Saturday, December 28, 2013

Set Up Your 2014 Pagemonth Home Budget

Pagemonth users should prepare their 2014 home budget now if they have not already done so.  Free budgets and free templates for Excel or MSWorks can be downloaded instantly at the bottom of our home page (

How to prepare for the new budget year?

Although all of our budgets and templates have identical formulas and formats, the information you will enter or modify will change from month to month, due to changes in the number of days in the month, which day of the week holidays will fall on, and similar data that change from one year to another.

So in setting up a 2014 budget the first thing to do is get a whole year 2014 calendar, such as the one on the back of your bank check register. 

Next, Title your budget "budget14.xls" for Excel (or .xlr for Works) to keep it separate from earlier years, and always save it to its title to make certain you're working with the right file.

Next. move your 2013 file off your desktop into My Documents and pull it to back to the desktop only for revisions.  (You will have revisions to make for a few weeks or even months.)   The principle is that to use the correct year budget, have only the active year's file on the desktop at a time, and keep other years' files elsewhere.

Setting up your 2014 budget will be easier if you follow the suggestions on our Setup Page.  Frame a workspace as described, then set up your January page first.  Enter your expected income and expenses on the right hand, budget side under categories you choose, then distribute what you entered by dates on the left hand, cash flow side.

Unless you know to the penny particular amounts, use whole numbers and estimate to the nearest $5.00 or $10.00 on each item, as this will help locate estimated amounts to the eye.  They will be revised to actual transacted amounts through the year, and actual amounts will be easier to identify visually because they will specify cents.

Estimate income amounts a bit lower than expected and expense amounts higher, and be prepared to modify even these for unexpected benefits and costs such as emergencies, accidents, raises or promotions.

Don't enter anticipated charges unless they are known or broadly estimated, such as planning to charge about $5,000 on next August's vacation or Christmas shopping.  Since anticipated costs or income can be so nebulous, I seldom set aside amounts for them till they come into better focus.  But as soon as you can anticipate any major changes--a move, a new job or house, another car or the end of installment loans, try to build in when you will expect your amounts to require adjustment.

Remember that no budget worth taking seriously can be locked in stone.  You will be updating and revising it almost daily throughout the year, and that process will make it more accurate in reflecting actual transactions completed and projecting future ones.

When you have January's data set up, copy and paste it through the year's remaining months.  You will be returning to each of them for adjustments in dates, items, and amounts, but gradually you will bring your financial picture into focus.

Enter your January Beginning Balance manually in cell J3.  This cell is the only Beginning Balance  in your 2014 file that requires you to enter an amount directly; Subsequent cells in the other eleven months of 2014 will be automatically carried forward from the End Balance of their previous month.

One of Pagemonth Budget's most underutilized advantages is its capability to test every aspect of itself to see "What would happen if . . .?"  without saving in order to preserve prior data intact.  So long as you do not save it, feel free to give yourself a raise, pay off any debts, or whatever you wish, and it will show you the immediate effect it will have throughout the month and year.  This feature can be a great motivator.  But be very careful not to save any scenario you create in a test, "trial budget" which might be mistaken for an actual, active file,   If you create one you really want to keep, give it a name such as "2014trialbudget.xls" or "Iwish.xlr" before you save it, and keep it off your desktop unless tinkering with it.

If you utilize this advantage, you will be able to create a scenario of getting and spending that you can embrace for 2014 and use it as a blueprint, reference budget to adjust your real one.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WebHostFace: the Best Webhost Anywhere

Merry Christmas to all the smiling faces at my new webhost,!

I first learned of this excellent webhost from a strong desire to find a better company to deal with after I left my former host, tired of long waits, runarounds and incomplete answers.  When the last guy told me after I tried to ask a follow-up question, "Look, I have others waiting," I began seeking a new one with an RVSitebuilder editing/publishing tool--a must-have since Pagemonth was created and maintained by that system.

Webhostface uses RVSitebuilder as its main website creation, editing and publishing tool, but here the similarity to any other ends.

Webhostface is about two dozen highly-qualified, highly-motivated young people with superb internet knowledge and diversity, uncanny fluency in English and many other languages,, 24/7 worldwide toll-free 800 number or personal chat at no charge whatsoever for the first month, then a very reasonable annual fee,personal warmth, individual attention, genuine caring and unhurried assistance.

There is no way I can list all of their friendly support and advantages here. You can get to know them better on Facebook at webhostface, or call 1-866-389-6676, or go to and explore anytime.

And check this out: Who is the lovely lady in the picture? That's Rali, opid=16 and short for Ralitsa Mincheva. In fact, everyone has his or her smiling face pictured on a staff opid number. Inna=6. Victor=14. Silvia=10, and so on.. But not only can you see the person you're chatting with, you can learn their age, skills and expertise, likes and dislikes, education and majors, and how other staffers describe her or him. And be sure to meet Valentin Sharlanoff, opid=1. He founded Webhostface and remains its CEO, yet even he gets the same write-up, picture, and treatment as all the others.

When I first called, Rali picked up on the second ring. She's the Billing Manager, but she didn't immediately pass me off to another department. She explained everything I asked about, and spent about twenty minutes helping me navigate my signup for a free month's trial and login procedure. Since her shift was ending she connected me to Silvia, a Senior Sales Rep whom I later learned normally serves in chat, not phone. I have since phoned with Inna, another senior sales rep, Victor, a Support Team member, Ivo, another Senior Sales Rep. Radoslav ("Rado") and several others. None of them hurried me in any way as I sought to follow their step-by-step instructions. Name another webhost like that!

They work together seamlessly and cooperatively, all of them. And they do what they say they will do to solve my issues and do not give up on any of them until I report it solved. One can use a support ticket, but it's not usually needed due to the informative, patient personal conversation and chat. Name another webhost like that!

Christina (=4) answered my call a few days ago when I had a question about what I saw after login. Wherever I moved my mouse, tiny white circles fell and swirled through the illustrations then gathered at the page bottom. "It looks like it's snowing," I said. "Yes, that's snow." she said. "I can turn it off if you like."

Rado (=9) taught me that I don't even need to log in to manage/edit/publish my website, thus saving me many hours of logins and navigation.  He showed me two ways to do it. And he stuck with me while I did it. He also taught me to use Firefox or Chrome for most tasks, not Explorer, which often presented errors. Thank you, Radoslav!

Silvia has helped me through many chats, brief and long, and she's never left me guessing about how to follow through. Thank you, Silvija!

As you may have guessed from a few names above, Webhostface is a Bulgarian company, located in Plovdiv. But despite its location it has other locations worldwide. In the 1980's and 1990's when the technological revolution was taking place in nearby countries, its youth grew up learning many languages and cultures and stressing electronic communications, marketing, business and finance.

You cannot tell from phone cslls or chats alone, but this happy group is extremely versatile and fun-loving. Their motto is "Service always comes with a smiling face," and they actually live up to it!  Others would do well to emulate them. They have told me more than once when I've contacted them and feared I was wearing out my welcome, "Nelson, we consider you to be one of us." I could not conceive of a higher compliment. Merry Christmas, friends, and have a joyous New Year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Use Pagemonth to Help Plan Your Holiday Shopping

Retailers started displaying decorated Christmas trees before school even began this year, and they haven't let up a bit.  Christmas carols filled the aisles before Halloween, and Black Friday now begins on Thanksgiving Eve!  With all the special markdowns catching your eye, how can you hope to budget for your gift buying and stick to it?

Use a Pagemonth Home Budget, available free at the bottom of our home page, to get a good sense of what you can afford to spend this year.  At the bottom of our middle totals columns on each page you can see your end balance for each month as well as all others through December, to the nearest dollar, continuously updated automatically by your income and expense changes..  The bottom month totals will show you how much you will have in your checking account on December 31.  If it is an amount you can accept, even after you plug in the amounts you intend to spend for holiday buying, try to aim for that number with your purchases.

But chances are good you (and I) will both succumb to the specials and bargains and markdowns between now and then, and use our debit cards when we run out of cash in the store, or if our balance drops below what we can accept without penalty, and use our charge cards to delay paying the extra debt till January or February of next year, thus fooling ouselves into believing it will be easier to pay things off then.

Instead, use your Pagemonth Home Budget to enter those charges the day you purchase them, so you can see  what those totals will do to your Visa and Mastercard payments in January and February, 2014.  If you are still comfortable with your numbers, then Merry Christmas!  You have planned well..  But if you see next year's charges generating debts you realize you can't pay off in full by early 2014, you aren't going to have quite as much Christmas cheer to celebrate, because your credit buying will be generating as much as 18%-21% revolving interest per month on any unpaid balance you carried forward!

Enjoy the holidays fully this year.  Plan your buying then stick to your plan,  You'll be grateful you did heading into next year.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tricks of the Trade

I have said everything here in earlier posts, but these suggestions bear repeating:

When projecting a new budget, List Regular Expense estimates to the nearest ten dollar average.  It helps to locate them visually,  Thus, if the monthly phone bill average is $38.73, project it as $40 until it becomes specified.  The same goes for water, electricity, cable, and other utilities.  Mortgage or rent payments, however, will normally be specific, so enter them exactly.

Nonvariable and contracted amounts such as loan payments or auto payments are normally specified to the penny,

The principle here is that future amounts, both income and expenses, aren't often exact.  They are estimates until they become known.  So keep them rounded on both left and right sides till then.  It makes them easier to locate and edit.

For the same reason, list Regular Income and Regular Expenses in the same order and numbering vertically.  The left, Cashflow side will break down each category or item of income or expense chronologically, so where each appears will depend on days of the week and weeks in the month, when banks are open and other matters.   But ease of visual location and referencing from one side to the other still applies,

I like to consider each year in thirds, for my planning.  January through April, May through August, and September through December works for me.  The summer months have their own character and needs such as vacation planning or possibly moving, but September through April is the school year, when people tend not to switch their lives around so much.

The most active third for budgeting is September through December, I believe, when stores already put out reminders and merchandise for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas buying.  The least active is winter into spring, when budgets often have their best chance to catch up and expenses are at the most stable part of the year.

Begin 2014 planning now.  Clean up a 2013 budget or use a new template, but create your 2014 budget now, and save it as "budget14" or other clear identifier.  Keep it off your desktop except to update it so you won't mix its data with budget13 data.  Update it over the next three months as you learn new information, but always save it in a separate, safe location.  That way you will be able to seamlessly transition from the end of this year to the beginning of next year.

Once 2014 begins, put your budget13 in My Documents with previous years, keep budget14 on the desktop, and bring up budget13 only to update it through January till revisions end, then print a final copy and bind it for reference.

There are several principles involved here, but the main one is to keep only the current working year's icon on the desktop.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Estimates, Adjustments, Commitments, Actualities, and Records

Budget amounts almost never remain unchanged from the time they first appear till the time they last appear as a locked-in number-- often not finalized until a new calendar year is weeks or even months underway.

They begin as budgeted estimates for a new budget year, whether estimated income, estimated expenses, or estimated charges.  By their very nature they are based on the future, all of them.  But they are also based on the best knowledge available at the time they are created,  For example, if a car loan payable monthly is due to be paid off in September, the user wouldn't need to schedule its paynent estimates on through December.  Cars, furniture, and other big ticket items with monthly payments as well as home mortgage loans provide the user with the most accurate estimates of future costs.

Estimates of income likewise are based on current knowledge  as well as past experience averages.  Takehome net paychecks. for example, can be estimated into a new year budget as a continuing expectation if the user expects to continue in the same job with the same benefits and deductions.  If, however, he knows of impending raises, promotion, or other basis for adjustment, new year estimates need to be refined taking these into account.

Another important consideration in setting up a new year budget is the dates users need to schedule payments and can expect to receive regularly-scheduled paychecks.  Some months, for example, have five Fridays where most have only four, so Friday paychecks will need adjustment for the extra, third paycheck in those months.  It is easy to appreciate that any new year budget needs to be set up with a good annual calendar in one hand, such as those found on the back of checking account registers.

Credit card payments, like mortgage payments, need to be scheduled each month on the last day certain to be received and credited before incurring added interest charges--usually at least 3-5 days before the due date if paid by bank online payment. even sooner if paid by mail.  A week in advance is usually a safe bet.

Another considation in setting up estimates is rounding amounts.  Since the user is dealing with numbers which are almost certain to change significantly in any case, it is helpful to avoid penny accuracy and go with large, whole numbers that are expected to be close to reality, then refine them as actual numbers begin to replace estimates over a few months' time.

Thus, if the power bill average average monthly paymemt in 2013 is $273.46, use $275 or better yet, $280 for the estimate setting it up in 2014,  The rounding will help it stand out to the eye as an estimated amount when you're scheduling it to be paid on such and such a date, and help to locate it across the cashflow/budget sides until it becomes an exact, to-the-penny known amount.

At that point the amount is no longer an estimate.  But it isn't yet a realized, paid sum yet either.  It is now an adjustment, and because it is still scheduled to happen in a future time, is still subject to revision.  Until it is actually paid or earned, it can't be classified as a commitment.

So when does a particular budgeted amount become an actual, unchangeable figure?  Pagemonth Home Budgets are designed to treat a number differently through its evolution by the use of decimal position, location, and checkmarks, (forward slashes /)

A number doesn't get exact penny treatment till it becomes an adjustment or commitment.  And it doesn't get a checkmark to its right until it becomes an actuality--in other words, writing the check or  scheduling it for online payment is one thing.  Mailing the check or confirming that an amount has been made by the bank elevates the number to a commitment.  But only confirming that the amount has been received and cashed by the recipient rates a checkmark! 

All that may seem needless quibbling over straws, but trust me, it is not.  Until any amount, whether income, expense, or charge, passes the test of being confirmed by the bank at each phase (and reconciled by the user's statement records even beyond that!), any checkmark is premature.

