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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Choosing A Tie

 

If you take a step back, the whole idea of neckties seems pretty silly. It’s a piece of cloth that men tie around their necks.  It doesn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason, and men sometimes use this pretense to avoid wearing one.

Men in ancient times, from Rome to China to Egypt, couldn’t resist tying a piece of cloth around their necks. And it was the cravats worn by the Croatian mercenaries of the 30 Years War that really transformed the tie into a popular and widespread accessory. So while we may never be able to know the reason why, it’s indisputable that men have always felt a little manlier with something slung around their throat. There’s just something about neckties that make a man look powerful, assertive, and put together.

There is definitely an art to creating and picking out a proper necktie. A necktie can say a lot about you and convey your personality to others. When picking out a tie, consider the following factors to ensure you make a good purchase.

This guide is based upon personal preference, but may be used as your personal reference. For the larger man, I understand that finding a tie may be a difficult task, but if in need of one, visit the Long Tie Shop.

  •  A Tie Is the First Thing People Notice
    “Nice tie!” That’s always what people say. Their eyes can’t help but go there. So while you do want a tie that looks great all on its own, remember, it shouldn’t be a novelty piece. It’s meant to speak to the rest of your outfit, not stand apart from or clash with it.
  • Length Matters
    Whether you’re six feet four or five feet six, the tip of the tie should hit right at your beltline— not three inches below it, not two inches above it. That is, unless you’re doing the whole short-suit thing. And then, yes, let the tie hang tight above the navel.
  • And So Does Width

As many woman do, I prefer a skinny tie over a wide one. I buy my husband ties that are about two and a quarter to two and three-quarter inches at its widest point. Much wider than that and you start to look like a congressman. This thinner width works both at the office and on the town, syncing up with any modern-cut suit.

  • Keep It Solid
    I love a vibrantly striped repp tie or a boldly patterned club tie. But you’re not going to see much in the way of dizzying paisleys or loud wallpaper prints. I’m not into ties as conversation pieces. A tie should anchor an outfit, reaching for solid or subtly patterned ties. They ground a busy shirt like a plaid or a gingham, and they stand strong against a crisp white or pale pink. They’re fail-safe

  • The Essential Can’t-Go-Wrong Tie Wardrobe
    I’m not saying you shouldn’t own more than five ties, but if you owned only these, you’d be set for every outfit and every occasion.

See photo above: From left to right:

Wool
In the middle of winter, you’ll want a tie to pair with your heavier-weight suits.

Solid Black
For formalwear occasions, for a gray suit with a white shirt, or for a leather or jean jacket. Exceptionally versatile.

Pin-Dot
Like a polka-dot, but much smarter and more subtle.

Club
Any tie with a repeating logo. Once just for the Ivy League set, now for anyone with serious style.

Repp
Still a Capitol Hill staple, but now cut skinny for the cool kids, too.

  • Get All Accu-Weathery and Match Your Tie to the Seasons
    You should think of your tie as a way to fit in with the seasons, like wearing white jeans in the summer. So if you’re sporting a khaki or seersucker suit, pair it with a cotton tie. And come fall, if you’re wearing tweed or flannel, reach for a woolly tie. Tiemakers these days are offering a ton of options on both sides of the seasonal spectrum. These ties provide instant personality without feeling gimmicky.
  • The Cheat Sheet:
    Slim down. If you want a modern look, go for a tie that’s about two and a half inches wide.
  • The tip of your tie should reach exactly to your beltline.

• The four-in-hand is the only tie knot you need to know. It goes with every shirt and suit.

• If patterns and colors confuse you, don’t sweat it. A solid dark tie with a white or light-color shirt is a can’t-miss combo.

• Buy a slim black silk knit tie and wear it with everything you own.

• Match your ties to your suiting fabrics— cotton ties with cotton suits in summer, wool ties with wool suits in winter.

• It’s official: Bow ties are back, whether you want to wear one with your tux or with your cardigan. Buy one and learn to tie it.

How To Pick Out A Tie

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Children and Social Networks

Children and Social Networks

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Social media, the world where the socialites and others alike, along with those non socially active can be whomever they like, meet, greet, chat and even build relationships and/or friendships. It is the nesting ground for friends, family and even predators. As a parent and an educator, this topic is near and dear to my heart. Every week that passes, the social media landscape changes, and keeping up with it can be a nightmare.

If you’re a parent or guardian of any child or teenager, you have to keep up with it. You have to be savvy enough to know what social networks your kids are using. You can’t use the excuse: “I don’t understand this stuff!”, for example: Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Google+, Facebook etc. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s time to start doing some research. You don’t have to be an expert, but you should know how these networks operate. These are the platforms your teenagers, or soon to be teenagers are probably using right now or are interested in doing so.

What if your child asks you if they can get a Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc… account?

