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 Pagemonth.com 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 Pagemonth.com.  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.