Hitting The Tootsie Roll Bank?


Okay, so you made it through all the holidays – Halloween, All-Saints Day, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Now the fun’s over. The credit card bills are rolling in, your car’s transmission decides to go out, your cable is going up by $30 a month, the deductible on your medical insurance is starting over because it’s a new year, and the textbooks for the classes you’re taking add up to more than you have in your checking account.

Time to look for some cash around the house. You check in all your coat pockets, in the car’s glove compartment, in your spare purse/wallet, under the couch cushions, in your sock drawer, in bathroom drawers, hoping to find money (preferably paper). You might even dump out the loose change you’ve been accumulating in that old Tootsie Roll container. You add up everything you find, and you’re still short.

If this is you, let this year be the year you get control of your money instead of your money controlling you! Here’s how you start: find out where all that money is going (and I assure you it’s not little elves absconding with it in the night!) Here’s a basic spending chart you can print off:

basic monthly budget.jpeg

Tape the chart to the fridge, and write down every penny you spend every day. At the end of the month, you can see plainly where the money is going. Some bills only come every three months (water), every six months (car insurance) or annually (car registration, property taxes), so you’ll need to track your expenses for a full year if you want to capture the whole picture.

Compare the total amount of money going out to your monthly income. There is no shame in admitting that your expenses are too much for the amount of money you make. But it’s time to face the problem head-on, make some changes, and look forward to a better January next year. In future posts, I’ll share some ideas that work for our family, and that might work for you too.

Budget Blues

Calculator and Money - Arvind Balaraman

(Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at Freedigitalphotos.net)

It’s that time of the year. You’re off work today because it’s a holiday. It’s way too cold and gray to go outside. So you pop onto your computer, check your e-mail and Facebook, then your bank account. Hmmm, the checking account balance is dangerously low. Next you take a look at the credit card bills that you didn’t want to open the other day. Wow, you say, did I really spend that much money last month? You start thinking about the bills you know are ahead, like that root canal next week, and the repair work your car needs after hitting a patch of black ice on the road. How did my money situation get so bad, you ask yourself.

You are not alone. There are so many people who go through this crisis every January, or maybe even every month. But don’t give in to despair and depression. It’s time to do something about that hideous problem that keeps plaguing you. It’s time for… a budget.

Yeah, I know. “Budget” is a dirty word for a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to be. A budget is simply a way to help you track down where all your money is going, so that you can plan your strategy for making your income cover your bills, and maybe even save some of your money.

If you’ve never had a budget, today is a great day to start. You’ll need a chart or a spreadsheet to track where every penny is going. You can download budget software to your computer, buy an actual ledger book from an office supply store, or make your own chart with a pencil and ruler. (Or you can print up my basic budget sheet at the bottom of this post). The main thing is: write down everything you’ve spent, even if it embarrasses you. After a few months you should see a pattern. After a year, you’ll have a really complete picture of your expenses, including the once-a-year bills, the quarterly ones, and those annoying unexpected surprise bills.

Take the budget challenge! You’ll find yourself less stressed as you can analyze your spending and come up with a plan that works for you. Make this the year that you control your finances, instead of your finances controlling and terrorizing you.


(Please feel free to click on the image below and make as many copies as you need to record your expenses)

Monthly expenses

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