Don’t start with NO! You want to start this journey with them knowing you’re there for them. That doesn’t mean you have to say yes either but hear them out first. Start with questions like these:

  1. Why do you want a Facebook account? They’ll probably answer with something like “Because ALL my friends have one”.
  1. Which of your friends are on Facebook and are allowed by their parents? Hopefully they tell you. If not, maybe they’re not ready to be on social media.
  1. Are these the only people you would be friends with on Facebook? This might be a good time to talk about only interacting with people they know in real life.
  1. What do you know about Facebook? They may say something like “You talk to friends and share photos”.
  1. What kind of photos would you be sharing? My guess is they’ll say something like “I don’t know. Me and my friends.” This is a great time to talk about what types of photos are appropriate to share online and why.

social media tips for law firms

After you’ve had this conversation with your child you need to make a decision as to whether they’re ready for social media or not. If you’re on the fence about letting them you can always say “Yes, but under one condition. You have to share your password with me. If you’re being honest about why you want to be on Facebook then you have nothing to hide from me”. You can also tell them you’ll only use the password if you feel like they’re hiding something from you or not using the network responsibly. A written agreement between you and your teen might serve as a reminder of rules that are not to be broken and consequences that will happen if they are. Refer back to it often and review the rules when appropriate.

 finger on keyboard

Here is some advice to get you started on educating yourself and your children on how to use social media safely:

  • Teach your child about respect. Respecting themselves and respecting others. If you stop them from being on Twitter or Facebook, they’ll just move to WhatsApp or Instagram or SnapChat or Google+ or … you get the point. Give them the skills to make good decisions first and foremost.
  • Teach your child that whatever they put online is permanent, this includes Emailing! Private is not always private. The photo or video they post online is not owned by them anymore. It’s owned by Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc…whatever site they posted on, and they can do what they want with it. Not only are certin things crimes, they can be persecuted not only by their peers, but even the law if it is reported. Certain photos even make them easy targets for bullies and predators as well.

SocialMediaPostRemorse

  • Some day your kids may apply to a high school or college, or submit a resume for a job, and I can assure you they will most likely be researched online. An employer, or school may still conduct a background check, but it is very common that a simple Google, and then social network search is part of the process. Ask yourself, what will their impression of my child be when their done? Therefore, teach them to also share their accomplishments like academic awards, sports awards, volunteering, community events, school club activities etc. online when they are involved in them and keep the negative outlook off of the web.
  • Tell your child to never take seductive photos and text them to her “boyfriend”. It’s incredibly risky and foolish because at some point her boyfriend probably won’t be the only person to see those photos. The same is true for girlfriends. They share pictures of ‘hot guys’ around as well. ‘Sexting’ should be a subject discussed before any smartphone is purchased. All this applies to pictures of under-age drinking, doing drugs, or any other illegal activity due to the negative outlook on their personality and being, your parenting, as well as their future job and school inquiries.
  • Explain to your child that communicating verbally is completely different than communicating online. If you happen to say something verbally that you later regret you can fix this over time. If you happen to post something online that you later regret, that content may never disappear and you may never be able to fix it. It is easy to press delete, but let’s be real, the internet does not erase, and everything sticks to the IP address. With technology allowing screen shots and downloads to occur, it may be deleted on your end, but still exist on another. So besides it still available on the IP address, the other party still has the physical evidence available at hand.
  • Trust goes as far as they trust their friends! ‘Private’ or “Protected’ accounts give teens a false sense of security, since those ‘trusted friends’ might post pictures of you, tag you, or leave accounts open and accessible to parents or worse, peers. This is where ‘Don’t say ANYTHING you wouldn’t say out loud’ applies most!

  • Make sure your child knows to come to you with a problem right when it occurs, so you can help fix it. Things can get out of hand quickly online, as pictures, texts and posts can go viral within hours! Whether something is happening on their accounts, or an a friends’ account they need to know to report it to you. Let them know coming to you is their only option and that you will always listen.
  • Be present and aware of what your children are doing online. Don’t give a laptop/iPad/iPod etc and let them go to their room for the night if you don’t plan on keeping an eye on them. Know what apps they have. Know their password to these devices. You have to find a balance between trusting your child and parenting. If you don’t give them some space they’ll never learn to make good decisions (even if that means making a mistake here and there) and if you’re completely oblivious to their online activities you’re making it far too easy for them to potentially make an unrepairable mistake as well as making it difficult for them to open up and share their online world with you. You are their parent/guardian, not their friend…some things just shouldn’t be tolerted not accepted.
  • Review the privacy settings of each app with your child. You’ll probably want to make sure that they’re not sharing their current location due to the potential ifs of bullies and/or predetor.

 Location matters Spatial standards for the Internet of Things

  • Teach your child not to interact/follow people they don’t know in person, tech them that having many friend on social network doesn’t mean that everyone is their friend in real life. Now a days, following a celecrity can even be a risk dur to the scam artist protrying to be them.
  • Start this journey into social media by making your teenager responsible for their hardware as well. Paying for their own smartphone and monthly bill will quickly teach a teen responsibility and accountability. No work, no money, no phone. It’s how the real world works. As a parent, I have a $10 pay-as-you-go phone as a back-up in case my stepson hasn’t paid his bill. He’s too young to work but allowance is given and that is his source of income. If your child is in the same predicament and your child is using your device, I will give you the same advice I have shared with many of my closest friends: “A parent’s device means all time-limits, usage rules, passwords are completely dictation by the parent”.

My favorite tip is lead by example. Practice what you preach if you want them to navigate their digital life safely.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo