Budget Planner Template

Using A Budget Planner Template

I recently received an email from John about using a budget planner template.  He wrote:

“Hello, I’m feeling a little lost and have some questions in regards to budgeting and saving.  1. Which budget planner template should I use?  2. From the total salary what percentage is ideal to spend for various needs, and how much to be saved for future?  Any insight would be greatly appreciated.”

It’s a question that we all must answer. Even if some of us would prefer to ignore it! Because, with rare exceptions, we all have to deal with having just so much money to cover all our expenses. And, if we spend more than we take in for very long we get into trouble.

Let’s look at a “typical” budget planner template. Then we’ll discuss it.

Category% of Income
Housing35%
Food15%
Auto15%
Insurance5%
Entertainment5%
Clothing5%
Medical5%
Everything Else5%
Savings10%

Understanding The Budget Planner Template

The first thing you’ll notice is that I didn’t include any taxes (either income or Social Security). You can choose to do that if you like (in fact, it’s a real eye opener). But for our purposes it’s easier just to deal with your ‘take home’ pay.  The second thing to notice is that this is a guideline, not a straight jacket. The truth is that very few of us will fit into this exact framework.  So if your spending doesn’t match, don’t despair! Analyze the situation before you panic!  Try our excel budget template!

Customize the Budget Planner Template To Fit Your Wants & Needs

For instance maybe your entertainment spending is closer to 10%. Is that a problem? Maybe not, if you’re young, single and sharing an apartment with three friends. In that case what you save on housing is going for entertainment. So overall you’re not spending more than you’re making.  Or you may be a city-dweller where housing is very expensive (think NYC). But because of public transportation you don’t own a car. So the extra you spend on housing is offset by the reduced spending on transportation.  You get the idea. Tailor your spending plan to your needs. And, adjust it as you go through life and your needs change.  One other thing to notice is that housing, food and auto make up the lion’s share of the expenses. That’s true for almost everyone.  It’s in those three areas that most families get into trouble. Most often by buying a home or vehicle that they cannot afford. But once the commitment is made it’s very hard to undo.

Categorizing Your Expenses

You might wonder where a certain expense goes. For instance, household cleaning supplies. Many people buy them at the grocery store. So are they a housing or food expense? The answer is: it doesn’t much matter. Put them wherever it seems best to you. The key is always putting them in the same place, so you can compare results from month to month.

Another common question is what should I do with charitable contributions. You can either take it off the top (like taxes) or create a separate category for it. If you believe that contributions should come before your expenses you’ll want to take it off the top. If you think that it’s part of your regular spending then include it as another expense category.  For a budget planner template to be effective you must continuously follow your progress.

How Much Should You Save?

Finally, let’s look at John’s question about saving. There probably isn’t any single right answer, because saving isn’t really an expense. It’s an investment for a better future.  So I prefer to think of savings in terms of priorities. Before I can put money aside for savings I need food and a reasonable shelter. Probably also need dependable transportation to get to my job.  But after those basic needs are met, it’s time to begin saving some money. Not necessarily the 10% in our guidelines, but 2, 3 or 4%. Enough so that there’s some money set aside for the so-called unexpected expenses that happen to us all (dead appliances, home and auto repairs, unexpected sickness, temporary lack of work).

One other comment about savings. Paying off debt (especially credit card debt) is a little like savings. Consider payments used to reduce the amount owed as if they were savings or a Bank CD.  Finally, for those of you who don’t want to bother with any of this. I know what you’re thinking: I’m fine and don’t need any help monitoring my money. Just remember that most people who are in trouble today said the same thing when everything looked good to them.

 

Debt Free Living

Steps To Becoming Debt Free

Is Becoming Debt Free Possible For Me?

YES!! There comes a time when most sane people have had enough….Enough stress and embarrassment….Enough collection calls and harassment…. Enough being in debt! Living the lifestyle that you think you have to live simply because others expect you to is foolish. It is time to grow up and to finally start acting like an adult.

No matter what you may hear from the popular newspapers, your debt problems
cannot be traced to anyone but you. The economy did not cause your problems. George Bush did not cause your problems. You did. You signed that stupid car loan at 12% interest. You signed up, and subsequently maxed out, those credit cards. No one else did it for you.

If you are finally tired of the mess that you created, there is a way out. Becoming debt free will allow you to start living the life you have always wanted. All it takes is a plan.

Enter Dave Ramsey!

Dave Ramsey is a well respected, nationally syndicated radio talk show host and TV personality, who is quite simply ‘the’ expert with respect to personal money management. Over the past few years, Dave has helped thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people get their debt under control and changed their lives forever. Additionally, Dave has helped people understand the true power of passive income. I am one of these people.

What I like most about Dave Ramsey is his straight talking, in your face, attitude who will blast apart any objections that you may have. Over the course of dispensing financial advice, he has developed what he calls ‘The Baby Steps’.

What Are The Baby Steps?

