My 3 yr old daughter took this pic of me

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Money Money Money

We all use it every day. It's stressful, complicated, great, and annoying! I have "kept track" (lol) of our finances over the last 5 years and it's been interesting. My approach has been pay the bills on payday if there's enough money left over after food and gas. Due dates? Too many to remember or keep track of so just pay when the money comes in. This has not been working so well for us. And my filing system has been lacking to say the least. Oh I have everything in file folders in file boxes, but the stuff that comes in, before it gets filed, is a mess. Heaps and piles of papers stacked on my desk. And who has time to spread it all out on the floor and spend 4 hours categorizing and filing? Not me, that's for sure. Then 3 things changed.

I went to a Crown Financial seminar at my church.

I stumbled across Hannah Keeley's website.

I bought a letter organizer for my desk to sort papers into as they come in. I'll be buying more of these, but so far I just have one. They cost $14.95 at Walmart.

If at all possible, go to a Financial seminar. Crown Financial was impressive. They really want to help people out of their messes. Hannah Keeley's passion is helping moms in all aspects of their lives, including finances. She has a bunch of free stuff, forms and such, on her website. You sign up, which involves putting in your email address and choosing a password, and then you can access the free downloads. I signed up months ago and have never gotten even one email from them, unless I requested it. They don't harass you with ads etc, so no worries about signing up.

The first thing I did was make a gorgeous money binder. It's so pretty and fun that it makes doing the finances fun. Pour the coffee, turn on the music, bring out the binder and hum my way through it. Everything is perfectly laid out and organized and I can find any info I need at my fingertips. I used Hannah Keeley's forms as well as making some of my own, to suit our needs as a family.

These are the categories in my binder:
  • Monthly Budget and Legers - There's one for each month. The budget shows the amounts I think it will cost for the various categories for the month and then there's a column for what it really cost and the difference. The ledgers keep track of each purchase. You can just print off your bank statement if you'd rather, but I like to write down each category, highlight it, and put the amount. I have a different color for each of my categories, so that it is easy to add it up at the end of the month and know what we spent on said category. For example, green is gas. I highlight all the gas purchases green and then add up all the green ones at the end of the month to get my total. Make sense?
  • Budget - This tab has the forms for figuring out your budget. There's 5 sheets. I like to keep it in my binder so that I can find out, for example, how much prescriptions cost monthly, if I need to know.
  • Debt Destroyer - ever heard of snowballing? You write down all your debts in order of smallest to largest. You write down the totals you owe on each and the minimum payment for each. You pay the minimums on all the debts each month except for the smallest debt. You pay as much as you can on the smallest one until you've paid it off. Then, whatever amount you had been paying on the smallest debt gets added to the minimum payment of the next smallest debt, til it's gone. So no matter how much debt you get rid of, you are always paying the same dollar amount each month on debt. This gets rid of your debt a lot faster. 
  • Tithe and Cheques - I made this form. We don't use cheques hardly ever, except for tithing. So it made sense to make a form with this title. It has 4 columns: Date, Cheque #, Paid to, and Amount. Any cheques we write, the info gets written on this page, instead of on the back of the checkbook. 
  • Due Dates - I made this form, too. It has 3 columns: Name of Bill, Details, and Due Date. I listed all our bills that we pay monthly, including debts and mortgage etc. In the Details I put down if it is an automatic withdrawal and, if so, from where - Checking account? Credit card? Then I listed the due date and grouped like with like. So all bills due on the first are listed first, all the ones due on the 10th are together, etc. Makes it easy to see, at a glance, what's due and when. 
  • Account Ledgers - Each bill has it's own page. It lists the bill name, the date, the amount you paid, and any balance leftover. One page records the payments on that bill for the entire year. This way you can see what you paid, what to expect to pay, and if your payments have been going up or down. 
  • Current Bills/Receipts - This is a pocket folder in the back of the binder. As bills come in, they go into the pocket. When they are paid, they get filed. The receipts that collect for the month are put in the other pocket and then filed or shredded at the end of each month - something that should take no more than 10 minutes. 
  • Income for the Month of _______ - I made this form to keep track of our various income. Stuff from the government, our regular paycheck, the car parts Matthew sells, tips, etc. It has 3 columns: Date, Source, and Amount. Pretty self explanatory. With this form, we know what we've got to work with and there are no surprises. It also helps to see if your income is varying month to month. 
  • Cash Spending - This is the last one, and I made this one, too. We often have cash on hand from selling something or withdrawn from the account and there's no way of keeping track of what happens to it. This has 5 columns: Date, Description, Debit, Credit, and Balance. Self Explanatory. 

All I needed to buy for this was a binder I liked (about 5 bucks), some dividers I liked (2 bucks) and some tabs to separate the monthly budget and ledgers. I also have a label maker, so I used that to label everything, so it looks great.

So now, we know what's going on, we know what we've got, what our expenses are, and where we're gonna be at the end of the month. No surprises. This is such a huge part of life, that it pays to do it well. Literally. Hope this has been helpful to you guys and I would love to answer any questions. There are great resources on both of the sites I linked earlier and you can get lots of these forms and more for free on Hannah Keeley's site.

 I even labeled it $$$
 Isn't it cute? :D


  1. I have a similar system, except that it's all on my computer and compiled on one spreadsheet. Been using it for a couple years, and loving it!

  2. I love how you had to get a binder you 'liked', and tabs that you 'liked' :) Honestly tho.. it's amazing how important that aspect is to making some of these routine task actually a joy to do!
    Thanks for your writings!
    Amber :)

  3. Tyler, I'd love to see your system sometime and glean from your experience! I am NOT good with spreadsheets and don't really know how to set that up. I like the tangibility of the binder and how pretty it is on the shelf and how I can put my bills and receipts in it so I never have to look for them.
    Amber, you know me so well :) It really does make a difference if it's cute. I mean, who wants to take out the "ugly, bulky" binder and pay the boring bills? I like thinking of it as a privilege and a challenge! It's like I'm on a date....well almost ;)

  4. Great stuff, Rachel! I'll definitely be taking some pointers from you--I bookmarked this blog. I would so love to get on top of our bills & debts, and STAY on top of them! Just recently, a notice came about something that had gotten back-burnered and forgotten. :/ Not good.

  5. Guess what? I bookmarked this back in whenever (probably August^), and am now looking back at it, stealing your ideas, as we just met with our budget planner today! So excited to FINALLY be getting on top of all this debt, and getting rid of it, and knowing what comes in, what goes out, what we have to work with....blah blah blah! Exciting. :D