When we get our finalized charge statement either online or by mail, we can check off everything on it to the right of entries,  And in doing so we can visually spot items that still remain to be paid on the next one, or found by backtracking on a previous one.

And when we receive our finalized checking account statement either online or by mail, we can check off each item on it to the right of entries, and again, easily spot discrepancies if any have occurred.  The checked entry says the amount is now a record of actual experience, and says it not only to the computer screen workspace and spreadsheet file for the year, but also to the printed month pages and end-of-year summary page that follows them sometime by the end of January the following year.

At that point I print and bind my final hard copy of the previous year, ready for reference as I study previous experience and set up my next year's budget amounts, prepare for birthdays and holidays, taxes, vacations and trips to come.

Done in this way from rough estimate to bound record, your Pagemonth Home Budget will serve you well throughout each year.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Our Budgeting101 page offers a table of percentages of net income an average family might spend for housing, food, clothing, and other expenses.

Below that table we caution that the percentages are very general and not fixed. that each user has different goals and needs, and that the experts' percentages are intended as guidelines only.

Yet our visitors seek even these general guidelines to help them create their own budgets more than any other concern about our spreadsheet setup or support matters.  People recognize that effective budgeting begins with a good sense of how much they should strive to spend in these areas.

My source for these percentages was the Today Show on NBC that I taped and used for the table, adding the suggested Pagemonth categories that seemed to match best.  I have used these percentages since 1980 as averages that still seem sensible to me.

Here I want to comment on each category in more detail, beginning with 25% for housing and utilities: mortgage or rent, power, water, phones (including cellphones), cable or satellite signal), but also including charges for lawn care and pool maintenance and repairs if applicable, trash pickup, and any other charges related to upkeep of the home and property.  However, The 25% would not include the initial costs of purchasing the home or advance payments required to rent the property and held in escrow or by the landlord to be returned after sale or moving.

Food as 15% would include groceries, meals out, cash for snacks and so forth.  Elsewhere I have recommended using a weekly amount of cash for groceries and adjusting it as experience suggests, but I recognize that many prefer to buy all groceries by credit or debit card, and that's understandable, especially for those who do not want to carry a large amount of cash in pocket or purse.

Clothing as 5% of discretionary income is adjustable depending on need.  It isn't even necessarily a monthly expense.  Some may have clothing supplied as uniforms by enployers that may affect the percentage needed, for example.  Or clothing needed for new jobs.  Or families caring for more than one or two children may spend much more than 5%.  Seasonal spikes like back-to-school can skew it as well.  It is a percentage that should be averaged over several months, if not the entire year, to determine.

Medical costs at 5% include any doctor, nursing, dentist, hospital, and prescription costs not covered by the user's health insurance. 

Transportation at 15% might seem high until one realizes it includes not only bus, train, air or boat transportion on a regular basis but also car payments, car insurance, fuel and oil, and all upkeep and repairs.

Debt payments at 15% also include money needed to pay for credit purchases and fees and all loan payments including interest and lender charges.  Debit card purchases, however, are treated by Pagemonth like checks being cashed, in that they are deducted from the user's checking account at the time of use.  They are not included in the 15% for debt payments.

5% for Savings may be the hardest amount to maintain, because it isn't required to be paid to anyone else.  It is also the easiest to reduce or skip in any given month.  But among all expenses it is perhaps the most necessary to financial health.  It builds future security, equity for credit, solvency against catastrophy and a basis for retirement if set aside religiously.  Pagemonth advises treating it as a Regular Expense--the first to be paid each month, before other needs may make it difficult.

These guideline percentages still leave 15% of discretionary income for miscellaneous purchases and investments at the user's discretion, and for many that's about right.  There is no need to force income into the recommended amounts, but they can provide a useful comparison to the user's actual expenses over several months' time.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Bit of History

I  created Pageamonth Home Budget in 1980 with the beginning of Windows 3.1.  But I had been developing it as a personal home budget long before that--since Tandy (Radio Shack) offered 40-character widths, in fact, and before that as a hand-ruled pen-drawn matrix of rows and columns on plain paper that I filled in by pencil and changed by eraser--lots of erasures as you might imagine.

My attempts to keep a personal budget go back even further.  I was noting my income and expenses in spiral notebooks by 1970, as a single man in living in Chicago.  It seems I've been obsessed with financial recordkeeping my whole adult life.

When the Internet spread, I offered my Pageamonth Budget for $19.95 through Spreadsheet Marketplace and other affiliates, and sold a few dozen of them to U.S. buyers, eventually building my own website, to support those spreadsheets with setup and help pages. 

In the past several years, however, with the economy sliding into severe recession, my ad costs far outweighed my earnings, and I switched to giving my budgets away to anyone who wanted them, with no limits.  I realized people needed to budget more than ever but couldn't afford to buy a good home budget themselves.  I also hoped that by giving them away I could attract enough more visitors to click the budgeting-relevant ads Google placed on my pages, that my ad revenue could offset my rising Pagemonth ad costs.  I also set up a donation button in case people downloaded my budgets and benefitted from using them and wanted to give back something to help defray my costs.

I truly believed, naively, that users would spread the word and others would visit, download, spread the word even further, and grow my ad and donation revenue..

It didn't work out quite that way.  I was soon unable to advertise to the US market, the most expensive on earth, and had to keep minimal ads going worldwide on only the $1.00 per day I felt I could afford,  A dollar a day given away to advertise a free spreadsheet didn't generate enough ads to enough places enough of the time, even to the world markets, to generate more than a few cents return on my dollar cost, didn't work.   As for donations, no one has ever donated a penny. Not even once. 

A year ago on July 10 I determined to try to sell my spreadsheets again, contacted my former affilite www.spreadsheetmarketplace,com, and asked them to sell my budgets again, which they agreed to do pending editorial preparation. 

If and when they do place my spreadsheet on their pages again at $9.95, I will again quit giving them away and cost them at or above their price so as not to undercut them, and from then on I will rely on them and other affiliates.

Today Pagemonth Home Budgets remain free and unrestricted in any way to anyone who wants them.  They are available at the bottom of our homepage for instant, unlimited  downloads, as are the free blank templates that match them in Excel and Works formats..

We urge anyone interested to get them free now, however, because our free giveaway could change to a cost basis at any time.

--N.B. Kauffman

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

This July 4 Declare Your Financial Independence!

Independence Day is fast approaching, and this year's July 4 is a great time to declare your financial independence by taking control of your money!  Pagemonth Budget is ready, willing, and able to help.  We are again offering all of our budget and template spreadsheets absolutely free..

Go to the bottom of our homepage, instantly download our free budget in the Excel or Works version you prefer, grab a free template in that version as well, and you can begin taking charge of your finances in minutes, for no cost whatsoever and at absolutely no risk.

How can we afford to give our products away?  We rely solely on revenue from financially relevant product and service ads that Google places on our pages and pays us a few cents when visitors click on them.  We also accept donations through Paypal and major credit cards.

So our revenue is 100% ad and donation based.  It costs users nothing, and depends solely on the growth of the number of visitors to our website to download our free products. 