Often people get frustrated by all of the possibilities available to them. Information is great, yet information overload can be tragic. In order to help people process what is important, and what is just noise, Dave developed the following plan.

1. Build a Small Emergency Fund of $1,000

The first thing you should do is save $1,000 as fast as you can. Do whatever you have to do to put this money in the bank. Sell some old stuff on eBay or Craigslist. Get a second job bagging groceries at a grocery store. Create your own affiliate marketing empire online. Whatever it takes!

Once you save this money, keep it in the bank for true emergencies. Do not use it for a nice vacation. Do not go out and buy yourself a new set of golf clubs. Becoming debt free requires having this money set aside for true emergencies in the first step. If something does happen, you will not have to use your credit card to pay for it! You can use cash!

2. Start Your Debt Snowball

This is the step where most people begin to understand just how difficult it can be to get rid of debt. It takes a lot of effort, dedication and teamwork to power through this step. For some people, it may take two years to finally complete it. For others, it may only take a few months.  Try our debt snowball calculator.

Here is the basic approach:

* Make a list of all our your debts from the smallest amount to the largest. List ALL of your debts, except for you house (this debt actually is accounted for later on).

* After all of your necessities are paid (food, shelter, transportation and clothing), pay the minimum amounts on all of your debts. As a side note, you should be current on all of your debts before you begin this step. In fact, I think you should be current on all of your debts before you complete your initial emergency fund.

* Any additional money that can be squeezed from your budget should be applied to your debt with the highest interest rate. This is extra money, in addition to the minimum payments that you are already paying. Do not consider interest rates when determining which bill to pay extra on. Pay off your highest interest rate debts first and ignore the mathematics involved.

* Repeat this process until you are debt free living, except for your mortgage.

3. Complete Your Emergency Fund

In step one, you saved $1,000 to cover minor emergencies while you begin to eliminate your debt. In baby step three, you will now complete your emergency fund. A fully funded emergency fund should cover between three to six months of expenses. This is your main security blanket.

How great would it feel to know that even if you lost your job, you would be OK while searching for a new one. Guys, a fully funded emergency fund is the best gift you can give to your wife. She will sleep so much more sounded at night when you have one.

4. Invest 15% of Your Income for Retirement

You have now finally reached the step where you start thinking about your retirement. You have no debt, except for maybe your mortgage, have a fully funded emergency fund and are well on your way to changing your family’s future.

Invest 15% of your gross income, not your take home. Do not cheat yourself out of potential growth. Additionally, if your company has some form of retirement match, do not include it in your calculations. Invest the full amount yourself and consider anything else just icing on the cake.

5. Save for College (if applicable)

According to Dave’s book, The Total Money Makeover, 68% of Americans have saved nothing for their child’s college education. This is a tragic oversight, which is putting thousands of students in debt before they even have a chance.

In this step, begin investing such plans ESA and 529s. If you do not know what these terms mean, simply type them into Google, and do a bit of research. New plans are being creating every day, so it may be best to talk to a qualified financial planner.

6. Pay Off The Mortgage

Who would have thought when you began this process, that you would actually be debt free (except for the mortgage), have a fully funded emergency fund, be saving for your retirement and be saving for your child’s college education? You have come a long way and you should congratulate yourself.

You are not, however, completely done yet. In baby step six, you will now start paying off your mortgage early. Treat this exactly like you treated your other debt in step two and figure out a way to pay more directly to the principle each month.

7. Build Wealth

This is the step most people only dream about. You are now debt free and can truly live free from any debt or burden, free from the stress of being able to pay your monthly bills and free to know that you will have something saved for your retirement.

In this step, build wealth and then…..give it away. Give some to family. Give some to churches, Support something you believe in. Create a lasting legacy for your family.

Conclusion
Being in debt is not the end. It does not have to be part of your life. Becoming debt free just requires the right plan.

How Do Credit Cards Work

How Do Credit Cards Work?

A Credit Card is a Means to Borrow Money

How do credit cards work?  When you boil it all down a credit card is simply a convenient means to borrow money.  In other words, when you use a credit card to pay for something it’s not really you that’s paying for it; the credit card issuer (the bank or financial institution that issued you the credit card) is paying for it.  That means when you use a credit card to make a make a purchase the seller is happy, because they get their money.  However, the transaction isn’t over as far as you’re concerned because now you owe the credit card issuer.  In summary, when you use a credit card you’re borrowing money from the credit card issuer pay for things, and then you’re obligated to pay off your credit card balance.

Payment Options

When answering “How do credit cards work?” keep in mind your credit card issuer obsesses over how much money you owe them.  Without fail every month they’ll send you a credit card statement listing each of your charges as well as any unpaid balance that carried over from the previous month, and then they’ll then offer you payment options.  On the high end you can opt to settle all of your outstanding charges by paying your credit card balance in full.  On the low end you can make the “minimum payment,” the lowest amount the credit card issuer will accept without penalizing you according to the terms of your credit agreement.  Finally, if you can’t pay off your credit card in full but you can make more than the minimum payment then you are free to do so.

