Welcome back! By now you should have completed the Debt Assessment worksheet and started writing out where you are spending your money. If you have not done this, you should complete that part of the challenge before moving forward. It’s really important to know how you are currently spending your money so that you can make the necessary adjustments that will give you the best cost savings. You want to make the most of your income so that you can apply as much of it as you can to your debt. The more money you have available, the sooner you will reach your debt free goal. If you still need to download the Debt Free Challenge workbook you can sign up for it here.
Choose your Format
I created the Budget Tracking worksheet to be used in several ways. If you prefer to write your budget on paper, you can print multiple copies of the form and use them to write your budget. If you would rather use technology for your budgeting, there are several alternatives. You can create a budgeting spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets, or you can download an app to keep track electronically. I found several budgeting apps, some of which are paid and some are free. Check them out and choose whichever works best for you.
- Every Dollar is a product of Ramsey Solutions. It is both PC and App based. The free version helps you set up your budget using pre-set categories but also gives you the option of setting up your own. The fee-based version of Every Dollar connects to your bank account to help you keep track in real time. Details of how the security of your data is ensured can be found here.
- YNAB is an acronym for, wait for it, You Need A Budget! YNAB offers a free 34-day trial, after which an annual fee of $83.99 is charged. YNAB is both PC based and App based. YNAB connects to your banking institutions and one of the features of this one I especially like is the Goal Tracking. Security policy is found here.
- Mint is a product of Intuit, the same company that brings us Quicken and Turbo Tax. It is a free product to download and use. It is also PC based as well as App based. Mint connects to your financial institutions (banks/credit unions, credit cards, etc.) to track your spending and suggests ways to help you save. They also ensure that your data is secure. Details of their security are found here.
- I was not familiar with Pocket Guard but it was in a search I did so I thought I’d include it here to let you know it was out there. The list of Pocket Guard features is listed here. Details of their security are found here.
Writing your Budget
Now it’s time to write your budget. If you have not already decided on your budget-keeping method, be it spreadsheet, ledger book, or app, now is the time to decide. It’s OK to experiment-settle on whatever works for you because you’re going to be doing this every month for the foreseeable future.
The Bill Tracking worksheet is based on a 2 column ledger book and I’ve been keeping track of my bills using this technique for over 25 years. It’s old school, but it works for me. The accounting nerd in me likes to throw a little technology into the mix, too, by using a spreadsheet to track my spending. I can keep a running total of what I’ve spent over time so I can see where I’ve done well and where I need a little work.
Work in Progress
It’s important to remember that this is a work in progress and you probably won’t get it right the first time. When I wrote my first budget I had quite a few “a-ha!” moments where I remembered things I had forgotten to write down. Getting your budget right typically takes about 3 months so don’t stress if it isn’t perfect. It’s OK-you’ll get it!
One other thing-it’s pretty important for couples to work on this together. Everyone in the household needs to be on the same page where spending money is concerned. Click here to read a blog from Dave Ramsey’s website about couples working together to achieve financial freedom. If you’re single, having an accountability partner you can call on when sticking to your budget gets hard can help you get past the rough spots. Ask a trusted friend to help you reach your goal. You may even inspire them to work towards getting debt free, too!
Budget = Freedom!
I’d like to share one last thing with you about budgeting. Having a budget gives you freedom! Knowing where every dollar is going is not as restrictive as you might think. I said in a previous post that, “having a written budget tells me exactly where my money is going so that I am the master of IT; it is NOT the master of me.” This was true when I wrote it and it’s still true today. Don’t look at your budget as something negative-look at it as a road map to your future financial freedom, because that’s exactly what it is. Let’s get to it!
Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…
Note-Any and all items contained in the Older Wiser Money Miser Debt Free Challenge are intended as a resource for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional tax or investing advice.