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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.