There is a mountain of information out there designed to help people manage their money. Mint.com, for example, offers advice and eight different budget templates you can download.
I took a look at the one entitled “Simple Budget.” It’s an Excel file ready to do the calculating for you. All you have to do is enter the numbers. It looks something like this. (I did some modifications to it to keep it a certain size for this article.)
I like its simplicity. I’m sure some of us don’t have anything to put into columns like “dividends” unless you want to take the time to calculate what you might get out of your future pension if you have one. Even then, it’s not really a dividend, especially if you get taxed on it.
The advice they offer is typical of what you find on many sites devoted to budgets: pay bills on time, regularly set aside money for savings and tally up your expenses — accurately. I assume they assume most of us don’t do this kind of thing accurately.
Here are some tips I’d like to offer that are not usually featured in an article like this.
- Pour a glass of wine before sifting through the receipts and statements.
- Give the crumpled receipts to the husband/boyfriend/man-child. Ladies, you get the folded, uncrumpled statements.
- Pour another glass of wine (or whatever your favorite beverage is).
- Decide who is going to enter the numbers in the columns. Following this argument, have another glass — of something.
- Argue about expenses that one didn’t know the other incurred. Be amazed at how much you enjoy dining out and how ridiculously expensive salads are.
- Make a pact to only look only at the TOTAL figure on the credit card statement; otherwise you may never get through the process. Be sure to do this after a few glasses of … you know …
- Kiss and make-up and then tally up the totals. If you are in the black, pour another glass of celebratory something. If you are in the red, pour another glass — no — switch to something special reserved for holidays. Get out the shot glasses.
If there is any juice in this message I am sharing with you, it is this: the most critical thing you can do to manage your money is to look at the numbers. More importantly, sit down once a month and make it something of a ritual. Some parting recommendations.
- I find a good Sauvignon Blanc serves well with crumpled receipts.
- A hearty port makes the credit card statement much less — stinging.
- And a plucky Sambuca can help distract you from the totals at the end.
Bottoms up. Happy budgeting!