Monthly Archives: April 2015

Tackling the greatest budget buster – Emotions!

The biggest budget busters might be eating out and entertainment, but it’s really our emotions that cause us to overspend. You’re over-stressed, tired, or bored.

Did you bark at the bad driver while commuting to and from work today? Did you find a mess at work to deal with?  Did something make you so mad that you wanted to pop.  It’s not Monday noon yet, and anxiety is rising in your chest, like bile from your stomach you can almost taste it. You can’t wait until the day is over, the dishes are put away, the kids are in bed, and you are chilling on the sofa medicating yourself with  some nonsensical TV program or book snacking. On the way home, it would be easy to stop and medicate life with a shopping trip, or an oasis at the restaurant. Maybe a glass of wine in the evening; “Well that was nice, maybe another, or…?

Truth is you are out of control a times, admit it. If you allow your emotions to control you, you are doing life on your own, and it’s not supposed to work that way. It doesn’t work that way. For this post, I’m assuming you have a budget that you follow each month, and track spending. However, if you are like me, life just gets busy and stressful at times. When you are stressed you tend to be more anxious. The more anxious you are, the more you spend on budget-busters.

What are you anxious about? You think it’s life, external things that make you feel this way, but you are wrong if you think like this. Anxiety is an internally derived emotion, and like many of our emotions, it’s our natural response to errors in our thinking or reacting to the world around us. Busy people face this and so do lazy folks who need something just to do.

Anxiety is caused by the sense of separation from God, and our lack of focusing on him throughout our day. It is when you are carrying your loads not only for today but for tomorrow too, and all on your own shoulders without help. Why are you separated from God? It’s probably because the busier you are, the less time you have for him in your life! If your day is full of activities, commuting, working, and trying to keep your home sane, you push God to the margins. With more extra activities we put on top of normal things like doing laundry, preparing meals, running errands and relaxing during down times, we have less time for God.

Life is so busy, the average church goer only attends worship services about once a month, fewer read and pray regularly. I think this is because we associate spiritual activities with work, which we try to offset by things for one’s self like exercise, fun and relaxation. Who has time for devotions, small group, and worship services every day, or every week? There just isn’t enough time for work and for one’s self, is there? How’s that working for you?

Please see this vicious, terrible cycle. You are stressed, tired and want an escape. You want more time for yourself. You fill up your margin time with things for you, busy fun things that are good, that God intended for us to enjoy. However, they don’t satisfy us enough, and our anxiety is only mildly reduced. In an effort to have space between things that make us anxious, we leave little focused time for God. Without this we are more stressed. The next day, it repeats itself all over; more stress, more time for self, less time for God.

Let’s look in the Good Book for some insight:

  • Don’t be anxious: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6:34 ESV).
  • Each day has new good things from God: “Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!” (Lam. 3:23-24 HCSB).
  • Jesus lightens our load and give us peace and rest: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NLT).
  • Life with Jesus is a life of ‘More’ and not ‘Less:’ “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10 KJV).
  • He invites us to receive from him: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost (Isa 55:1 NIV).
  • Life with Jesus is one of all kinds of material, emotional, and spiritual food: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35 NIV) .
  • We ask and he provides today’s needs: “Give us today our daily bread (Matt. 6:11 NIV)”
  • We have help: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you ” (John 14:16-17).
  • Jesus is with us: Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23).

You were not designed by the creator, to do life without the him. In the garden the Creator, Adam and Eve worked together. It isn’t any different for you and me. We are to begin each day with him in Bible reading and prayer. At the end of the day, our final thoughts should go out to him in prayer too. In between those hours, when we work and go about, we can be mindful of him in even mundane activities, and look for him even in the most stressed of times.

We don’t carry tomorrow’s worries. We ask and get help from God along the way. We think of him, and in our hearts talk to and spend time Jesus and the Holy Spirit throughout or day. He is near to us. This is the abundant life of less stress and anxiety he intends for us. When we have less stress and anxiety, we spend less on things we don’t need. God centered people are more generous towards others and God with money and time, desire to spend less on themselves accumulating more and more unnecessary material possessions. Happy people are those who are enjoying him and the things he intended for us to have. These are the people that are daily walking with Jesus, and spending quiet time with him and worshiping him during weekend services and with friends in Bible studies and small groups.

