Monday, November 24, 2008

Use the Power of the Pen for Tracking Dollars or Calories

It's Monday. The day I usually step on the scale. Well, this morning the number wasn't good. And I know why. I haven't been writing down what I eat or tracking carbs/calories.

When I keep a food journal or track what I eat, I inevitably lose weight. But when I wing it, I gain weight.

It works inversely for money. If you don't track your money, you lose it. And if you write down or keep track of what you spend, you're more likely to watch your savings account gain funds.

I'm fairly good at writing down what I spend. I'll just have to apply those same principles to tracking what I eat. Knowledge is power!

Now, on a bit of a different track, I've been thinking a bit about this crazy economy that we're experiencing. It's making me nervous.

I usually try to put everything I buy on my Discover credit card. (I have the Preferred Membership at Sam's and get 2% cash back on all my purchases -- 6% back on gasoline purchases at Sam's.) I keep my receipts and deduct them from the monthly budget as if I've spent cash. The way I look at it, I'm getting paid to budget.

But here's the thing . . . I pay for what I've purchased a month later. All the things I buy in November come out of my checking account in December. When Elder Robert D. Hales came to our Stake Conference in September, he mentioned that the Church stays a year ahead when spending money. In other words, the budgets for this year are created from funds garnered last year.

That idea has stuck with me. In fact, just this morning I'm realizing that I need to change how our family budget works. I'd like to follow the example of the Church Finance Department. Realistically, we ought to be able to stay a month ahead. And seeing as how we're really a month behind, I've got some work to do.

I'll be honest. I'm not excited about trying to switch over to becoming a month ahead in December. I'd like enjoy the holidays by spending money on others. But given the times we live in, now is a good time to take control of our family finances.

I'm going to do a little calculating and make a three- or four-month plan that will ease us into becoming a month ahead in our budgeting. The first thing I'm going to do is stop using the credit card. I can resume it once we've accumulated a month's worth of budgetary funds in the bank, but until then it will be simpler and more motivating to spend cash or write checks.

Don't get me wrong. We do have a Rainy Day savings account that we can turn to if we were to lose income or suffer a large unexpected expense. But by staying a month a head in our budgeting, we'll have that much more to fall back on should the worst happen, like if my husband lost his job.

There is no such thing as being over-prepared.


Suko said...

Christie, again your ideas make sense--or should I say cents?!

Christie said...

I'm happy to report that I have a plan to have us a month ahead on our budget by the end of March. It will mean cutting back for the next few months, but I'm up to it. When the kids want things that we can't afford I'm going to try to stay focused and not get discouraged. (I'll also encourage them to do home jobs they can earn their own money for. That way my house gets cleaned too!)

Flashlight Girl said...

What a great idea! Todd and I were just thinking about how to increase our financial security for the day-to-day life. I think this is it. I know it will take me longer than three or four months to be ahead, but WOW wouldn't it be great if in a year from now I could face December with calm and security instead of financial dread? Thanks for the thoughts!!

Heidi A. said...

Great ideas. Glad you shared from Stake Conf. too. I loved Elder Hales remarks.