The Whiteboard Budget

The Whiteboard Budget

So I am the last person that should preach to anyone about the benefits of having a budget. Up until a few months ago my budget plan was either, “Oh crap, did I pay that bill? Nope…” or “Oh crap honey, we don’t have enough money for our bills and the occasional (not even often) stuff we want to do. What now?” Really sucks, really stressful, I don’t want to go back. Before the oh crap phase was me putting all our bills into a google sheets doc (I really love using those) and running the budget out several months. Nice in terms of planning, not so nice in terms of I’d have to change everything around every time something came up in our lives and I swear that happened more often than not. Actually it still does… Also my husband really wasn’t a fan of the google sheets aspect as it was too big, it was conceived in my mind so I understood what I was doing but I couldn’t make him understand what I was doing so eventually it was tossed off a cliff.

Now, while he’s still not an overall fan of budgeting, he does check the whiteboard budget semi-regularly and understands the system we have in place. It occurs to me as well that while everyone should have been taught the benefits of budgeting and should have one in place to hopefully save their sanity down the road it is something that either a lot of people were not taught or something that wasn’t practical in all situations. I know there are times where you get caught in a loop that makes a budget just about the furthest thing from your mind, I can’t say I’ve fully been down at that point but I hope someday everyone who is there can make it out.

The Catalyst:

Some background as to why the budget my husband and I are doing suddenly started working so well is a few months ago I was talking with my youngest sister about some of our budgeting woes (like eating out…way too often) and was trying to figure out how to get everything on track. I knew my husband and I needed a budget but I couldn’t figure out a way to get one set up that was easy to maintain and read as well as maintaining the budget going forward (I am a master at starting things and not finishing them or only continuing for a short period of time). Both of us work full time plus both our kids are in football, life never really slows down. Anyway, my sister mentioned something that honestly made setting up a budget really click for my husband and I after we discussed our problems with eating out too often, she told me she’d looked at the numbers before and based on the number of times that she and her husband ate out they could have taken a trip to Scotland around 3 times in 5 years (for context they live on the West coast).

 

3 trips to Scotland…in 5 years…based on how much they eat out.

 

Now I didn’t look at the what trips we could have taken based on how much we’ve eaten out but I’m definitely thinking we could have been ahead on a lot of bills, paid off some old debt, and also likely flown the 4 of us to the West coast for a visit a time or two in the last few years. I did want to preserve some amount of sanity however since I have precious little left so instead I opted to just look at the difference in how much we were bringing home after taxes vs how much our monthly bills came out to be.

At this point the difference between our joint net income and our bills is about $1000. That can either be a lot or a little depending on what you are trying to do but even with that amount we still felt like we were constantly out of money and not able to do anything but pay bills and stay home. While my husband and I are homebodies we do occasionally like to do things outside the house plus the kids of course love going out and doing things but it just hasn’t been possible with how we had been lazy when it came to our budgeting. Let me tell you I didn’t shut up for the nearly 2 hour car ride back from Maryland when I realized that difference, I know it shocked my husband as well but I’m pretty sure he wanted me to shut up about it after a bit. Anyway, based on my sisters suggestion of one way to look at our budget and what was or was not working for our ‘Oh crap’ budget (everything?!) we now have a budget set up that works for both my husband and I. We have it written on a whiteboard so my husband can see it easily and it’s easier to keep track of new information such as car repairs. So far we’ve been maintaining our Whiteboard Budget since the revelation and we’ve managed to get caught up on several bills that we were behind on and have only one or two more to go before everything is caught up and we can start looking at getting ahead or putting money into savings. Let me tell you it’s been a long, hard road from there to here (mainly in our case paved with lots and lots of bad choices) but we are nearly there and the shock that we received was well and truly needed.

The Practicals:

Ok, so on to how to get to a point where you can set up a budget, maintaining it obviously is something you have to do for yourself but hopefully if there’s a big enough mental shock effectively you can get into that mindset without much trouble.

Step 1: Make a list of your net income and frequency of pay. If you live with a spouse or significant other make sure to include both of your net incomes and frequency of pay so you know how often money is coming in and how often you can put money towards bills.

Step 2: Make a list of your current bills, their amounts, and when they are due. Initially my husband and I only included specific bills on our list such as insurance, car payments, rent, etc. On our final budget that is on the whiteboard we do also include a line item for gas/food so we pull that out each time we’re paid and have enough to last us until the next paycheck.

Step 3: This particular step is more for the long term health of your budget so in the initial phase of setting up a budget it can be skipped, it is important to do though at some point so make sure you come back to it!

Decide what you are trying to accomplish overall: are you trying to pay off old debts that are holding you back, are you trying to start an emergency fund so you aren’t caught in a bad place if something happens, or are you trying to save up money to buy a house, go on vacation, start a new life, etc. The possibilities are endless but do need to be considered for the long term aspect of your budget. For example my husband and I would like to have enough free money that we can occasionally choose to go out and do something without putting off bills, we would like to have an emergency fund in case something comes up, we would like to be debt free, and we would like to save up to buy a house. Some of these goals are short term things that we are working towards and some of these goals are long term. The most important goal that we have nearly accomplished was getting our monthly bills back on track so the extra $1000 or so in our budget can be put towards an emergency fund first, going out occasionally, and becoming debt free. I am planning to wait to buy a house until we are debt free from other debts like old credit card bills, hospital bills, etc. That way being debt free initially allows us to grow our credit score and put money aside for a down payment so we are in the best place overall to purchase a house, essentially this is a very long term goal for us at this point.

Step 4: Ensure your list of expenses is lower than your list of income, if it is not there’s a few ways you can correct this such as lowering expenses or raising your income. Below are a few examples of things that can be tried but I will have to explore them further in a later post.

Step 4a. Lowering your expenses has several possible methods and probably more than I am thinking of. Depending on what your expenses include here is a list of a few ways you may be able to save money monthly:

You may be able to switch to a different cell phone plan that costs less, my husband and I switched to a pay as you go type cell phone plan that costs $45 per month including taxes for 2 phone lines. This is for unlimited talk and text, we do not have data on our phones at this point although we do have Wi-Fi at home. I believe the base cell contract we had with Verizon was around $140 or more per month (not including device payments) so this is saving us $100 per month at the moment. Eventualy we do plan to get data on our current phones as well as switch back to a normal cell company but this is allowing us to pay off debts we have currently. We also just got a mailer recently regarding a different internet option that will potentially around $35 per month cheaper for the first year and $15 per month cheaper the second year.

Along the same vein you might be able to find a cheaper insurance company with similar services, trade in your car if you have a newer one with higher monthly payments for an older vehicle with lower monthly payments, or find ways to make your home more efficient so you use and pay for less electricity. Another option, although I do not have direct experience with this side of it, would be to find a roommate if you are renting or rent out a space in your house if you own. Any of the options discussed here do come with their own pros and cons as well as you may not be able to save much money for a drastic reduction in services so the change may not make sense to do, these are things that you would have to gauge for yourself in working on your budget. While some things will save you more money than others it’s still good to look at all of your options to see what will work for you.

Step 4b. Raising your expenses can be more problematic depending on what else is happening and your location. This is something I will have to explore further at a later point as well.

Step 5. Make it so. Now comes the point where you have to take the information you’ve gleaned from answering the previous questions/writing down the information and you have to make it work for your situation. No two situations will be the same but the basic bills that most people pay are going to be relatively similar. Sometimes budgeting does come with some truths that have to be faced in terms of what we need to spend our money on versus what we want to spend our money on.  There are some examples below of how my budget looks on the whiteboard (I use black marker to make mine, I just gussied it up for the post) to hopefully give you a better visual as well:

One thing I want to note is my husband and I do not currently have credit cards, now we’ve had credit cards before and those ended badly for us (this was prior to the budget) including some of the cards and medical bills going into a default type status. We’re going to work on cleaning those up over time however we needed to have the budget set before we could actually tackle those. Working towards being debt free and the best way to tackle that beast will be a post in and of itself. Additionally the Halloween decor and electric can opener are one time additions to the budget, we actually didn’t get Halloween stuff on this paycheck so will have to look at it for our next paycheck.

 

Hopefully this breakdown helps you to understand the need for a budget as well as some things that can be done to get you to a point of being able to set one up. Feel free to ask me questions in the comment section below or email me directly if you don’t feel comfortable asking the question on here. I do not have data on my phones so depending on the day responses may take awhile for me to get to!

Change in Direction

New Life vs Old Life

While I don’t have a lot of people yet reading my posts I just wanted to post a quick note that I am somewhat changing the direction and aim of my blog. I am planning to explore a wider scope than just the art I make occasionally although that will certainly still be a large part of my life and discussions. Life is broader than just one interest and I am planning to explore all that I can.

That being said I am not the best about keeping myself on a schedule so will take this essentially one day at a time. I will not post constantly but will try to be consistent.

Ashley

I’m on Instagram!

Alright, so I finally made (or more technically updated) an Instagram account. It was one that I had set up as a personal account years ago so I just switched it over to my business name. I’d love it if you read the posts and are on Instagram if you would follow me: blackcatstitcheryandcrafts

Now if only I could figure out how to post something from the computer…

E-commerce Platforms

So this is a bit more of a random bit of information that I came across yesterday but I want to share it in the hopes that it will benefit other people attempting to start setting up e-commerce platforms and deciding which will be best overall. I don’t think I’ve seen a better resource out there so far but if anyone knows of one please let me know!

E-Commerce Comparison Chart

There are also some drop down menus towards the bottom of the page that explore each platform in a bit more detail.

Enjoy!

New Design on Merch by Amazon (again)

So apparently I forgot to post a few of the t-shirts I put up on Merch by Amazon so I’m getting around to that now.

Great t-shirt for gardening if you want to try and project beefy and strong vibes to your plants, comes in sizes and shapes to fit most men, women, and children.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DTC7MVX

New Design on Merch by Amazon!

A great gift for the music lover or music teacher in your life, it shows a treble clef and several varieties of notes throughout the rainbow. Let your music lover know how highly you think of them with this treble clef t-shirt!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G2RS3JX

Financial Shock to the System

Alright, my finances suck. I swear my husband and I have been going from one crisis to another, I can definitely say right now that having a budget is a really good idea although I haven’t found one yet that works wholly for both my husband and I as well as isn’t too much of a hassle to maintain. Right now my husband is in the hospital for the 3rd time in the last month with pneumonia, I am really looking forward to a time when we don’t have an emergency every other day it seems like. Although even more than that I am looking forward to a time where we are able to take care of emergencies and unplanned expenses that come up without throwing the rest of our budget completely out of whack. I know this is something that is going to take awhile to get to a point where we are on top of our finances, thankfully I can see little bits of progress here and there which is helping to keep me going as well.

Recently though I was talking with my sister regarding my finances, my husband switched to full time and we didn’t make the necessary adjustments to our thinking prior to the change in income so our budget for those 2 weeks was horrible including borrowing a decent chunk of money from family, friends, and coworkers and ending up with quite a bit in overdraft fees. Incidentally during that time frame we decided to sell my husbands computer since it was rarely used and we couldn’t find the 2nd laptop charger so my charger went with, I was just able to get a new charger from Amazon yesterday so thankfully I can get back onto my computer again.

Anyway, the conversation with my sister ended up with her mentioning that she and her husband could have traveled to Scotland at least 3 times in the last 5 years if they didn’t eat out so much. Because of how much my husband and I tend to eat out (it’s so much simpler than cooking and I don’t have to do any dishes – score!) her comment got me thinking about our own finances. My husband and I had already decided that we were not going to eat out any longer but we’d ‘decided’ that in the past and it didn’t stick so in my mind it was more likely to be an empty promise to ourselves. I looked at something this time though that I hadn’t previously, I added up what basic bills we have for a month such as rent, internet, car insurance, etc and what our approximate net income is per month just to see how much is actually ‘left over’ after the bills portion. I realized that between eating out, creating our own crises by not sticking to a budget, and various other little things we spend money on without thinking about it we were essentially wasting around $1000 per month. Now this is also using a low estimate of our net income essentially so we don’t expect that we can pay more than we actually can.

I actually could not shut up about this for about an hour (or probably more if you ask my husband) or so because I was incredibly shocked at just how much money was being wasted each month. This is money that we could have been putting into an emergency fund just in case something happens to my husband (he doesn’t yet have sick leave or vacation time), our vehicles, paying off old debts that we haven’t been able to touch due to ‘not having any money’, saving for a house…so many things. There are so many opportunities that we have wasted and now we’re trying to get out of that situation but it is going to be a long road, on that end if anyone knows of some good opportunities to make money from home let me know. I’m always open to a new idea or two.

Hopefully in the next month or possibly 2 we will be able to get our budget fully on track (whether it’s a budget that can run out through a longer period to allow us to plan ahead or a month to month budget that my husband prefers or a mixture of both we’ll have to see) and then be able to go forward and actually have a better hand on our finances overall. I wonder if I could create an easily updated spreadsheet that created both the short and long term budget if people would be interested in that as an option? I think I will have to explore that option further.

Alright so the main thing here is have a budget – it will save you a lot of headache in the long run – reach out to someone if you’re not sure where to start to set this up. And definitely look at the “free money” that you have in your budget and think about what things you can do with it in the long run to help prevent yourself from spending the money now, your future self will thank you a million times over. Now to look at that spreadsheet…

Live on Merch by Amazon!

There is now a second design live on Merch by Amazon!

Lily t-shirt 

Bring a little bit of the spring bloom with you wherever you go, this beautiful lily is wonderful as a standalone piece or can be colored to make more of a statement. This lily t-shirt is a great choice for lounging around the house or wearing while out and about. Who knows, maybe a blooming lily will help while working in the garden?