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 (pagemonth.com).
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.