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.