Browsing Category: Budgets and Bills

Best Budget App to Make The Most of Every Dollar

Looking for a solution that can guide you through getting out of debt, saving more, and taking care of retirement? EveryDollar could be the perfect budget app for you!

There’s a free version you can check out or you can try their plus version for two weeks.

What’s Every Dollar About?

EveryDollar is a budgeting and financial goal tracking desktop tool and app from personal finance guru Dave Ramsey and author of best-selling book The Total Money Makeover.

everydollar budget app
Credit: Ramsey Solutions

In fact, EveryDollar is designed around the baby steps, making it easy for you to get started with a starter emergency fund, pay off your debts, and grow your net worth.

If you haven’t read the book (you really should!), there’s a tab on the left side of your budget to give you the basics of the plan.

With Every Dollar, you give every dollar a purpose at the start.This system helps you account for every dollar each pay period.

Once the income and expenses are cleared, you have an accurate idea of where your budgets needs an adjustment – either with improving expense estimates or plugging a money leak.

Should I Get the Paid or Free Version?

While the free tool works fine for me, you may want to unlock more. You can upgrade your account so your checking and savings synch up with EveryDollar, helping you stick to your goals easier.

You can try EveryDollar Plus out for 15 days to see if it is a good fit for you. It’s only $99/year.

Resources to Building Better Budgets

I know that starting (or restarting) a budget can seem overwhelming. Here are some wonderful sites, books, and apps to help you build a budget that fits your needs:

Easy Way to Add Up Monthly Expenses in Your Spreadsheets

Why Have a Household Budget Spreadsheet?

One of my wife’s challenges as “manager of the household budget and head of the household purchasing committee” is to work out which purchases were justified and which should be cut down on (or argued over, whatever).

While I am a total computer addict, my wife feels she has better things to do than to spend hours in a spreadsheet working these things out. Also, if I leave it to her, she is going to say all her expenses were completely justified (how many shoes does one woman need?), and mine are all up for discussion (I am not a fast-food addict, honest!).

Here is a geeky Microsoft Excel trick that makes adding up your unnecessary expenses quick and easy. Rather than label or categorize your expenses, we can quickly run through our spreadsheet marking these expenses visually, giving both a nice clue at a glance how far off the rails our spending has gone, but also allowing us to add up these expenses with a couple of key presses!

Our Magic Color-Coded Household Budget Spreadsheet

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What we decided to do is allocate a color for shoe purchases, and another color for junk food. Then we assign a macro to a keyboard combination which works out the totals to see who wins spent over budget.

Here is how an example spreadsheet might look (no, I am not showing my actual expenses, ha):

Yes, yes, I know, my need for burgers ever-so slightly outweighs my wife’s shoe purchases. Perhaps I need to hack in a fail safe …

Building the Cell Color Counting Macro

Anyway, the magic is in the macro, and here it is:

First we create a little subroutine that takes our range of data and finds first the yellow (junk food), and then the red (shoes). We could make the whole thing more generic by making the range flexible but for sake of discussion it is fixed at B4:H13 right now. If you wanted more colours, just duplicate one of the lines and change the target range (eg. To K6), and the colour value (eg. To vbGreen).

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Sub UpdateSalesTotals()
Range("K4").Value = SumInColor(Range("B4:H13"), vbYellow)
Range("K5").Value = SumInColor(Range("B4:H13"), vbRed)
End Sub

Next is where the real work is done, the SumInColor custom function.

Function SumInColor(rngNumbers As Range, lngColor As Long) As Currency
Dim clSpecificCell As Range
Dim lngTotal As Currency
lngTotal = 0

For Each clSpecificCell In rngNumbers
If clSpecificCell.Interior.Color = lngColor Then lngTotal = lngTotal + clSpecificCell.Value
Next

SumInColor = lngTotal
End Function

First we define our variables, then we perform a loop that goes through the supplied range (rngNumbers) looking for the supplied color (lngColor). If it finds the specified color then it adds the found figure to the running total.Unfortunately, Excel does not seem to have any way we can run this macro automatically when we color a cell, so instead we must use the Options button to set a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Shift+C.

Magic isn’t it?

Can you think of any other ways to use or improve on this idea? Please share in the comments …

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Yoav Ezer co-authors Codswallop, a technology and productivity blog. He is also the CEO of a software company that produces PDF to XLS conversion software.

Photo Credit: RambergMediaImages

Meal Plan to Save Money on Your Food and Groceries

meal planning grocery savings

Sometimes what’s convenient isn’t what’s cheap, so plan ahead. Unless you’re sticking to a dollar menu, it’s hard to spend less $10 on quality, filling meals when you’re looking for something quick and easy to quell your appetite. So don’t wait until your stomach is cramping to think about the next meal. Plan ahead!

Steals and Deals at Grocery Stores

Check out what sales are going on at the grocery stores in you area. Typically, grocery stores mail promotional newspapers to residences to highlight current sales, so scan over these to get an idea of which recipes may be bargains for the week.

When flipping through these papers, reading the rest of your mail and walking down the grocery store aisles, also be on the lookout for coupons because they are essentially free money.

Bulk Buying 

Buying mass quantities of products can save you a lot of money, but be careful. There’s an art to it and it will cost you if you don’t keep a few things in mind.

  • Is it perishable? Toilet paper and soap are no problem, but food can be a different story. If you can use it eventually then stock up, but be wary of anything that will expire.
  • Can you freeze it? Just because it’s perishable doesn’t mean you’ll lose money buying in bulk. Meat can be a great investment as long as you have the space in your freezer.
  • Will you use it? Some bulk deals sound so good that you can’t say no, but take a moment to consider whether or not you will ever finish eating that 4 pound bag of Cheezy Poofs or if you know enough recipes to spice up that 30 pound bag of potatoes.

Seasonal Savings

Seasonal savings go beyond deals on Halloween candies in November and Christmas wreaths in January. Fruits and vegetables go in and out of season and are priced accordingly.

So wait for spring to make that delicious artichoke dip and consider whipping up a sweet potato casserole in winter rather than summer. Cutting down on small costs like this will add up in a big way.

Thoughts on Saving Money on Your Groceries

Just remember that convenience costs, so plan ahead. If you follow these three rules, you’ll soon be counting all the money you’re saving. You may also find that planning ahead takes the stress out of feeding yourself and the family.

Melissa is a guest author from Food on the Table and expert on meal planning strategies that help save money.  

Photo Credits: jeffm211 and Celine.Q

Deceptive Promotions from Phone, TV, and Internet Companies

television serviceLast night one of our local news channels, WRAL, had a consumer segment about viewers who signed up for phone, internet, and television at one price but got another one. It’s one of those segments where the station goes ahead and fights to help viewers with problems.

This particular one had caught my attention because my mom was having  problems with her TV and internet service. Both her new and older providers were trying to charge her ridiculous fees. Long story, short – she was able to get them to honor the agreement though not without headaches.

Based on what I saw on the WRAL newcast, it seems like my mom is not alone when it comes to fighting companies to get the service they signed up for. During the 5 on Your Side segment, that the over 2,700 complaints were filed with the North Carolina Attorney General’s office involving Time Warner, Att&T, and DirecTV, and Dish Network.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself With Promo Switches

One particularly frustrated customer was Betty Mazor who thought she was getting DirecTV for $72.99 plus taxes and instead received bills that ranged from $93 -$184. With WRAL’s help, she got out of her contract without having to pay an early termination fee. Still, it can be incredibly annoying to have to schedule time out of your schedule to get the service you want. Thankfully there are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself.

The piece highlighted some tips that you can use to help you get the deal you want. My mom had done these and so far she has been successful with getting her deals honored.

  • Keep a record of your conversation. When you sign-up for the offer, make sure you write down the day, time, and person you spoke with about the promotion. Get details about the exact price in case you have to dispute it.
  • If possible, have them email you the details. This is a wonderful way to make sure you get the deal you want, but unfortunately some companies refuse to do this.
  • Don’t be afraid to fight back. As soon as you receive your bill, call the company up. Talk to a manager or supervisor, record their names. Use resources like your local news stations and your state’s Atorney General if you have to. Companies who bait and switch should be held accountable.

Is there a guarantee that you’ll get what you signed up for? No, but you can increase your chances if you follow the tips above.

Thoughts on Handling Problems with Bills

If you’re frustrated by the run around, consider looking at alternatives, such as switching to a low cost smart phone plan that can be both your land and mobile line, building your own entertainment package, and getting a better deal on your internet services.

What about you – have you had problems with your television, phone, or internet? How did you get it fixed?

Photo Credit:  espensorvik