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How to Organize Your Finances - Part 2

FinanceMaggie | Harper + Oakley5 Comments
How to Organize Your Finances - Part 2 | Harper + Oakley

As promised, I'm back with Part 2 of How to Organize Your Finances.  In case you missed Part 1, be sure to read that first here.  I went over how to do a monthly finance review and how to create a budget.  I included free printables for July to help you get started. 

In this post, I'll cover how I track my expenses on a day-to-day basis and how I save for big purchases.  I'm continuing to follow the Dave Ramsey method, but I've combined a couple of his offerings to figure out a system that works best for us.  I hope this can help you and your family as well!


1. Set Up A Monthly Budget on Every Dollar

Using your budget printable as a guide, input your income and expenses on the Every Dollar websiteThis is a free tool that allows you to set up your budget and track your expenses.  Make sure that you get a green check mark at the end that says "It's an Every Dollar Budget!"  This means that you've "spent" every dollar from your income before the month begins.  The Every Dollar tool is very intuitive.  You can add, delete, or change any category to match your budget printable. 

2. Determine Long-Term Expenses

Once everything has been inputted, you will go back through and determine which expenses are long-term expenses.  These are expenses that you save up for over time, contributing a certain amount each month. 

For example, if you know you will be spending $120.00 in December for Christmas presents, you can save $10.00 per month for the entire year.  This way, it's not a shock to your budget once Christmas comes around and you haven't saved any extra money for presents.  The point is to be intentional and purposeful with your money. 

Some other examples of long-term expenses are vacation, home repairs, and oil changes.  You can calculate the monthly budget for any of these by dividing the total expense by the number of months before that expense is due. 

Within the Every Dollar website, I like to "star" or "favorite" my long-term expenses so that they stand out from the other monthly expenses.  There is also an option to "Make This a Fund" which allows you to set a goal and track your progress. 

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3. Use the Envelope System for Long-Term ExpenseS

To ensure that we always have enough money for long-term expenses, we use a version of the envelope system, which is simply using envelopes to organize your money.  You can read more about it on Dave Ramsey's blog or on Happily Ever Strader (which is where I first learned about it).

Once you have determined your long-term expenses, you will head to the bank and withdraw the necessary amount of money.  Because you will be dividing each expense into a separate envelope, you need to make sure that you have the proper breakdown of bills.  When I go to the bank, I typically go inside, use my debit card to withdrawal the amount, and ask the teller if I can have specific bills. 

For example, if you determined that your long-term expenses for the month of July were going to be Gifts, Home Repairs, and Vacation, you would list those out along with the budgeted amount.  You would then write in the type and number of bills needed.  You would total everything at the bottom, and that Total line is what you would take to the bank.  I normally just write this down on a scrap piece of paper or put it in my phone notes so that I can reference it.

Envelope System Example | Harper + Oakley

Next, you'll divide your money into the appropriately labeled envelopes.  I store my envelopes in a small expanding file folder that I found in the Dollar Section at Target (similar to this one).  Then, you leave that money alone until you need it.  Continuing with our example, when Christmas roles around, you will now have the money saved up in your envelope and you will have cash on hand to purchase your gifts.  This is a great feeling knowing that you are fully prepared and there won't be any (or at least as many) money surprises throughout the year.

{Note that we only use the envelope system for long-term expenses, but a lot of people use it for all expenses.  We actually tried that in the beginning, so it's good practice, but we found it more convenient to be able to use our debit cards when needed and not have to worry about always having cash on hand}. 

4. Track Daily Expenses on the Every Dollar App

This is my favorite part!  The Every Dollar App is a convenient way to track your expenses on the go.  It is currently available for the iPhone only, but it should be ready for Android phones soon.  You simply log-in using the account that you created on the Every Dollar website and begin tracking your expenses.  Hit the + button in the upper right hand corner to add an expense.  I used Cable/Internet for the example.  Input your expense amount, choose a category, and label the merchant.  Then hit Add, and it will be deducted from the Cable/Internet category.  By manually inputting each expense as you spend it, you are "feeling" each dollar that you spend, and it allows you to be much more proactive in managing your expenses.  