We want to help you become financially independent, and we know our spreadsheets can help.  If they help you, spread the word so we can remain free for everyone.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Why Budgets Work

Some visitors to are interested in our home budget spreadsheet--but only some.  Most are interested in finding advice on home budgeting itself, especially how much they should budget for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, savings, emergencies, repairs and maintainance, and so on.  It is the single most asked question everyone wants advice on.

I found evidence of this in designing our budget and our website support pages at  By far the most visited page after our homepage has been Budgeting 101, where we chart out basic percentages of net income many experts recommend spending on those broad categories for an average home budget.

It astonished me to find that very few were interested in our pages on assistance setting up or using the spreadsheet itself, or the FAQ's we used to answer users' questions and concerns, or our contact page, or even our blog, compared to the interest in "How much should I budget for ____?" fill in the blank.

And it got me thinking, why is it that budgeting works in the first place?  It has to be more than just recording income, expenses and charges on a regular basis.  Those are the actual numbers, and no doubt they act on our psyches to confirm our suspicions and perhaps goad us to try to cut back in some things or try to earn more income, use our credit cards less frequently, or otherwise keep them in mind.

But then I realized, no, that's not really what makes budgets work.  It's not what has happened in the past.  It's what could happen in the future unless we make adjustments.  In other words, budgets work mainly because they force us to look ahead.  Unlike our checkbooks and bank statements, home budgets project a future scenario of getting and spending we think could happen, and what the future needs could do to our future balance through the remainder of the year.

And it's pretty strong motivation if we see projected balances we can't live with.  It makes us think twice before getting things we really don't need or settling for an income we can't comfortably live on. 

But it also gives us the motivation we need to adjust our getting and spending to project future balances we can live with, even thrive on--to set up an end-of-December balance that leads like a beacon in the darkness.

Admittedly, actual experience numbers show us that unpredictable expenses are going to happen sometimes that knock our budgets way off, so we try to build in buffers within our budgets to handle them.  Sometimes, also, we catch a break and get some unexpected money as well, but we can't count on it.  Our budget plans have to project realistically, and one can't count on surprises.

So budgets work because they extend our view, reminding us of how we got to our present situation and showing a future we may be in, a telescopic view if you will, while we are still in the present, with time to adjust for it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Using Dates and Checkmarks

Pagemonth Budgets all have narrow columns for dates to the left of item descriptions, both on the Cashflow and the Budget sides.

Likewise, Pagemonth Budgets have even narrower columns to the right of item descriptions for checkmarks, which we indicate with a forward slash (/).

Both of these columns are found framing item descriptions in Income, Expenses, and Charges.  It is useful to understand what they are there for and how to use them effectively.

The first thing to realize is that no dates or checkmarks have any inherent value or significance in themselves.  The dates for income and expense items exist solely to assist locating their duplicate entries on another part of the page  In your sample budget, for example, cell A12 shows the January rent dated January 5, and cell L7 repeats January 5. for that month's mtg/rent.

The dates to the left of charged items, however, are entered manually either when you charge an item to your credit card or when you plan in advance to do so, enabling you to budget an "guesstimate" amount of credit for vacation charges a few months ahead if you wish to.  When those actually occur, you'll correct your guesstimate to reflect real amounts charged on that vacation.

The benefit is, of course, that you're planning ahead for expenses you anticipate so you can enter that amount in addition to the normal amount of your monrthly charges you budget for.  And if you end up not having to pay that much, or elect to spread it out over a few months, it's easily adjusted.  I try to overbudget for my vacation credit charges and have some left over to return to checking when I get back.

Since charge cards give 30 days before interest is added, I base my credit payoffs on when that interest would begin to accrue and make sure to pay it all off in full ahead of that date.  Credit card interest can destroy your budgeting.  It's normally the highest rates allowed under the law and it can bleed you dry if you let it.

As for the checkmark columns to the right of items throughout Pagemonth Budgets, I recommend not checking an item off until it is confirmed in some way.  For income items, that would normally be confirmed by your online bank checking account.  Your paycheck was added when?  Okay, check.  But don't do it based on projected dates.

Again, for charges, check items off when you have confirmation through a credit statement or online completed transaction list, not before.

Used in these ways, the dates and checkmarks in your Pagemonths Budgets will make editing, finding, and confirming all entries on each monthpage much easier to keep track of, and an unchecked entry can be located and corrected even several months back if need be for some tardy creditor.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Updating and Revising

No effective home budget is cast in stone from the outset.  Keeping a budget means continuously revising projections in the light of new information and updating changed amounts already entered.

Further, revising and updating needs to happen again when bank records catch up with deposits and expenses on their online account data, and finally when their monthly statements are issued and you reconcile the bank's finalized data against your physical checkbook.

As you check off items in bank statements, check them off also on your Pagemonth Budget or other budget you use, as well as checking them off in your checkbook, and reconcile your statements in a timely manner, taking into account such items as check printing fees, late charges or low balance fees if they occur. 

If any amounts from bank records need to be revised in a previous month of your computer budget, add extra income amounts in category 503 and extra fees or penalties in category 120 as other income and miscellaneous expenses, respectively. dating the entries on the dates the bank records indicate.

What these retroactive changes will do, of course, is change your previous months' balances and make any printing you have already done obsolete.  This is why I suggest a monthpage printout at each month's beginning and another at it's end, and a third printout of that month only after all its amounts are reconciled and no further revision will be necessary.  In that way your final. bound pages will accumulate through December accurately.  And keep in mind your final year Summary won't be finalized until mid-January of the following year when your bank statement data through December appears online.

Updating previous data is half the battle of accurate revision.  The other half is revising projected income, expenses and charges as new information becomes known.  Especially during January changed figures typically happen to force revised expenses.  Vendors who put off raising utility bills during late autumn tend to use January, the first of the year, as the time to spring them on you.  Government does the same, raising taxes as of January.  Employers often do the same, adjusting payrolls because the holiday buying season is over.  But often employers will use January as a time to issue promotions as well, and perhaps new hiring.

All of January's changes require revisions in budgeted amounts, perhaps throughout the year.  Another key time is when you prepare and file tax returns.  If you have kept your Pagemonth Budget updated vigilantly throughout the previous year, your tax preparation will be much easier, for you will have totals of deductible expenses available with no added calculations.

Revisions and updating also become frequent around vacation times as you try to free up money to take trips and try to anticipate charges you will incur on them, and when you'll be able to pay those off.  Back to school always has its costs to handle, as does moving to a new job or city, often as autumn begins.  And after that, of course, it's time to begin the holiday buying season planning again.

So there really is no time of the year when a home budget, whether it be ours or someone else's, can be unattended to "run on its own."  Every decent home budget must be closely monitored and continually updated and revised, daily, weekly, monthly, until at last you can put the previous year's final numbers behind you,

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Different Months with Different Needs

With total configurability of all Pagemonth elements, it's not difficult to customize your spreadsheet as you want it to be.  The procedure is usually the same for most changes:  change January first, then copy January's changes through the other months.  But that is just the beginning.

