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Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Type of Organization

I talked on Tuesday about my goal for 2015 being to become better organized. I have another goal for the year, too. Learn how to budget. Everything is so much more expensive in Atlanta than in Minneapolis that I've been pulled tight every month and I've gotten tired of it.

The first thing I did was go find a budget spreadsheet for Excel. There are a lot of choices out there, but I needed one that visually appealed to me and that I'd actually use. I finally did find one I liked, and although it wasn't free, I decided to download it anyway. The cost will be worth it if it can help me work out a monthly plan.

One of the other things I wanted was a sortable Excel check register which also broke out the spending categories so I could see where the money was going. I had a free, non-sortable check register that I already used and liked, so I went back to the site and bought the paid version that offered the features I wanted and needed. I copied and pasted my previous year's register into the new one and had a very interesting pie chart.

This is part of the picture, but just lumping stuff under credit card in the chart wasn't useful. What was I using the credit card for? I also knew I didn't want to go over a certain dollar amount in credit card spending and that meant I needed another spreadsheet.

At first, I thought I would keep track of credit card purchases on the check register, and while that would have worked, it wasn't as optimal as the Excel workbook I found online. This one was free and it was specifically created to manage a project that had a budget. It counted down the money spent. So if I wanted to charge X dollars a month on my credit card for groceries, and X dollars for utilities, and X dollars for something else, I could fill in the dollar amount for each category, then as I itemized what I charged, the spreadsheet tells me how much money I've spent.

You can check out the free expense tracker spreadsheet. (This site also has a lot of other free spreadsheets that can be downloaded. (There are some paid ones, too, so watch.))

So far (knock on wood) this is working for me. Simply keeping track and itemizing everything has me being more mindful. The impulse buy I nearly made at Bath and Bodyworks was stopped in its tracks because I didn't want to have to put it on my spent list. That's an unexpected benefit.

I know there are programs out there other than Excel, but I didn't really like the ones I've looked at and Excel is such a powerful tool that it made more sense to use that--something I already own--than to buy something new and different. I'm only 11 days into my new organized budget/finance year, but I think it's going well.