At the top, you can always see how much you planned to spend (your budget), how much you've spent, and how much you have remaining in each category.  This is a great way to keep your budget on track.  The Every Dollar App syncs perfectly with the Every Dollar website and vice-versa, so it's easy to see your most updated information from any device. 


This whole system has really helped me and my fiance organize our finances.  It took us several months to get the hang of things, so be patient, make small changes, and give yourself some grace.  If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or e-mail me directly - I would be happy to talk more! 

Have you created your budget for July?  Will you be trying out Every Dollar?  Be sure to stop back and tell me what you think! 

How To Organize Your Finances - Part 1

FinanceMaggie | Harper + Oakley4 Comments
How to Organize Your Finances - Free Printables | Harper + Oakley

July is in one week...one week!  Where did the time go?  With the second half of the year about to start, I've been thinking a lot about my goals.  In February, I made a goal to organize my finances, and I had been doing pretty well until June came along.  Summer got the best of me, and I got lazy.  Now that July is fast approaching, I've decided to refocus.  My fiance and I are striving to become debt free, and in order to do that, we have to get organized and become more purposeful with our money. 

I started listening to Dave Ramsey late last year, and I really like his principles.  He lays out a plan to "win with money" using his 7 Baby Steps.  I've read Dave's books (The Total Money Makeover and Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money), I've listened to the Debt Free Screams on his daily podcasts, and I'm motivated to make a big change.

So, as any good organization lover would do, I decided to create a new system, and I've made some printables to help me (and you!) stay organized.  This will be a two part post, but please feel free to ask me questions at any time!  You can leave a comment or e-mail me at maggie@harperandoakley.com.


1. Evaluate the Current State

At the beginning of each month, I like to check in on all of my accounts and make sure that I have a big picture view of my finances.  It's good to make sure that everything is on track and see if there are any changes to make.  I created a helpful printable that you can use to get started for the month of July.

  • INCOME
    • Annual Salary - Has this changed since last month?  Did you get a raise or change jobs?
    • Monthly Income - Will you get paid twice this month or is this a bonus three-paycheck month?  I included two spots for Monthly Income in case you have two jobs or you want to separate out your significant other's income.  
  • BANK BALANCES
    • Checking - What is your checking account balance as of the first day of the month?
    • Savings - What is your savings account balance as of the first day of the month?
    • Other - Are there other bank balances that you need to be tracking?
  • DEBT SNOWBALL BALANCES
    • Debts - List your debts from smallest remaining balance to largest remaining balance.  Then, list the interest rate for each one.  This method is called the debt snowball.  You can read more about it here.  Remember to include things like car payments, student loans, personal loans, credit card debt, and your mortgage. 
  • INVESTMENT BALANCES
    • Retirement {Roth IRA} - What is the balance as of the first day of the month?  What percentage are you contributing from your paycheck?  Does your company match a certain percentage?
    • Retirement {401k} - What is the balance as of the first day of the month?  What percentage are you contributing from your paycheck?  Does your company match a certain percentage?
    • Stocks - What is the balance as of the first day of the month?  What percentage are you contributing from your paycheck?  [Note that stocks can fluctuate greatly month to month, so it's important to look at the trends over a longer period of time as well].
    • Mutual Funds - What is the balance as of the first day of the month?  How have your mutual funds grown over time?  [Note that mutual funds can fluctuate greatly month to month, so it's important to look at these over a longer period of time as well].
    • Other - Are there other investments that you need to be tracking, like kids' college funds, bonds, etc.?
  • GOALS
    • Goals - What are your financial goals for the month?  Do you want to save a certain dollar amount?  Do you want to eat out at restaurants less?  List a few realistic goals that you want to focus on.

2. CREATE A ZERO-BASED BUDGET

Each month, I create a zero-based budget.  This is where you give every dollar a name.  You "spend" your money before the month starts so that you aren't left wondering where it went at the end of the month.  This has been a game-changer for us.  When you do this properly, you spend what's in the category, and when it's gone, it's gone.  We slacked on making a budget in June, and we've been spending like it's going out of style, because we didn't have anything to hold us accountable.  This will take a couple of months to get used to and to get your expense amounts right, so don't get frustrated.  I promise, it works! 

