Week 2 of Budget 101

PART TWO: MAKE A BUDGET

It’s been a week.  How’s that no-spending thing going? Well, here’s the good news:  You can start spending money again.  Of course the bad news is that after today’s assignment, you might not want to. Hopefully last week’s exercise started you thinking about the reasons WHY you’re spending and also got you to start making a serious distinction between the things you WANT and the things you NEED.

(NOTE: If you are new to “Through The Eyes Of I” or missed out last week, you might want to start at Budget 101 Part 1: STOP SPENDING before starting this week’s assignment!)

Before we go any further, I want to make a quick but important distinction that just because something is a “WANT” instead of a “NEED” doesn’t make it wrong or bad. It’s okay to want a pretty comfortable house with all the amenities, vacations or cute shoes. What’s not okay is to want all those things at the expense of your financial well-being,  your marriage, relationships, your children or anything else that we know is more important than stuff. It’s okay to WANT, but not to GET if you are not at a stable financial stance to do so. ***Don’t go on vacation, then come back and not pay your electric and gas bills. Don’t go out shopping with your friends and then go and tell your family you’re struggling*** If you are not struggling with your spending or find that you have plenty of money leftover for your savings, life & retirement accounts at the end of the month, have no trouble paying all your bills on time, know exactly where all your money is going, have great credit and don’t stress out over unforeseen expenses, then you probably don’t need to be reading this series.  In fact, you probably could write it better than me because you are obviously doing something right. I have multiple bills including a retirement and savings account, life, funeral and health insurances that I pay towards monthly, and I don’t have school or credit debt so I say I am pretty financially stable BUT…… most of us, including I struggle with money or budgeting, at least in some area. Believe me when I tell you there is plenty of room for improvement. This week’s assignment is going to require a little more effort.   The hard truth is that no one can fix your budget for you.  There are no magic solutions or ten-minute fixes that will have permanent results.  Improving your financial outlook will require change, and change is HARD.  Do it anyway.

As I tell my stepson, never neglect to do something just because it is hard, because it is the things you work hardest for that will reward you the most. Don’t let fear stop you either. It can be very scary to open up the Pandora’s box otherwise known as your finances, especially if you’ve been turning a blind eye.  In some ways, ignorance is bliss.  But if you’re still reading up to this point, you probably know, deep down, that this is something you need to do.  Take a deep breath, muster up your courage, and just do it.  You’ll be better for it. And now that the pep talk is over, it is time to get down to business:

HERE IS THIS WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT:

                      CLICK TO DOWNLOAD MY PERSONAL BUDGET WORKSHEET

1. Assess your income and fixed expenses

Print out the nifty budget worksheet above, then grab your bank statements, your bills, your check register, & any other financial information you can think of.  A calculator might come in handy too.  Then grab a glass of wine, sit down (with your spouse if your married), and start crunching the numbers.  Use worksheet number one to list all your sources of income, as well as all those key fixed payments you MUST make each month

Use worksheet #2 to add up all the subtotals of your fixed expense categories, then subtract that total from your income.  The remaining number is what you really have to work on creating a budget for.
In the coming weeks, we will work on finding ways to lower both your fixed AND variable expenses, but we need a place to start from, and this is it.

2.  Create a budget for your variable expenses

Use a pencil to fill in each category with what you are currently paying each month, then add up your subtotals and see how it compares to the number you are shooting for.  Then go back and lower different categories as necessary.  Obviously some things, like your water and electric, won’t be adjustable, but other things can probably be cut significantly.   Include SOMETHING in your savings budget, even if it is just a small amount.  If you have credit card payments, include those in your household expenses as well.

3. Take some time to self-reflect

This step may be the hardest, but it is also the most important.  Complete worksheet #4 and make some concrete decisions and goals based on what you’ve discovered through this budgeting exercise.

Maybe you’ve realized it is time to cut up your credit cards, or, at the very least, put them on ice. (Fill a bowl with water, put your credit cards in, and freeze.  If nothing else, it will slow you down!)  Maybe you’re ready to start packing a lunch instead of going out or to give up cable.  What you spend your money on is a very personal decision that only you can determine for yourself (or with your spouse.)

4. Track your spending

The last page of the PDF packet is an expense tracker.  Print out as many as you need, and use it to keep track of everything you spend.  At the end of each day, and then again at the end of each week, go over your expenses to make sure you are staying on track.  The more frequently you “check in,” the less likely you will be to let your spending get out of control.  Little things add up quickly!

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Whew, what a week!  I know this probably seems like a lot, but please don’t give up on me!  I promise it will be worth it in the end, and your bank account will thank you.  Stay tuned for another riveting installment next Sunday and remember, I want to hear from you!  How did your first week of the challenge go?  What did you learn about yourself or your budget?
Keep in mind, once again, that I am not a financial expert.  You are welcome to use these worksheets to help you–they are what make sense to me–but there are lots of other budgeting books, worksheets, & software available that might work for you better
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Simple, Healthy Baked Avocado and Egg

Simple, Healthy Baked Avocado and Egg

Avocado Baked Eggs | thetwobiteclub.com

Avocado Baked Eggs are made by filling creamy avocados with eggs and then baking and seasoning them in the oven until the yolk is set to your liking. This dish really couldn’t be any easier to pull together.  It’s fresh, simple, smooth and tasty.  Avocado, egg, seasoning, bake… done!

You can decide to add a couple of add-in ingredients, which you totally don’t have to do, but bacon and cheese seems like it would be amazing!

You could go Italian and do tomatoes and basil, go Greek and do feta and oregano.  Or how about tex mex!  Salsa avocado baked eggs, anyone? Either way, these avocado baked eggs are a perfectly decadent, filling, and gorgeous breakfast!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 avocado, or more.
  • 2 eggs per avocado. (I recommend medium or large eggs)
  • Adobo or salt and pepper
  • optional add-ins* (cheese, bacon, tomatoes, green onions, salsa, fresh herbs, etc.)
    • If using bacon, cook and set aside.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Slice your avocado in half lengthwise to the pit.  Twist the two sides in opposite directions and gently pull apart.

  • Remove the pit. Scoop out a little of the avocado from the center to make a little additional space for the egg.

  • Season the avocado with Adobo. If Adobo is unavailable, salt and pepper will do perfectly fine.

FOR EXTRA JAZZ: Sprinkle a small bit of your choice of toppings into the hole for the egg, then gently crack the egg into the avocado.

  • Crack your egg inside the avocado. If you like, place avocado in shallow dish that you will be baking them in ahead of time in case the egg spills out. Extra large eggs tend to always spill over.

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  • Top with the remaining toppings of your choice and season again with Adobo or salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like your yolk set.  Check after 15 minutes and then continue cooking to your liking.

I’m all about a little bit of texture, and, to be honest, when you eat these on their own it’s soft even more due to the avocado and egg.  Spread that avocado and egg on a nice slice of toasted bread and you’ve got the much needed texture.

Avocado Baked Eggs ~ Creamy avocado baked with eggs, salami, and white cheddar cheese.

*The optional add-in toppings I used in the photo above were sliced salami and shredded white sharp cheddar cheese

My favorite way to eat avocado baked eggs is spread on toast.  YUM!

Enjoy,

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Resolve Resolution Dilemmas

“The way I seen it, if you want to change something about yourself, you should just do it rather than wait around for the new year”…..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

2015

Resolve Resolution Dilemmas                                                                          

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Happy New Years!

Being its New Year’s, what’s best but to discuss New Years Resolutions? To be honest, I gave up on resolutions for quite a few years because I realized that I would never follow through on any of them. Instead I liked to use New Years as a time of reflection of what I did accomplish during the year, and celebrate my successes and learn from my failures. I didn’t make any new wishes or goals at midnight, but rather continued on my overall vision of where I wanted to go in life.

The way I seen it, if you want to change something about yourself, you should just do it rather than wait around for the new year.