Doing life, just one day at a time. Each day is a gift all by itself. We only get one at a time. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is unknown. Seek Jesus for what he has in store for you for today. For now, that’s enough.

How to Budget Using Mint.com: Spend, Click, Track

mintHow to Use Mint To Create and Follow a Budget

Preface: There are four ways design a budget and to track spending: 1. paper  2. Excel  3. YNAB and 4. Mint.com. You can use paper and pencil along with cash and envelopes. The Dave Ramsey way, you could say, and that works great. Often that’s the best way to start out. We did it by hand for several years, but now we use an app.  Free apps like Mint, or one you purchase like YouNeedaBudget.com, also known as YNAB, are easy ways to do it. Many people ask me should if they should use Mint for free or YNAB for a one-time fee? I think its personal preference.  Mint is free  but they sell your information to Big Data firms and for marketing you things. Like my son says, if it’s free, it is you that are being sold. YNAB on the other hand is private. Both offer downloads from your financial institution and have mobile applications.  Dave Ramsey’s organization has a new app, called Every Dollar. It’s advertised as free, but the only free version is free-standing, meaning without data downloads from your bank. If you want that, you’ll pay $99 each year (YNAB is $60 once). In this article I will describe how to use Mint. In later articles I’ll review YNAB and Every Dollar.

There are 5 things to do get up and running to use Mint.com:

  1. Design your budget first, but do not worry about the Mint.com app yet, that’s down the road
  2. After your budget is designed, then sign up for Mint.com
  3. Then familiarize yourself with the app on a laptop or desktop computer
  4. Customize your Mint.com account
  5. Use the app to track spending

The following are step-by-step instructions on to easily do this, along with a spreadsheet for first designing your budget:

Step 1: Cash Flow Plan – Design a Budget

Designing a budget before signing up to Mint is the first thing you need to do. If you sign up for Mint, like over 50% of people, you will not use it. That is because you didn’t first design a balanced budget. This means you have to account for almost every dollar and expense in an organized manner first. After you have done this then you are ready to create and modify a new account at Mint. To make this as easy as possible I’ve created an Excel spread sheet for you, it mirrors exactly the flow of Mint. I call it the Mint Designer, so download it, and design your budget before doing anything else. Then follow these next steps to do two things, first it will familiarize yourself how Mint is set up, and secondly to learn how to set yours up.

Step 2: Sign up for Mint (see image below)

  1. Go to Mint.com and register for a new account
  2. Use a desk top/laptop computer since a phone screen may be too small 
  3. If you have an old Mint account, that you have not used for quite some time, delete it and then in 24 – 48 hours create a new one
  4. Add all bank accounts that you use for spending to the app
  5. If you’re married and your doing this together and share accounts, add your spouse’s email to the settings, this way, both will be notified when spending goes over budget

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Step 3: Familiarize yourself with Mint’s Budget section

  1. Select ‘Budget’ at the top of the page (#1)
  2. Find the ‘Create a Budget’, but don’t click it yet (#2)
  3. Find Spending section (#3)
  4. Find and click the Everything else section, this is where Mint puts expenses that don’t have a ‘Budget’ yet (#4)

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Step 4: Familiarize yourself with Spending section of Mint

  1. Each section has a Category and Sub-category:  in this example ‘Auto & Transport’ is the main category, and ‘Gas & Fuel’ is the subcategory
  2. When you highlight a category, you will now see a little magnifying glass (#1) and a green ‘EDIT DETAILS’ (#2)

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Step 5: Familiarize yourself with the Transactions section (magnifying glass) within a category

  1. This takes you to a list of all transactions (below) in a month for that category and subcategory (#1 arrow above), this is where you change/move an expense to the correct category
  2. You can even split between categories (Y)