Some credit cards will charge you interest starting from the time you make a purchase (I’m not a big fan of these credit cards).  Fortunately, however, most credit cards won’t charge you interest (or “finance charges”) on your purchases as long as you pay your monthly balance in full and on time and you don’t have any carryover charges from the previous month.  Said another way, credit card charges are generally interest free as long as you pay your balance in full and on time. Related Article: Improve Your Credit In 5 Easy Steps.

Credit Limits

How Do Credit Cards Work Credit Limit

Your credit limit is the maximum amount of debt that you can charge to your credit card.  For example, if you have a credit limit of $5,000 then you can either make a one-time purchase of $5,000 or you can make a combination of smaller purchases equal to the same amount.  You’re said to have “maxed out” a credit card when you reach your credit limit, meaning that you can no longer make any purchases with it until you’ve paid down your balance.  In other words, if you charge $5,000 one month and then pay your balance down to $4,000 then you charge another $1,000 until you reached your $5,000 credit limit.

Sometimes your credit limit is automatically set by the credit card issuer.  For example, they might say, “Here’s a credit card and, based on your salary, credit history, etc., you can charge up to $5,000.”  Alternatively, you can ask for a certain credit limit when you apply for your credit card (or you can ask for the credit limit to be increased for a card you already have).  Either way, you should not make purchases that would exceed your credit limit.

What happens if you do exceed your credit limit?  First of all, you may not be allowed to in the first place.  Remember, whenever you buy something with a credit card it’s run through a payment processor (or it will be verified online if you’re making an Internet purchase).  Thus if you attempt to exceed your credit limit your purchase may be denied.  However, if you do happen to make charges that exceed your credit limit then your credit card issuer will likely charge you penalties for doing so.

Cash Advances

In a typical credit card transaction you’re paying for things, but you never actually take possession of any cash.  For example, if you use a credit card to buy a computer for $1,000 you never take physical possession of the $1,000; that money is paid directly by the credit card issuer to the computer vendor.  However, in addition to using a credit card to charge purchases, you can use it to get a cash advance.  This can be accomplished in one of three ways.How Do Credit Cards Work Cash Advance

  1. You can use your credit card to get cash from an ATM (contact your credit card company if you don’t know your card’s PIN).
  2. If your credit card was issued by a nearby bank you then you can go to one of their branches in person and get cash directly from a bank teller who will charge it to your credit card.
  3. Finally, you can get a cash advance from your bank in the form of a cashier’s check (but again, it has to be the bank that issued the credit card).

Benefits – How Do Credit Cards Work With Cash Advances?

The benefits of the first two options are obvious; you can use your credit card to actually get cash.  But why would you want to use your credit card to get a cashier’s check?  To illustrate, my wife and I once had a car suddenly die on us.  After some searching I found a used car that we had enough money set aside to pay for.  The problem was that I couldn’t access the money immediately because it was in an investment account, and if I didn’t move quickly I was afraid we might lose the opportunity to buy the car.  To solve the problem I went to the bank and got a cashier’s check and charged it against our credit card.  I then used the cashier’s check to pay for the car.  Finally, after the money from our investments became available a few days later I used it to immediately pay off our credit card.  Thus, by using a credit card to obtain a cashier’s check we were able to move quickly on purchasing the car we wanted (which ironically turned out to be a terrible car…but that’s another story).

Budget Calculator

Try Our Free Budget Calculator

Annual Fees

How do credit cards work with annual fees?  Well, some credit cards charge an annual fee and some don’t.  If that’s the case then why would you ever get a credit card that has an annual fee?  Generally you wouldn’t.  However, some credit cards provide special benefits and incentives, and if the value of those benefits and incentives exceed the cost of the annual fee then it’s worth considering.

What’s In It For The Credit Card Issuer?

How do credit cards work for the credit card issuer?  To have a balanced understanding of credit cards it’s important to know what’s in all of this for the credit card issuer.  Well, if you carry a balance on your credit card then it’s pretty obvious: they’re going to make a financial return of 18%-22% on the money they loaned to you.  Ouch!  But what if you pay your balance in full and on time every month and you never owe any interest?  Does that seem too good to be true?  Are you ripping off your credit card issuer, or is it just that they’re lulling you to sleep, waiting to hit you with some hidden fee or penalty?

Well rest easy, because your credit card issuer is making money when you use your credit card whether you carry a balance or not.  How?  For every purchase you make the merchant has to pay about 1%-3% in credit card fees (and sometimes even more on top of that).  As a result, as long as you use your credit card responsibly and pay your balance in full and on time then both you and your credit card issuer are getting something out of the deal: you get a safe, convenient means to borrow money in the short term and they get steady fees from merchants when you make purchases.  It’s when you carry a balance that things get out of whack, because then you’ll pay exceptionally high interest rates, and if you fall behind then a whole train of penalties and interest will follow as well.