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Working Your Way to the Excel Big Leagues

thursday

If you’re a little behind the times, tackling your budgeting and finances through online sites, tools, and apps, might be a little intimidating.

There are some great sources out there like Quicken, You Need a Budget, Mint.com, etc., but if you aren’t ready to trust your finances with your budding computer skills, there is an alternate way to get started: Microsoft Excel.

The Beauty of the Basics

If you think it’s time to move from paper to electronic budgeting, Excel could be a great transitional tool for you. If you aren’t familiar with Excel, it is Microsoft’s spreadsheet program. It is perfect for budgeting, because it can be used to do math, formulas, tables, charts, and graphs, all tailored to your personal needs and preferences.
The great thing about excel is that it is a step up from paper to electric, but is still very simple, clean, and clear. It’s almost like having your old paper checkbook, except it does the math for you.

But perhaps most importantly, you won’t risk messing up real money like you might on an online program if you make a mistake. There is no button you can push that will wipe out your funds, sign you up for unwanted services, or enable hackers to access your accounts.

*But remember – most online programs are very safe. You won’t risk the aforementioned tragedies using trusted online software and services. But if you are worried regardless, Excel is a great electronic stepping stone for you.

Using Excel

Although with a little tinkering around you can figure out how to use Excel’s basic functions without help, there’s no harm in asking a more tech-savvy friend or relative to set up some nice budgeting tools for you.

In Excel, there are endless possibilities to the styles and methods you can choose to use for your budgeting and finances. For example, you can create weekly or monthly tables, basically identical to your checkbook. Add a mathematical formula to the table, and it will do the math for you.

You can set up different tables or tabs (like pages) devoted to certain accounts, categories of spending, specific credit cards, and so on. You can even link information from each table to one consolidated place to track your overall financial situation.

If you are an Excel beginner, you may need some help setting up these tables and functions. But if you do know your way around Excel, don’t be afraid to experiment around with different systems of budgeting and work out a unique system that works for you!

Additional Perks

Even beyond convenience and clarity, using Excel for your budgeting/finances comes with some extra perks:

  • It’s free
  • It’s a great way to keep reliable financial records
  • Some banks allow you to download financial statements directly to Excel
  • It’s customizable to your personal preferences/style/use

Stepping Stone

If you try Excel and enjoy that style of budgeting, great! But if you’d like an even easier or more sophisticated and direct style of banking, Excel will act as an excellent stepping stone to online programs.
Still stuck on paper? Take the first step to electronic budgeting with your very own Excel spreadsheet!

Before You Use the Mint App

thursday

News about the Mint app has been buzzing for quite some time now, and though it is an extremely popular finance app, there are still plenty of people who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet. This scoop into the inner workings of the Mint app should help you make a smart decision to ensure that your finances are in qualified hands.

What Is It?

The first thing you need to know is, of course, what Mint even is. Is it an app that locates the nearest mint chocolate chip ice cream? Not so much.

In fact, Mint is an app that brings all of your financial accounts into one place—this makes it easy for you to track your income and spending, even if you are working from several banks and other financial institutions.
The most exciting part? It’s completely free. You can simply download it from your device’s app store, or access your account online and then you’ll have access to your finances on the go at no cost.

It will even allow you to create a budget, track your spending, and set and meet goals. Not Bad, huh?

Setting Financial Goals

One of the best features of Mint is the goal setting potential. With Mint, you can look at all of your finances and set long and short term goals. And because all of your finances can be viewed in one app, you don’t have to go through all the hassle of checking each of your bank accounts individually.

With Mint you can track your progress as often as you would like, and receive monthly emails that let you know how you are doing. If that’s not enough, it will also give you advice on how to reach your goals more quickly. In conjunction with a financial adviser, Mint can truly help you change your financial situation.

As you start meeting your goals, you will begin to feel the benefits and gain the confidence to set and meet even more killer goals.

Will Your Financial Information Stay Secure?

At this point you may be getting excited, and perhaps you are also wondering if it is too good to be true. Not to worry, your funds and financial information are secure with Mint. They use the same level of security as banks, so your information is completely protected.

And, in fact, Mint is a tool specifically for viewing financial information, it doesn’t allow access to your funds. That means if someone stumble upon your open Mint app, they won’t be able to touch your assets.

In addition, Mint gives you extra security by informing you of unusual charges or changes in your finances, so you can stay on top of your finances at a glance. Now, that’s security.

Taking Action

Alright, so now you know the details and it’s time to take action. Make viewing your finances as simple and effective as possible and consider downloading Mint today. With the help of this app and other financial resources, you can see a huge improvement, so take action today!

Tip of The Week: Three Simple Steps to a Budget

For the “Tip of The Week” this week we’re going to break down budgeting into 3 easy to follow to steps. A lot of times when it comes to creating a budget for your personal of family finances you can easily get overwhelmed and quit before you’ve even started. As you start planning out your budget it’s important to understand that getting accustomed to using a budget and getting out of debt will not be an overnight process. Budgets are often the most effective when you make small and simple changes and apply them over a long amount of time. As you apply these three simple steps you’ll be amazed at what they can add up to over time.

Steps to Budgeting

Step 1: Evaluate Current Spending- As we’ve mentioned in previous budgeting posts the first and most important step in starting your budget is knowing where your finances currently stand. As you begin your budget we recommend sitting down and taking a look at ALL of your expenses. Oftentimes when we people start outlining their expenses there are several that will go overlooked but it’s important to account for not only your normal monthly expenses but also your expenses that come each year like property taxes, some life insurance plans etc.. By outlining all of your expenses you’ll have a starting point to work from.

Common Expenses Include:

  • Rent/Mortgage Payments
  • Car Payment
  • Average Monthly Fuel Expenses
  • Average Monthly Vehicle Maintenance Expenses (Oil Change, Transmission Services, etc..)
  • Planned Family Vacations (Divide By 12 To Know The Monthly Amount)
  • Home, Life, Auto Insurance
  • Weekly Groceries
  • Entertainment Expenses (Cable, Internet, Movies, Restaurant Expenses)
  • Annual Property Taxes (Divide By 12 To Know The Monthly Amount)
  • Gym Memberships
  • Movie Clubs
  • XM Radio, Sirius Radio, Spotify monthly memberships

Step 2: Set Spending Goals- Once you have an idea of your monthly expenses it’s time to set some goals. Before you can set some goals you need to first compare your expenses to your income. If you find that you’re spending more than you make each year your goal should be to cut your expenses so that you do not have to spend more than you make each month. Some of the common expenses that you can cut include cable, internet, entertainment/out to eat, and other monthly memberships. When people finally sit down and take a look at their expenses they begin to realize how they’ve let all of their different monthly memberships add up to the point that they are suffocating, this will be a good time to simplify your monthly spending. Once you get your expenses in order it’s time to set a goal to start saving, your first goal should be to start saving at least 10% of your pay each month, once you’ve accomplished that you should work towards saving 20% each month until you’ve built up a reserve that could cover 6 months of your monthly expenses.

Step 3: Repeat Monthly- As we mentioned at the beginning of this post this is an ongoing project, don’t think of this as a one month goal. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your budget keep working at it each month, continue to assess your expenses each month so that you can always be moving forward to your next set of goals. Once you’ve built up a savings, there are always more things that you can do whether it’s paying down credit card debt, paying off your car loans or even working towards paying down your mortgage early. As you work through this process it’s important to understand that everything isn’t going to go as planned, there will be months where you come up a bit short and you might need to put some unexpected bills on your credit card or take out a short term loan. If that happens don’t give up, keep working towards your goals.

Budgeting can be a lot of fun if you let it, there are a plethora of budgeting apps that you can use to make budgeting more fun or exciting. As you make your budget your focus it’s also important to remember that it’s ok to have fun every once in awhile, if you get too strict on your budget you’ll end up hating everything about your budget and giving up. If you have any questions on budgeting be sure to leave them in the comments section below or check out our other budgeting videos.

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