Next, go through the months individually, adjusting parts in each that need specific changes:  the month's name, the calendar adjustments to the right number of weeks, the right number of days, changed income for that month, changed expenses or amounts, etc

Often the autumn months are similar through December, then January brings many changes.  February is always different with its leap years and 28 day months.  March through May are often similar without major holidays other than Easter to buy for.  June, July and August are budget busters, thanks to vacations and back to school, and then we're back to the autumn months with their buildup to the year's end.

This part, the month by month adjustments, is perhaps the hardest to do.  Not only are expenses burgeoning at some points but jobs are changing, folks tend to move in the spring or early fall, paychecks may drop out altogether for certain seasons as in the construction industry or teaching, layoffs in business and manufacturing, extra hiring for holidays then perhaps layoffs again.  Many must scramble to find a way to make ends meet till their income sources return.

How to budget for such a fluctuating, roller-coaster-like pattern?  Our advice is always the same throughout:  Estimate income low, estimate expenses high, pay off high interest loans as soon as possible, and build in plenty of buffering funds to handle the unexpected.

I use my credit card provider's regular monthly payment amount to hedge against such need by always budgeting $1000 more than our charges tell us we'll need to pay it off to zero balance.  That way I won't have any interest to sap away at other bills.

Don't let anyone tell you that paying off your credit card completely will lower your credit rating, because you're cutting off interest they depend on.  It won't.  If anything it will reassure creditors that no matter what they throw at you, you will pay it.

Each month brings different needs, so although customizing your budget begins with transferring January's budget through the year, by no means should you repeat it like a cookie cutter 11 times and leave the other months unchanged.  Month to month individual adjustments, all you can foresee as you learn of their need, will make your projected budget much more accurate throughout the year.

No budget is cast in stone when made. But with frequent reasonable revisions your Pagemonth Budget will serve you well all year.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Excel or Works: Which Is Best for Home Budgeting?

Microsoft Excel is the gold standard for spreadsheet format.  It is part of the Microsoft Office Suite of peograms since 2008, and is used worldwide by the vast majority of people for its reliability, flexibility, and robust variety of available functions.

Microsoft Works Spreadsheet, on the other hand, has been around since 1987..  It is part of the Microsoft Works Suite of programs and is in its 8th version.  While it offers fewer functions than Excel, it is in my opinion easier to navigate and overall easier to edit, print, and save. 

The functions needed for home spreadsheet budgets are readily available in both programs.  I prefer to use MSWorks for my personal home budgeting, mostly because I am more familiar with its functions and behavior than I am with Excel.  But younger users who have grown up using Excel are probably as unfamiliar with Works as I am with Excel, so they will likely prefer Excel for their home budgeting despite its steeper learning curve for my generation.

With its broader range of functions, Excel has been forced to use a wider ribbon to arrange all its choices, but has compensated for that extra width by allowing the user to expand or minimize its ribbon next to its help button.  Works uses its ribbon rows to divide user choices and is therefore vertically leaner.

Overall I believe the choice of Excel or Works for home budgeting is ultimately the user's preference, as both offer more than sufficient choices for every aspect of editing, saving, and printing files.  Both programs offer current updates and help online and operate with imperceptible differences in speed.  So the only true advantage of one over the other for home budgeting, in my view, is ease of use, how it feels to each user.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What Makes a Good Home Budget?

With hundreds of home and personal budgets available at little or no cost, what do the best ones have that the others do not?

In our view, all budgets we are familiar with have accuracy for what they claim they do, so accuracy is a given.

But budgets also need to be current, and here some fall by the wayside by being linked to bank accounts, which are quite accurate manipulating amounts they have cleared, but are never current

Until a deposit or a withdrawal is received and cleared by the bank, it does not exist as a bank record, even if it is expected by automatic credits or automatic debits.  And amounts frequently change even for these.  So bank records, even online, are only as current as their last records received amd processed.

That is why it can be so misleading to rely solely on budgets tied to bank accounts.  The balance shown on your last withdrawal slip may be off by one or more items that have not been received or cleared yet, and online data is almost never in the order you write checks, authorize autopayments, or receive deposits.

Pagemonth Budgets show income and expense items by the date they are scheduled to occur.  When a bill is scheduled to be paid, the balance subtracts it for that day, even though it hasn't cleared yet.  When a deposit is scheduled to be made, it is added to the balance for that day, even if it hasn't cleared yet.

So Pagemonth Budgets show payments and deposits often not yet shown by bank data.  So it is much more current.

When its accuracy is eventually assured and confirmed by bank entry, a checkmark (forward slash) needs to be entered to the right of the amount on the budget.  The checkmark columns in all Pagemonth Budgets thus have a vital function:  to confirm transactions, just as date columns are used to crosscheck items between the Cashflow and Budget sides.

Our insistence on double entry of all amounts, once on the Cashflow side and again on the Budget side, provides a further confirmation of accuracy.

Another characteristic of a good budget is accessibility.  In our opinion every part of a good budget must be open to review and modification by its owner at all times.  And that eliminates the vast majority of remaining free or lowcost budgets. 

Pagemonth Budgets are totally user-configurable and user-accessible in every part, cell, element, item, formula, formattng, and function.  In fact, they could all be edited out of existence, deleted to blank spreadsheets once more.  There would be no practical reason to do so, but it does demonstrate that we mean what we claim.

Good budgets must also be private and secure.  We feel our budgets are both by not residing in a cloud  but offline, in your computer., with a copy saved to a usb drive or other removable device in case even your computer crashes (and who among us can honestly claim his never has!).  I save my working budget to my desktop, again to My Documents, and yet again to my usb drive.

I am not against the Cloud.  I don't mind storing music, photos, videos and other items in the Cloud.
But I will never store my home financial records in the Cloud.  Clouds have a way of vanishing, reacting to sunspots and radiation, evaporating and otherwise behaving badly.

And good home budgets are flexible.  They can be adapted to Church budgets, school budgets, small business budgets, governmental budgets, small manufacturing budgets, club or organizational budgets, and hosts of other uses. 

Pagemonth Home Budgets are flexible enough for any of these uses and many more, thanks to their total configurability.

Good home budgets are predictive.  They not only accurately show financial transactions from the beginning of a year to the present day, but also reasonably predict future transactions and balances through the year's end, with convenient means to adjust amounts as new information becomes available.

Further, good home budgets present comprehensive and pertinent data the user needs and wants, in a practical and convenient, clear format.  We believe we include such information on every Pagemonth page, from the chronological "checking account" mirror we call the Cashflow on the left columns, to the categorical groupings we call the Budget side on the right, divided by the Annual Summary Projections as they continuously update in our middle columns E and F, to the Month and Year Summary calculations of gain or loss at each page bottom right.

We could add that a good home budget might also need to provide visual appeal and an instant sense of one's percentages of income and expense categories, a snapshot of everything that's going on, with possible graphs or pie charts, perhaps even in color, added to the mix.  Pagemonth Home Budgets do not use graphics or colors to accomplish  these goals.  However, the Excel and MSWorks programs our budgets use do make these features available, if users want them.  It is very easy to graph or piechart any group of amounts by highlighting them and using the program menus.