I had also preferred to make challenges instead of resolutions. I challenged myself to do certain things by a certain date. If I didn’t meet the challenge than I continued on until I did. This way, I have completed more things than if it was a resolution. I also don’t feel like I have let myself down. So, I look at my challenges as to what I was able to accomplish.

Change-Ahead-sign

This year I do not only have challenges, but I will return to setting, but accomplishing my resolutions. I have made a plan and have created suggestions to not only help myself, but those like myself who suffer from breaking their resolutions within only a few weeks.

The key to keeping one’s New Year’s Resolutions involves picking a realistic goal, taking small steps toward that goal and learning to take slip ups in stride.

  • Pick things that you want to change or set one goal that you want to accomplish.
  • Take small steps, or make small changes every day to incorporate that change into your life.
  • Keep track of your progress.
  • Be sure to congratulate yourself for making these small changes.
  • Learn to take setbacks in stride and recommit to your goal.

Set S.M.A.R.T goals
- Focus on creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based (SMART).

Plan ahead – Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think about your resolution. Last minute decisions tend to be based on what is on your mind at that time. Instead, take some time out a few days before and reflect upon what you really want to achieve.

Look ahead – Focus on how much better life will be for you, and those around you, when you achieve your resolution.

Avoid previous resolutions – Deciding to re-visit a past resolution sets you up for frustration and disappointment. Choose something new, or approach an old problem in a new way. For example, instead of trying to lose weight by signing up for a gym, try starting out by working out at home before you become locked into a gym contract that you will later regret if you don’t continue to work out. Also, having a gym bill on your credit report isn’t a good financial or personal look either.

New-year-resolution-funny

Make it personal – Don’t run with the crowd and go with the usual every year resolutions, or those that your family and friends set. Instead think about what you really want out of life, so think about finishing that novel, begin to read even, or learn to play an instrument, rather than just losing weight and getting to the gym.

Be specific – Think through exactly what you are going to do, where you are going to do it, and at what time. Vague plans fail.

Have you ever been told not to tell your wish, or it won’t come true? Well resolutions are not wishes, resolutions are the answer to a problem.

Go public
- Many people keep their New Year’s Resolution to themselves. Unfortunately, this makes it all too easy to simply forget about them. Instead, go public, tell your friends, family and colleagues about your resolution, and ask them to provide you with helpful nudges to assist you in achieving your goal. Either way, do not keep your resolution to yourself.

Be persistent
- New habits take time to learn, and once in a while you will slip up and revert to the old you. People on diets might suddenly give in to temptation, or those trying to exercise more might not find the time to go to the gym for a week. Remember that everyone messes up from time to time. Don’t blame yourself if you falter, or allow the experience to make you give up.

Keep track – Keep track of your accomplishments so far, and keep up with what you can do to help out with being successful of accomplishing your goal(s).

Congratulate yourself – In order to keep yourself motivated, you need to acknowledge what you have done so far and reward yourself for doing a great job.

Before you mark your New Years resolution permanent, watch this:

Regardless of what you may want to change, only you can do it. Don’t wait on someone else to do their part, if they even have one, focus on what you need to do.

Luckily,

We live in a time where technology, has advanced and it is at the tip of our fingers to accomplish, research, and find almost anything. If your goal is to lose weight, there are apps that offer recipes, fitness trackers, calorie counters and even exercise training.

If you want to budget, apps can keep track of your spending habits, creates budgets and charts of transactions, and gives advice to how you can help save and/or budget. You can even sign up for credit reporting and download the app to keep track of your balances and spending.

If you want to start reading more, or even finish a book you never completed, you can download E-books on almost any device.

Regardless of your choice of change, you can most likely find an app to help you be successful. These are my top 5 resolution apps for anyone:

Download novels with the Kindle app

Keep track of your Calorie intake and download My Fitness Pal

Keep track of your spending, credit score and manage your financial budget with the MInt app

Learn a new language with the Rosetta Stone app

Quit smoking, track days, health progression, and money saved from quitting smoking with the Smoke Free app

Samantha Jonas-Rongo