Even Lower Maintenance Budget Planning

My friend Marisa said some lovely things about my blog the other day. This is what she emailed me:

Kate- I LOVE your blog. I forwarded it to my sister and my mom and told them to join. You are saving my financial life right now (and Willow too since she sent me her budget spreadsheet), and you’re doing it in a way that makes it funny, easy, and I dont get anxiety about it!

Thank you, Marisa! I really hope that this blog is helping my readers get over any financial-planning anxiety they have. The goal is to make you feel awesome about how you manage your money, instead of guilty and/or anxious and/or head-in-the-sand about finances.

I couldn’t help but notice what Marisa included in the parenthesis, though. Willow’s budget spreadsheet? Willow is our mutual friend (also the best roommate I have ever had) and Willow is an extremely practical person who will put infinite extra effort into things she cares about, but does not like spending time on things she doesn’t give a crap about.

You know what Willow doesn’t give a crap about? Money. But she lives in reality and not in the poorhouse, so she has to do some financial planning just like the rest of us. But she and Marisa don’t want to spend hours on Mint. While I (obviously) love Mint because of its automatic tracking, graphing capabilities and goal-setting, some of my readers might find Mint overwhelming (it is kind of a bear to sign up for Mint) and some of my readers just might not be interested. That’s ok, but it doesn’t excuse you from sticking to a budget.

Here is Willow’s (and Marisa’s, now) budgeting method:

  1. Willow made a spreadsheet on googledocs that she can access from anywhere because it lives online. She is the only one with access to it so the world can’t see her financial information (although even if they could it’s still pretty safe because she isn’t including bank account numbers in there).
  2. For the first three months, Willow compared her estimated spending with her credit card/ checking account spending to make sure the numbers line up and adjusted them when they weren’t working.
  3. She uses her credit card for all of her purchases so that all of her spending is in one place and she can easily compile categories. (And she gets rewards. She just cashed in her rewards for $100. Nice.)
  4. This is not that much work for her because she is not a big shopper (so for example, she only goes to the grocery once a week, so that is four trips a month, just four numbers to add).
  5. She pays off her credit card in full each month.
  6. If she spent too much in one category one month, (her words: “like if I spend too much on socks one month”) she cools it the next month on that category.
  7. It’s a general estimate. She doesn’t give a crap about tracking each penny.
  8. She has an automatic transfer into savings so she doesn’t have to worry about saving money. Ditto into retirement.
  9. She has a “free money” category. This is for miscellaneous purchases, and anything left over in the “free money” category gets transferred into savings at the end of the month.
  10. She has emergency savings, savings for trips and big purchases. She knows when she will be spending a lot of money that is not normal for her budget, and she can plan accordingly to make sure she has enough to cover it.

Want to see how her budget works? I have recreated a template with example amounts for you all to use. Please use it, but I have made it so you have to copy and paste it make your own version in googledocs or Excel so that everyone can use it without overwriting their own personal information.

Hope this method helps you!



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