We chose from the beginning to focus Pagemonth Budgets on numbers rather than on graphics, because numbers are necessary and graphics are for all their visual appeal really not necessary.  We believe we created a better home budget without them..

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pagemonth Files Reusability

One of our Pagemonth Budgets and Templates' most valuable features is the fact that one can reuse them year after year without expense.

As a spreadsheet author I note what visitors use for search keywords, and many are seeking home budgets for 2014. as if they were looking for a new car model.

Making a 2013 Pagemonth Budget a 2014 Pagemonth Budget is as simple as changing cell O1 from 2013 to 2014 and saving it as the correct year, then saving it to a safe location not on the desktop.  2014 will be automatically copied to each page and the summary.

But that is only half of the task.  The other half is renaming the file Budget14.(xls or xlr) and saving it as Budget14.(xls or ,xlr)  Because so far you now have a 2014 budget named Budget13.(xls or xlr).

When you rename any of our files be sure to designate the year correctly within the filename before you save it, and we further recommend you keep all of our budgets and templates except the current files you are working with off of the desktop and safely saved in My Documents or other safe locations. 

The correct year's filename protects it from being confused with any other.  So if you type the right year into cell O1, then name it Budget(year).xls or xlr before saving it, it should always be the file you expect when you click its icon.

And that procedure makes all our files reusable at no further cost for as many years as you care to use them.  I have mine dating back to 2008 and still refer to them regularly.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Playing Hide and Goto...

The internet is a virtual necessity, but it has some strange navigational challenges.

One is the stubborn persistence of whatever one creates on it versus the vexing disappearance of whatever one changes.

Example:  We used to be, but changed to this year and dropped the middle "a", yet search engines still list our former pageamonth pages.

Now I notice Google still lists a former Download page for pagemonth, (our new, correct site) which  claims we have free budgets.  We do not have free budgets.  We used to have free budgets, but we changed to paid budgets this year.  We tried to get Google to acknowledge that change, but to no avail.  So we navigated to the old Download page and informed freebie seekers  of the change ourselves, including a link to our homepage bottom "Buy Now" Paypal button.  Clicking on it opens our Paypal purchasing page.  Completing the $9,95 one-time price opens our present download page where all our budgets and templates may be downloaded repeatedly at no further cost till the buyer leaves the page.

It amazes me how difficult technical people have made getting around on the internet, with their maze of passwords, gates, redirects, automatic do-not-reply emails, faceless support tickets, electronic politeness, and general lack of human contact.

They say it is all necessary to block malware-planters, thieves and hackers, who have become increasingly adept at what they do.  I feel like we nontechnical users (how many usernames do you have to manage?) are caught in the middle of a no-man;s-land technical war we can't understand, attacked by both sides. 

Still, the net may be more user-friendly with all its vexations than the electronic phone trees of any major business.  Don't even get me started on those.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Using and Modifying Categories

Income and Expense categories are the designations that enable totals to be identified and grouped.  In our Pagemonth Budget spreadsheets the broadest category designations divide into the 500's for Income and the 100's for Expenses. 

Income (any amount that increases the home checking account balance) is further broken down as coming from the User, Spouse, or Other sources.

Income 501 (User's Income) includes regular or occasional payments to the budget's owner such as salaries, commissions, bonuses, social security and pension fund deposits.

Income 502 (Spouse's Income) includes regular or occasional payments to the user's wife, husband. or partner such as salaries, commissions, bonuses, social security and pension fund deposits.

Income 503 (Other Income) includes deposits into the home checking account from any other source, such as rebates or refunds, gifts, and checking fee adjustments, or income from miscellaneous sources.

Expenses (any amount that decreases the home checking account balance) are broadly grouped in our budgets into Regular, Other, or Charged.

Regular 101-119 Expenses include monthly or periodic payments for savings accounts, housing, food, clothing, phones, utilities, home maintenance, insurance, cash, credit providers, and loan payments,

Other Expenses 120-129 are paid occasionally, not monthly or periodically, including recreation, gifts, medical, professional, clothing, repairs, maintenance, gas and oil, tolls, and interest fees.  They are paid by cash, check, or debit card.

Other Expenses 130-140 include occasional deferred payment charges, including recreation, gifts, medical, professional, clothing, repairs, gas and oil. and tolls.  They are paid to credit card providers.

All of our spreadsheets provide an Other Expenses/Charges Summary box on the budget, right-
hand side of each month page, just above the bottom Summary, which totals these items for that month. 

Categories are used only on the budget side  and do not appear on the cashflow, left side of our spreadsheets.  They do, however, appear for each income, expense, and charge category in columns E and F as updating, annual totals to the nearest dollar.  And they are finally grouped once more on our Summary Page to the right of January's data.

Pagemonth Budget users may modify any cells, categories, or formatting of any items in our spreadsheets for their individual needs or uses once purchased in Excel or MSWorks versions, available at the bottom of our homepage,.  The only thing they are prohibited from is selling them, as our designs and formats are protected by copyright.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Finding and Fixing Errors

Pagemonth Budget Spreadsheets all have built-in safeguards against carrying errors forward from either the Cashflow or the Budget side, the main one being the need for the twin end balances to agree to the penny.

Yet errors do occur, and it is possible to carry them forward from any given month where they occur to subsequent months, even for all remaining months of the year, which may display twin end balances in perfect agreement even though the original month in error displays disagreement between its end balances!

How is this possible?  It depends upon three things:  where the errors are, the amounts entered, and  whether they were repeated on both cashflow and budget sides.  Let's take these one at a time:

First, errors made on only the Cashflow side are the easiest to locate and correct, because nothing in cashflow is carried forward to tthe next month or beyond, including its End Balance, which will likely.not agree with the Budget side End Balance.  That is because the Budget side End Balance is the amount each month that is duplicated automatically as the next month's Beginning Balance, which is in turn added to or subtracted from with each Cashflow row entry.  The error in the previous month's cashflow is therefore not carried forward from month to month in column D balances, and may not even be noticed in future months.

To locate a Cashflow error, however, is very easy. because it produces a column D balance that is also wrong,  To find and correct it simply look for the differnce between the twin End Balances. which will be the amount of the error, then check what the amount  should have been by glancing at its correct amount on the Budget side--again displaying the difference discrepancy amount.  Once the error is corrected the End Balances should agree again and you can gi forward.

As for Cashflow errors in amount entered, if the amount is correct, look at its column D formula to make sure it was added or subtracted by the correct operand sign internally. either + or -.  The wrong sign will of course produce the wrong balance.  Also check to see if any amount earned or spent was simply not entered.  And lastly check if any amount was a only part of a larger amount on the Budget side such as a weekly or extra cash withrdrawal.  For example, all category 110 "cash" withdrawals for the month added together need to total the Budget side item 110 amount for the entire month.

