Q&A: Basic Budgeting Influence Class

Basic non scary Budgeting

Whew! What a fun, awesome experience it was sharing my heart and budgeting tips to the women Wednesday night. It was my first Influence Network class, and they were so gracious and understanding, especially since I know I jumbled on my words and kept playing with my hair (it’s a nervous habit:). They also asked some great questions. I answered a few of them, but we were short on time in the end so here I am recapping those and answering the ones I didn’t get to. Again, visit this page if you want a copy of the presentation and budgeting spreadsheets. Email me if you need the password. :)

1. If you do your own spreadsheet do you still need a tool like mint.com? what are the benefits?

I use Mint.com to keep track of my little expenses. It pulls up all of your account information, and since we have a few accounts and credit cards, it’s a great place to keep everything together. I also like to assign random purchases, at places like Wal-mart or Target. Did I buy art supplies or groceries on that trip? I use my spreadsheets for big picture stuff. What my budget should be for the next month, how well I did the previous month, how my savings goals are coming, what my net worth looked like over the past year, etc.

2. What are your tips for a college student who would like to save money before graduating?

Start a budget and be very mindful with how you spend your money now. The principles you learn now will only help you when you get a real job and have bigger expenses. If your parents are paying for a portion, then you can absolutely be in a position to save with a part-time job. If they aren’t, it’s hard because you may not be able to live off the money you make working part-time. And that’s when being patient is important. Try to avoid going into student loan debt, but if you do need financial aid, be smart with the way you spend it and look for scholarships at your school or in your program.

3. Do you have multiple savings accounts? Like an emergency one and one for saving up for yearly expenses, etc? How does that work?

I tend to go overboard with savings accounts, but that’s because I have a hard time justifying “fun” expenses. Basically I have 4 different savings accounts in the bank, but a few saving goals in those accounts. I use spreadsheets to distinguish how much I have saved in each account. For example, if I have $700 in my car account, I know that $500 will be for my next car insurance payment. Check out this post for more information about our accounts and saving buckets. 

  1. “Big Goal” Account: Emergency Fund + House Saving Deposit
  2. “Car” Account: Car Insurance (2x year), + Car Repairs & Tax
  3. “Big Trip” Account: Saving for our big trip in the next year or so
  4. “Fun” Account: Christmas/Gifts + Fun (new gadgets, trips, etc.)

4. How did you combine your household with your husband and get on the same page?

Three things: lots of communication, practice, and grace. It’s HARD to get on the same page and share money. One tip that worked for us is having a set amount for each of us to spend however we want. He can buy an electronic if he wants, I can buy a dress and we don’t have to defend it to each other.

5. Is it ok to be contributing to step 4 and 5 while on step 2?

(FYI: Step 2: pay down debt, Step 4: retirement, Step 5: college) Absolutely. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with switching the steps around, so long you feel comfortable and have a plan for tackling your debt. I will say if you have credit card debt, especially with a very high interest rate, you may want to pay that off first before putting a lot of money into bigger savings. That interest really adds up quickly.

6. I’m totally new to tithing…what is it?

Tithing refers to an Old Testament practice of giving 10% of your income. The New Testament does not specifically say to give away 10%, but is very clear on the importance of giving and Jesus gives multiple examples of how it’s not the amount God is looking for, but the heart behind the gift. Tithing is a hard issue to deal with, especially if you are in debt or just barely making it by. In God’s word He says to TEST ME on this and watch Him provide. God does not need our money, but asks us to give because He knows that is what is best for us.The more we give, the more we trust that He will provide, and the more generous we become. And it’s a monthly reminder that this isn’t our money — it all belongs to the Lord. Pray that God would show you what amount you feel comfortable giving — again, there’s not a right or wrong amount, it all goes back to your heart.

7. Do you have any suggestions for places to look for charitable giving outside of a church? I’m in a rough spot with my church and don’t feel right giving money to that church.

Definitely. I don’t think you have to give away your money just towards a church, especially if you don’t feel comfortable with how the money is being used. Start at Charity Navigation, a site that evaluates the efficiency of non-profits. I like to partner with Christian organizations for two reasons: they care for the physical needs (like most other organizations), but they also care for the spiritual needs. I think it’s wonderful to care for someone who is hurting, but if you aren’t sharing with them the hope in Jesus Christ, then I think you are only helping them so far. Also, I know that the church is filled with sinners and I hate the division in churches, but keep in mind the Church is still God’s #1 tool for spread his Word and his Kingdom. I encourage you if you don’t feel comfortable giving at your church, perhaps considering attending elsewhere. But those are just my opinions! There is nothing wrong at all with giving elsewhere. :)

8. Do you have any suggestions for married budgeting — should we combine our checking accounts? Right now we just pay things separately and take turns.

I don’t think there’s a right and wrong way to handle this. My husband and I personally joined everything together, because we thought in the long run it would make us more united, but I know couples that have separate accounts and a joint for handling all of their bills. Talk with you spouse about the future too — when you have children, how will the finances be handled then? If one of you loses your job, how will that affect your budgets? Again, there’s no right or wrong answer. :) Also see #4 above for combining.

9. What percentage of your total budget should each item be? (ie food, everything else, car, rent, etc).

These are just suggestions and may vary with your income:

  • Housing 25-35%
  • Utilities 5-10%
  • Medical/Health 5-10%
  • Food 5-15%
  • Transportation 10-15%
  • Clothing 2-7%
  • Personal 5-10%
  • Recreation 5-10%
  • Saving 5-10%
  • Debts 0% (ideally)
  • Giving/Tithing 10-15%

10. Somewhat related to budgeting…how can you find out your credit score?

Visit annualcreditscore.com for a free report. There are other sites that may offer more comprehensive reports, but this is free connected with the Federal Trade Commission.

11. Do you have any tips for keeping a blog budget?

I actually don’t have a set blog budget or savings account, but it’s apart of my “Ginna Money” (see #4). Anything that I make on this blog from ads are poured back into the blog to cover maintenance fees. If you find yourself spending a lot of money on your blog, you may want to budget a portion per month, or consider coming up with a strategy for monetizing your blog or getting more income. At the end of the day, if you view your blog as a business, it does take money to make money, so consider that as you get started.

12. When you were creating your savings for irregular expenses did you establish your mini emergency fund first, or did you as for irregulars as you saved. for that fund?

When I first started, my goal was to get at least $1,000 in an emergency fund and all of my savings went to that account. I did find I needed some savings for unexpected “fun” things (like Christmas, gifts, trips for weddings, etc.), so I would save the majority towards my emergency but set aside a tiny (I mean TINY) portion aside for when those fun things came along. The truth is, sometimes necessary things come along that you need to pay for that aren’t emergencies, so it’s nice to have a buffer account for those things when you don’t want to dip into your emergency fund.

14. Do you think it is more worth it to get a second job to pay down debt more quickly even if that means taking time away from family?

I think it is something you should pray about. God says if you ask for wisdom, He will give it. If you’re considering a second job, ask God to show you where and open and close doors if that’s His will. Whichever path you feel led, God will bless your sacrifices. Whether you are sacrificing your family time now for what is best later, or sacrificing getting ahead sooner by spending more quality time with your family.

Thanks again ladies! It was such a great experience, and I hope you check out all of the other classes on the Influence Network. :) Feel free to contact me with any questions and check out my 31 Days to Financial Freedom series. Have a great weekend, y’all!

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