I created a budget printable for the month of July to get you started.  I included the categories that I use, but be sure to add your own so that you can account for all of your expenses. 

  • INCOME - Carry this over from your Finances Overview.  This is what you have to work with for the month. 
  • FIXED EXPENSES - These are the expenses that are the same amount every month (student loan payments, rent/mortgage, cable and internet, etc.). 
  • VARIABLE EXPENSES - These are expenses that change every month and are harder to predict (gas, electric, water, etc.).
  • BUDGETED EXPENSES - These are expenses that you set the budget for (groceries, clothing, gifts, etc.).  These may take some time to figure out, but do your best, and then track your expenses throughout the month to see what's realistic for you.  I'll go into more detail on tracking your expenses in the next post. 
  • EXTRA - If you have any money left in your budget after assigning to all of the categories above, then put the extra money towards your debt payments.  Likewise, if you end up spending less than you thought at the end of the month, throw that extra money towards debt - every little bit counts. 

Phew, I know that was a lot to take in, and there's even more, but once you get started with a system and stick to it, you'll see significant changes.  In the next post, I'll go into more detail about how I track my expenses and how I save for big purchases, but this is a great way to get started organizing and understanding your finances. 

Has this been helpful?  What questions do you have?  If you use the free finance and budget printables, please let me know how you like them!  Leave me a comment, or e-mail me at maggie@harperandoakley.com.

UPDATE: Check out How to Organize Your Finances - Part 2 here.

Master Bedroom Refresh

Decor + DesignMaggie | Harper + Oakley2 Comments
Yellow, Brown, and White Bedding | Harper + Oakley

Last weekend, my fiance and I decided to re-arrange our bedroom.  I have big ideas for this room, but it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves since we moved into our house a little over a year ago.  When I received this quilt as a shower gift recently, I decided that it was the perfect time to do a little makeover.  My overall goal is to design a room that feels fresh, calm, and clean

I've been collecting ideas on my Master Bedroom Pinterest Board for a while now, so I referred back to that for inspiration.  I kept our color palette of yellow, brown, and white, but focused on using white as the base and only adding in touches of yellow and brown for accents.  This helped to create the fresh and clean vibe.  

One of the biggest changes we made was the position of the bed.  We decided to move it in between the windows, and it was a game-changer!  It instantly created more space and helped to frame and showcase the bed.  Plus, I've been opening our blinds a lot more to let in light, and it really brightens the space...and my mood! 

Master Bedroom Refresh | Harper + Oakley

In the spirit of simplicity, I cleared off my nightstand and started fresh.  I removed my large digital alarm clock in favor of my cell phone alarm and kept only the essentials within arms reach: a lamp, tissues, my ring dish, a notepad, and my favorite books and journals. 

Nightstand | Harper + Oakley
Bedside Books | Harper + Oakley

We did a similar refresh to Billy's tray-table-turned-nightstand.  He has a bowl for his watches, some books, and a picture frame with our Save the Date (made by the amazing Allie of Announce This). 

Nightstand Decorations | Harper + Oakley

This mini-makeover has transformed our room, and it makes me even more excited to finally "finish" it.  Although we all know that a room is never really finished, it feels good to check some things off the to do list and begin making strides towards my vision. 

To Do

  • Move bed between windows
  • Replace yellow and brown quilt with white bedding
  • Create a cozy reading corner (like this one from A Thoughtful Place)
  • Gradually replace or paint furniture
  • Finish decorating the walls

Wish List

  • Curtains
  • Rug
  • Bench for bottom of the bed
  • Cozy chair for reading corner
  • Statement piece for above the bed
  • Matching nightstands
  • Matching bedside lamps
  • Upholstered headboard
  • Desk

I'll update you as our room continues to evolve, but be sure to follow my Instagram and Pinterest for behind-the-scenes pictures and sneak-peeks!

Have you ever needed a change?  What do you think of my simple master bedroom refresh?