Budget side errors are relatively even easier to find and correct because they depend on fixed locations in the Regular or Other Income, Regular or Other Expenses blocks.  When they do occur, as in Cashflow, it can be simply not entering an item in any of the blocks, or in the wrong block.  Or it can happen if a Budgeted amount isn't available on the date it was budgeted to be, or in an amount it wasn't budgeted to be.  A delayed paycheck deposit at the bank due to holidays or wekeends, for example, or a change in deductions you weren't planning on, or if you're fortunate, perhaps a promotion that kicked in or a bonus you received unexpectedly.  None of these are usual, and all need to be adjusted for on both Cashflow and Budget sides when they do occur.

As for the third type of error, the error in cashflow which is repeated on the budget side, it is perhaps the hardest to notice of the three types.  It often requires crosschecking against your bank statements and online account pages to see if something happened that somehow you didn't notice or enter properly in your spreadsheet,   Our Pagemonth Budgets are not linked electronically to any bank information as are many other home budgets such as Mint.  That has both pro's and cons.  We feel our pro's by far outweigh the cons, because bank data is never completely current as income and expenses flow in and out at different times, and budgets such as Mint cannot project current balances beyond the data the bank has at any given time, as Pagemonth can and does.

So if your error month's data is repeated on both cashflow and budget sides, both end balances will display no error at all anywhere that month until you reconcile your bank statement or current month's transactions on their website.

In summary, your Pagemonth Budget is not a substitute for balancing your checking account but an aide in doing so.  If things aren't coming out right, check the bank site information against your Pagemonth information and your checkbook.  A fee may have been charged that you didn't enter, or perhaps even authorize, and it is possible for bank data itself to be erroneous on rare occasions.  A phonecall during bank hours can often clear things up.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When Is the Best Time to Start A Budget?

When is the Best Time to Start a Budget?  Sometimes users think they need to wait for 2015, since it's nearly May of 2014 already, and the yearly budget needs to begin with January 1, right?

Nothing could be further from the truth.  People who want to begin budgeting effectively can do so anytime.  How could you do it with our Pagemonth Home Budget, available free in Excel or Works at the bottom of our homepage?

Start today if you want, and go forward from now!  You will need to enter your income and expenses that you anticipate you will have, as part of the Setup of your budget on your folder's template file.  Follow the insstruction guidelines on our Setup and Help pages, and after you frame your workspace, enter your Income, Regular Expenses, and any Other Expenses you know you will have through the remaining months, budgeting rough estimates for vacations, gifts, education costs and other seasonal expenses you're fairly sure you need to plan for.

If you wish you can also plug in credit use in the Credit Charges rows for months you know you will rely heavily on Credit such as holiday gift buying, and don't worry about being specific.  Just allot an amount overall based on past experience, then plug the amount in to item 111, your main credit card Regular Expense, for payment the following month.  Try to pay it all if you can so you don't accrue any interest.  If you absolutely cannot budget to pay it all off at once, break it in half or thirds over the next two months after that, but pay it all as soon as you can.  When you see what you are being charged in interest for any balance you carry more than 30 days, it will remind you of the need for total payoff.  Don't worry that a payoff will hurt your credit rating, because it won't.

So begin in the present, first by setting up your remaining months budget projections.  For the month you begin, your balance will of course need to be entered for the beginning of that month since there will be no accurate balance automatically carried over from the end of the previous month. 

Enter that beginning balance manually in J192 if you're starting in April, and take it from your checking account balance after the last entry for March.  If it is off, use your bank website's online access or balance statements to help you refine that number.  And remember you can readjust it any time. 

Once you begin replacing your projected budget numbers with each day's actual numbers, entering each item of income and expense when it occurs, you won''t need to manually enter any other month's beginning balance anymore.  It will be automatically carried over from the previous month's end balance.

Your budget should be accurate if you follow our guidelines, but of course it will not include this year's January, February, or March numbers, so your budget will only show April-December totals and averages, unless you want to go back through your check registers and find your balance on January 1, enter it manually in cell J3, then gradually rebuild your January, February, and March budget based on actual expenses, charges, and income. (The previous months' charges you can get from your credit card statements.)

If you do that, you should be able to replace the beginning balance for April you manually entered iin J192 with "=D187" (March's End Balance).and be caught up as though you had begun your 2014 budget on January 1.

That would have the added advantages of several months' actual numbers you could review or print out anytime, an accurate updating of your central projection totals for all months and categories in columns E and F. a quick sense of where you're headed in the end balances of all months of 2014, also to the nearest dollar, at the bottom of columns E and F, and increasingly accurate totals and averages through the rest of this year.  You  will find that data very helpful for reviewing, for setting up next year's 2015 budget, and for tax preparation next April.

Each year's budget begins with unknowns, projects estimates as information becomes available, and ends with known, solid figures.  It's a matter of replacing the unknown with the known, basically, all year.  If you set it up and maintain it properly, it will really help you manage your personal finances, and validate the idea that the best time to start a budget is as soon as you're ready, willing, and able.  At Pagemonth we'll always be glad to help when you have questions or need assistance.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cash for the Merchandise

Budgeting for cash transactions is easily done, but you'll want to set up a time each week or so when you will hit the ATM for that week's pocket or purse cash.  This post will suggest a way to handle cash as a regular expense and budget for it in your Pagemonth spreadsheet.

If you haven't gotten a Pagemonth Budget Folder for Excel or for Works, you can get one for $9.95 at the bottom of of our homepage.  Open your budget file and notice it has a category for cash in Regular Expenses:  category 110.  January's monthly cash amount shows in cell O16 as $400.

This amount is based on an average of $100 per week.  In my budget, I get my weekly cash on Fridays.  So on the sample budget of $400 you'll use in most months, I'm budgeting for most months of any given year.

But you also need to budget for months with five Fridays and will need more cash for those.  In 2013 there are four:  March, May, August and November.  Budget $500 for cash in column O for those months.  I use the 2013 calendar printed on the back of my check register to spot those months quickly.

As for when you'll get your cash, it's up to you.  But I assume you won't withdraw a whole month's worth at once to carry around or hide somewhere at home.  So for the date in column L, type "var" indicating various dates.  That will set up the cash on the Budget side of your spreadsheet.

Then you need to plan to withdraw your weekly cash on the Cashflow, left side of your budget.  Enter "cash" in column B and $100 in column C for any dates you plan to get your cash.
Feel free to alter the dates anytime in column A  We have distributed them on our budget sheets throughout each month with more days repeated around the middle and end of the month when most bills may be paid, and fewer at the beginning.  But there's nothing functional about the dates in column A.  You can redistribute them as you wish.  As you change them around, however, try to keep them in chronological sequence as in a checkbook.

Our Pagemonth spreadsheets all show cash withdrawals on the 1t, 8th, 14th, and 21st of each money when you download them.  They would show another withdrawal on the 28th in five-Friday months.   Sometimes other entries will bunch things up too tightly and you'll need to shift things a bit, but try to keep the chronology intact, because otherwie your balance in column D will jump around all over the place.  The dates will also provide a quick visual reference for finding items on the Budget side as you add in income and expene items.

