Believe it or not, I love to talk budgeting, and when Wendy, er, challenged me to create this Summer Savings Challenge, I was all in! Of course you can use this challenge at and time of the year. Jump in!
My husband and I created a budget before we were married, mostly based on numbers that were guesses, since we weren’t living together at that point. Prior to that I had never had a written budget, although I was only 25 at the time, recently out of graduate school, and only an adult by the loosest definition. I would venture to guess that plenty of people here haven’t ever written out their budget either. That’s okay! Although the numbers in our budget 14 years ago were pretend, based on educated guesses since we didn’t live together yet, that budget is still the basis of how we live today.
We updated this post in 2021.
First, let me say that nothing I say here should be construed as legal or financial advice. I don’t have a degree in finance. (My major was sociology, which I found fascinating, but a major that prepares you for a career it is not.) I am simply a consumer who has figured out what works for me and my family. I’m a person who didn’t grow up talking about money. I had to learn the hard way that not paying your bills has real consequences, that credit card interest adds up, and that saving doesn’t feel fun in the moment, but your definition of fun changes when you can pay your property taxes without going into debt.
For the next several weeks we’re going to dive into your budget. We’re going to make it easy, present you with tips and tools to demystify the process and we’re going to make it fun.
Summer Savings Challenge Goals:
- Help you to create a budget
- Help you to set a savings goal (and give you tools, tips and encouragement to meet it!)
- Chat about banks vs. credit unions (spoiler: this gal loves credit unions and I’ll make sure you know why)
- Talk about ways to make saving fun and rewarding
- To help you “find” money that you could be putting toward your savings
- To take the fear out of budgeting
What’s not going to happen in this challenge:
- Shame you. This is a shame-free space. Our goal is to move you forward from wherever you currently are in your budgeting process. If that place is Square One, great. Welcome!
- Tell you that there is one and only one right way to do things. We’ll share what works for us, we’ll give you options and ideas, and we’ll cheer you on when you make decisions that work for you.
All of this brings us to our first two steps.
Savings Challenge Step One: Know where your money is going.
- Log into all of your accounts. Download or print out the last 6-12 months of transactions (if you’re not already tracking in an app, spreadsheet, or on paper. This includes both banking, credit card, and e-currency apps like Venmo.
- Start to categorize your spending. See step two for more information on how to break down your categories.
Challenge Step Two: Create a budget.
Wait! Don’t run away! Once you know where your money is going, this will be easier. For now, just focus on identifying money in and money out. How much do you make, how much do you spend, and where do you spend it. You don’t need to identify areas that need changing yet.
Use our Budget Template
- One option is to use our free Budget Template for the basics of your budget. Using the information you have in your hands from step one, fill in all applicable columns
- Savings Calculator – When we were just getting started budgeting, we made sure to break down all bills that didn’t get paid monthly into monthly amounts. We then transferred that amount into a savings account monthly, as if we were paying the bill. If you do this, when your insurance premiums are due, the money is waiting for you!
Use a Budgeting App
- Other options for creating your budget include using a different spreadsheet of your choice, a budgeting notebook, or a budgeting app like You Need a Budget or Every Dollar. Our research tells us that there is a budgeting style for every personality.
- Don’t get mired in decision fatigue! Just pick an option to get started. You can change course down the road, but you have to start first.
Join us LIVE on Facebook today at 8:30am as we dig deeper into the process and answer your questions in real time!