In our home, I happily took on the role of CFO from day one. My hubby has his strengths and I have mine. Mine include – charts, graphs, percentages, and numbers. Whereas my husband, David, is SO much better with creative play and telling jokes. (Can you guess who is the “fun” parent in our home!?!)
Step One: Create a Budget
Organizing finances requires a lot of flexibility (so does parenting, but I’ll save that for another post). I’ve tried a few different budgeting programs over the years, but I always go back to Quicken because it works for me. Having a method of organization helps to better anticipate your daily/monthly balance and to see things from a monthly/quarterly perspective. Find a money management system that works for you and make it a habit to live on a budget. If you like pen and paper, I have a Health+Home Management Planner that has a financial section of printables to help with organizing finances. I use the financial printables in combination with Quicken to help manage everything.
Step Two: Categorize ALL Expenses
Quicken, Affiliate Link Quicken For Mac 2017 Personal Finance & Budgeting Software [Download], allows me to upload all of our transactions, categorize all purchases, and set up a “smudget” (my term for an organic budget). I categorize every purchase we make, but I keep the categories general. For example our “Auto” category can include – gas, maintenance, repairs, payments etc. I don’t like to split things up more than necessary. We have monthly fixed expenses (ie: mortgage, car payment, insurance etc.) and variable expenses (ie: medical, groceries, dining, entertainment.) At the beginning of each month, I set up the proposed amounts for each category and then I tweak the numbers as necessary throughout the month. Life is after all – fluid. By categorizing every expense you are better able to see where you are staying on budget, and where you are not!
Step Three: Commit to Giving & Saving
I have as many of our monthly payments set up automatically that I can. This is a great way to ensure payments are paid on time and helps to maximize giving and saving. (When you don’t see it you don’t miss it!) I also allocate our giving and saving money right around payday, instead of waiting until later on. Building these amounts into your budgeting and making them automatic, will help you maintain an increased habit of giving and saving.
Step Four: Curb Spending
When it comes to spending, specifically in the variable categories, David and I each have a monthly cash and clothing allowance. We’ve been doing both of these allowances for years. By putting boundaries around our personal spending, it has helped to hold us more accountable. Furthermore, by setting limits on our spending we are able to better achieve our giving and saving goals. If you don’t draw a line with spending, it can be too easy to just keep on spending.
Step Five: Coach your Kids
We live on a budget and so do our children! I created a system where each month our kids (currently 16, 13, and 11) have the ability and responsibility to manage their own finances. Instead of a small allowance for incidentals, we provide them with a monthly budget (starting at around age nine) that they are responsible to manage. They are each presented with an individual “Monthly Budget” that lays out exactly what they are responsible for and our expectations of them are as well (this changes every year as they receive more money and more expenses to manage). They are responsible for saving 10%, giving 10%, and the remainder 80% is their money to organize and manage. I encourage you to take a proactive approach with teaching your kids how to manage money. I wrote a more detailed post titled, “Why I Don’t Give my Kids an Allowance” – if you want more direction on how we implemented this system.
Organizing finances can be overwhelming which is why I encourage you to work on things one step at a time! Which step do you need to work on implementing? What budgeting tips work well for you? Where do you need to focus specifically when it comes to organizing your finances?