Be aware that each amount in Cashflow is either added to or subtracted from your checking account balance in column D for its row, so when you move dates and items around be sure you give them the right formula in column D, using a + for additions and a - for subtractions.

So far, so good.  But what should you do if you run out of cash by Tuesday and aren't budgeted for more till Friday?  Get more cash when you need to, as much as you think you'll need.  But be sure to enter it in Cashflow on that day, crowding in a row if need be, and add it to your Cstegory 110 total as well.

If you find you run out of cash regularly, increase your 110 totals to $125 or $150 per week for a few months and see if that works better.  Conversely, if you find too much cash building up in pocket or purse, decrease your 110 total to $75 or even $50 for a few months.  Eventually you'll find the amount that works best for your needs.

Budgeting for cash isn't difficult.  It's something to estimate like any other Regular Expense then adjust it to actual experience.

What, When, and How Much: Budget, Cashflow, and End Balance

Over the years some have suggested we change our basic spreadsheet design to automatically transfer  data from the Cashflow, left side to corresponding locations on the Budget, right side, or vice versa.
That way we would need to enter data only once, not twice as is currently required.

Those well-meaning suggestions are appreciated, and it would work.  But it would also defeat the whole purpose of having the two sides:  to provide a cross-check of each other and produce an End Balance at the bottom of each that exactly matches the other to the penny, though each arrives at that end balance by different means.

The Budget side is the "What" side of our budget sheet because it itemizes and totals income, expenses, and charges by category, and its information appears in the same locations throughout the year.  It also categorizes "What Kind of" Income or Expense by grouping items into blocks of Regulat Income and Other Income, Regular Expenses, Other Expenses, and Charged Expenses.

Because data on the Budget side remains in the same positions, specific items are quick for the eye to locate in any given month.

The Cashflow side is the "When" side of our budget sheet because it itemizes and totals income and expenses by chronology, and its information appears in shifting locations throughout the year depending on how many income or expense items cluster around different dates.  It distributes its 29 to 31 days per month vertically among 56 available rows, and its items add or subtract from the running balance in column D to produce its End Balance in cell D61 for January, which must agree with the Budget Side End Balance in cell J61 for January exactly before moving on.

So it should be apparent that automatically transferring items from the two sides one to the other in order to save double entry time would defeat the purpose of having the two sides completely.  Their End Balances would agree each month, but they would be wrong!  Whatever mistakes were made on either side would automatically be transferred to the other side as well.

What we designed in our Pagemonth Budgets, then, is what some call double-entry bookkeeping, in which independent sides exist to confirm each other.  We believe it to be a better form of home budgeting than others.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Buffering: Budgeting for the Unexpected

If everything could be foreseen, we could budget for it and handle things pretty smoothly  But such is not the case.  So much can happen that render our budget projections inaccurate:  higher than expected utility bills, a car repair, a medical emergency, a job change--you name it.

But there are ways to budget for the unexpected.  I recoommend buffering your Pagemonth budget spreadsheet, as I do mine.  Basically the concept is simple:  I build in about $1000 a month more than I think I'll need to spend..  And if something comes up, that buffer will often handle it.

I use category 111 in Regular Expenses, my credit card payment, to absorb my unforeseen costs, before they're even known.  If I plan to charge nothing whatsoever, item 111 still gets $1000.  If I''m pretty sure I'll have to charge $3000 in a given month, 111 gets $4000 that month.  You get the idea.  I build in a $1000 buffer each month, and raise (or lower) it as things become known.

As an example, my wife's car was having problems our regular gas station mechanic couldn't fix, and I had to take it to the dealer, knowing it could cost a lot more.  And it did.  To fix the problems right I had to lay out $2700.  Fortunately I had good credit that could absorb that within my credit limit, so I paid by credit card.

But as soon as the estimates were made, I set up my next month's budget category 111 payment for $3000, and it could go to closer to $4000 or more by the end of this month.  I buffered in the repair and gave myself 30 days before any interest would begin to accrue.  In other words, I budgeted to pay off the entire bill at once, and I will, and will still have my $1000 buffer in place to hedge against other charges we might make in the next two weeks, since it's only the middle of March.

It doesn't matter what category you choose to provide your buffer.  It could be cash, category 110.  But I prefer the charge card since I keep my balance paid off each month no matter how inconvenient it is at the time, so I never have to pay interest on it by paying in installments.

The idea of buffering is to see how much you can stretch your theoretical expenses and still grow your balance from month to month.  I used a big repair bill in the above example, but you can buffer in other ways as well.  Unless you know what your utility bills will be, budget a bit more for them than you believe they will be.  Unless you're certain your net income after taxes will be a certain amount, budget a bit less than you expect to be paid.

In other words, underestimate income and overestimate expenses a bit throughout your budget projections.  Then, as actual income and expenses replace budgeted income and expenses, you should find your bottom line balances increasing through the year, because you built in buffers.
Some months may project lower balances than you find acceptable, and you can improve your situation by revising and cutting back on some things or supplementing on the income side, even if it means you'll need a higher paying job or second, part-time income for a time.

Use your budget to plan your goals and carry you through obstacles that could prevent your reaching them.  Don't be fooled by your initial setup end-of-year estimated balance, which can be deceptively high before experience brings it down to reality.  Try for goals that are realistic, and be prepared to pay out those expenses by buffering for them.

The Summary Page: "Lucky Thirteen"

Every Pagemonth Budget has twelve month pages plus a Summary Page, which I like to call "Lucky Thirteen."  You will find it to the right of January in your budget spreadsheet, occupying columns R through AF, and about 6o rows deep. 

It's not part of the default print area of the twelve monthpages, but you can edit it and print it when you need to or want to.  Before you decide to alter it, however, note that it is almost entirely formulas, plus some identifying labels and categories on its left and totals and averages on its right and bottom.

The Summary Page is something you'll refer to occasionally when you want to track patterns of income and expense, or get annual averages for setting up a new budget year, or grabbing totals for tax preparation, but normally you won't view it much, for a couple of reasons:

You won't often need to use your Summary Page because each monthpage gives you the same information for that month, and totals all income and expense categories individually for the year in the constantly updating center columns E and F to the nearest dollar.  The Summary Page simply presents those monthly totals in twelve monthly columns plus the year's totals and averages.

The Summary Page is also off to the side because it is formatted to display and print differently than the monthpages.  That means that to print it you will need to briefly reset the print area to the Summary Page area only, print it, then return to the default monthpages print area.

And it is off to the side as well because beside and below it are formula blocks for each monthpage you will only alter at your peril, and probably never have a need to print.

So, "Lucky 13" is what it is and where it is for several reasons.  But why do I call it "Lucky 13?"

Those who have used our Pagemonth Budget for a couple of years regularly may already know, because from the moment you begin to set up your spreadsheet through the last entry of December 31, you can watch your end balance grow and grow, and even recover from lean times or heavy expense times like vacations, holidays, birthdays,  unexpected needs and emergencies, and grow again.  It is the reward of planning ahead, adjusting to changes, and maintaining your budget.  If you do you will gain peace of mind.  And that's lucky.