Budgeting Fun

July 12th, 2007  |  Published in Finances, Frugal Living

Welcome to Above Yourself, a blog about self-improvement and faith. If you're new here, you may want to subscribe in a reader or subscribe by email. Many of the topics here are related to my faith in Jesus Christ and Mormonism, but all are welcome to share their own beliefs. Thanks for visiting!

Part of our family budget that really “sells” it in our minds is our personal fun money. When my wife and I were about to get married, her bishop gave us some advice that we always keep a budget, and to set aside part of that monthly money for our own personal money that we wouldn’t have to account to our spouse for. We decided to call it our “fun money” because we’re supposed to use it for things that are fun rather than on day-to-day things. For some reason my wife likes to use this money to save up for “fun furniture”, and I’ve finally learned to accept that because that’s fun for her. In the meantime, I spend most of mine on video games and computer stuff, and it really helps me to budget my fun expenses. Without it, our family budget seems more like a chore, but when we make a game out of saving for our fun items, it becomes much more enjoyable.

Better late than never

July 10th, 2007  |  Published in Finances, Frugal Living

Our family recently experienced a setback in our take-home pay. Although this may sound like a big concern, we’re actually pretty excited because it means we’re investing in our long term future.

My employer has promised to match our contributions to our 401(k), but even after working here a year I never got around to doing it. I always figured that since I’m still in school that it didn’t make any sense to put money into a retirement account. I read over personal finance articles that prompted me to take advantage of this free money, and I even heard the same thing from my parents and in-laws. Why didn’t we do it earlier? Laziness, pride, fear: take your pick. I guess I figured I really needed this money now, but when I look at our family budget, it would be easy to make a few sacrifices here and there in order for us to invest in a retirement account. I told the greedy part of me that this meant I would be doubling that money since it was matched by my employer. When I finally made the change it took less than ten minutes to do, but I can never get back the free money I could have had by doing it earlier.

What little things can you sacrifice to make big changes in your future? Do you have a family budget? That’s a sacrifice of just a few 15-minute periods a week to keep it updated after you create it. Do you have any food storage for emergencies? Buying an extra can or two of your most-used food items each time you’re at the store can help you start your food storage by spreading out the cost.

Teaching your Family Members about Personal Finance

May 25th, 2007  |  Published in Finances, Mormonism

Talking to your family members about finances can be intimidating. Different family members have different backgrounds and preferences when it comes to finances, and we all worry about coming off a little opinionated, especially if their views are very different from ours. Here are a few tips to remember when discussing personal finances with others.

Share Personal Experiences

If you want to share something that you know, you can bear witness or testimony of that thing. Just like it can be difficult to share your testimony with others, it can also be difficult to share your experiences with personal finances. Don’t be afraid that your personal finances will make you look different from others. In a world where everyone tries to keep up with the Joneses, you can show them that we’re not all Joneses. Sharing personal experiences is something I’ve set a personal goal to do, and that’s a major motivation I have for writing here.

Act Your Wage

This is a phrase stolen from personal finance extraordinaire Dave Ramsey. If you don’t live up to the principles you learn about personal finance or even about being a good, upstanding person, you negate any influence your testimony may have. If you try to advocate staying out of debt but you buy things you just can’t afford, your testimony means nothing.

Be Sensitive to Others

Don’t offend others with strong words, but use them to stir others to action. If you wish to use strong words, follow the teachings of Doctrine and Covenants 121:43, “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy”.

Among all these ideas, you can also help them get started by giving them a copy of the pamphlet “One for the Money: Guide to Family Finance” from Provident Living.

This post is the final step in the series Family Finance Overview. Be sure to read the other posts in this series.

Building a Reserve

May 24th, 2007  |  Published in Finances, Mormonism

After you’ve built a budget and a plan for sticking to it, you’re ready to build up a reserve of money to be used as an emergency fund. It’s alright to start out small, but be sure to add back what you take out, and only use it in emergencies (such as a medical need, temporary unemployment, etc.). This principle echoes overall preparedness, and is an important part of a financial plan. Without an emergency fund, it can be very hard to get out of debt when we’re trying to pay off all the money we owe instead of saving a bit. Start out small, such as one or two thousand dollars, and build it up to about three months expenses that you can keep in savings accounts where you can have quick access to the money should a need arise.

Speaking about building a reserve, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“Set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts” (”To the Boys and to the Men,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 54).

Building a Reserve is the fourth step in the Family Finances series on Above Yourself.

Choosing the Right Budgeting Tools

May 23rd, 2007  |  Published in Finances

When I discussed budgeting in a previous post, I mentioned that it’s important to use what works for you with budgeting. Zen Habits recently posted a list of alternatives to Quicken and MS Money, and the best part is that all of them are free. If you’re having a hard time finding something that works for you, give a few of these a try until you find something you like, but be sure that it’s something that you’ll use consistently.