If you run out of rows, you can always add some with the edit function. Then copy the last cell that contains a number derived by the formula (that is, the last one that math-ed correctly), copy it, and paste it into the new boxes below. That’ll keep your math going.

The very last sheet is a net worth sheet. This is a fun little element that lets you track your net worth over time. Net worth, simply put, is assets minus liabilities. On my own personal sheet, for example, I have our house as an asset with its approximate value (somewhere in between Zillow and the town’s recent revaluation) and what we owe on it as liability. The difference between them isn’t just equity, it’s part of your net worth. There are areas for 401k balances, bank accounts, student loans, car loans, the whole kit and caboodle.

The sheet is entirely editable, so if you want it to have different themes, different topics, or math in different ways, you can adjust it for your own consumption. It contains a number of comments that will help you fill boxes in. Feel free to send any questions along to me as well at admin@tenaciousfeminist.com.

benjamins
Knowing where these go means (hopefully) keeping more of them in your accounts.

If you talk about this spreadsheet—and please, talk about it, on your blog, your twitter, your instagram, whatever!—please link back. It’s creative commons copyrighted to me.

I’d love to hear about your progress! Let me know how the Budget and Spend Spreadsheet works for you.

Just a reminder: I AM NOT A FINANCIAL ADVISOR. You can take whatever I say with a grain of salt. I’m sharing what has worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. I am not responsible for any action taken based on my posts.

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