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Step 6: Familiarize yourself with ‘Edit Details’ of listed budget items

  1. Click the little green ‘Edit Details’ (#1)
  2. Enter the dollar amount for this expense number (#2)
  3. If the expenses is every month, check the first ‘Every Month’ (#3)
  4. If you want the expense to be cumulative, meaning some months you may have $0 expense, this will be an average (#4)
  5. If the expense is something like quarterly, select ‘Every few Months’ (#5)
  6. If you want to Delete the expense (#6), which starting out you might do for all categories if you want to have a clean page to start from scratch

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Step 7: Familiarize yourself with the “Create a Budget’ section

  1. Select ‘Create a Budget’ (#1)
  2. Choose a Category with the up/down next to the blank (#2)
  3. A list of Categories and Sub-categories will come up, select one (#3)
  4. Complete the amount of the budget and click Save (#4)

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Step 8: Familiarize yourself with the “Add or Edit  (sub) Categories’

  1. Select ’Create a Budget’ (#1)
  2. ‘Choose a Category’ with the up/down next to the blank (#2)
  3. A list of Categories and Sub-categories will come up, select the Main Category that you want the new Sub-Category to appear
  4. List of Sub-Categories appears already, if you don’t see one you want like a Motorcycle Payment, go to next step
  5. Click ‘Add/Edit Categories’ (#3), then ‘Manage your Categories’ comes up (#4), click ‘Add a Category’ (#5) , type ‘Motorcycle Payment’ or something from your budget (#6), click ‘Save it’. The list of your custom categories will appear under ‘Your Categories’

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Step 9: Change the current budget: you are now familiar with the Mint’s set up, you will now input your new budget you will be following

  1. Gather your Mint designer budget spread sheet
  2. Login to Mint.com
  3. Compare your Mint designer budget to the budget items Mint already created for you, change the monthly amount to the amount in your new budget, by clicking the green ‘Edit Details’ (#1)
  4. If the expense is the same each month, you are done, click ‘Save’
  5. If the expense is every now and then see #3 and #4, if it is something like quarterly, see #5

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Step 10: Add New Budget Items

  1. Click (#1) ‘Create a Budget’ the ‘Create a Budget’ screen will come up, select from the list of Categories AND Sub-categories that will come up (#2), select the one (#2) that you have in your Mint designer
  2. Enter the correct dollar amount (#3)
  3. If you don’t see the Subcategory that you want, go to the next page step

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Step 11: Create New Custom Sub-categories

  1. Select create a budget (#1)
  2. Choose a Category with the up/down (#2) that you want the Subcategory to be in
  3. Click the little green, ‘Add/Edit Categories (#3)
  4. Click ‘Add a category’ (#5) blue box appears, type ‘Motorcycle Payment’ or something from your budget (#6), click ‘Save it,’ the list of your custom categories will appear under ‘Your Categories’
  5. Enter the dollar amount for that new budget item (#7)

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Step 12: Clean Up unassigned expenses

  1. Go the bottom of your ‘Budget’
  2. Click ‘Everything Else’ (#1)
  3. This is a list of every expense that your bank has imported, but doesn’t have a Category assigned to this expense, this is because Mint didn’t intuitively know where to put it  –or–  you didn’t include this expense in your original Mint designer or ‘Create a Budget’
  4. Click one of the categories, such as ‘Fees & Charges’
  5. Assign that expense to the appropriate ‘Budget’ category IF you already have a budget for that item, if you don’t go back to ‘Create a Budget’ and create one. Then go back to everything else and choose the Category for the new budget amount. If it was cash (ATM) choose the correct category for it.

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Summary: Key to any financial plan, whether just starting out, or retiring tomorrow is to have a cash flow plan and a way to track spending so that you stay within your spending limits. Your action plan is to design a budget and track spending. Next, if you don’t have a financial plan to help you track everything else, sign up for eFinPLAN.com, it’s an easy to use, comprehensive approach to reaching your financial goals.