Organizing your Budget

When money is tight (and even when it isn’t), the most important step is tracking where your money is going. You must be diligent that all bills are being paid and you aren’t spending money on wants that has to be used for needs.  Money tracking looks different for everyone. Here are three techniques that can be utilized to help you manage your budget.

 

1. Basic Cash Flow Chart

Cash Flow Template

This is my go-to view for my budget. I can pull it up on my computer and see everything that I need to pay, when I need to pay it, and everything that is coming in.  I can make adjustments easily if an amount changes or I need a new line. The goal is to make the two totals even. Let me explain.

We live on a very tight budget, so you will see only the basics (with the exception of the YMCA) on our expenses. If we had more wiggle room, you would see a line for savings and possibly one for weekly fun money or date night. You can add lines for anything – Daily Coffee, Weekly Lunch Ordering Out, or Kid’s Allowance. If you plan where every penny goes before you earn it, you know that it has a place.  When you decide you want to do something that isn’t in the budget, it makes you look and see where you can take that money from.

For example, suppose I decided I want an Iced Coffee when I am out with a friend. If I get it, I subtract that amount from my grocery budget for the week. That way, my expenses still match my income. Now let’s look at another way you can organize your budget.

 

2. Calender/Monthly Planner

personal_budget_calendar_template

A calendar can be a great visual to know when money is going out and when it is coming in. This can help you plan grocery shopping and know what weeks may be a little tighter because they have more expenses.  If you Google “Calendar Budget Template” you will get a number of free templates that can help you organize.  This one is from EPrint Calendar.

Prefer something tangible? Get a monthly planner and you have a budget map that can go anywhere with you and is readily available even if your computer is turned off. Organizing this way can encourage sitting down and planning once a month so you are prepared for the next month. [BONUS: If you share your finances with someone else, this helps keep you on the same financial page.]

 

3. Cash System

When my husband and I first started budgeting, we took Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University.” One of the biggest things we walked away with was using cash for all in-person purchases. It really helps makes the budget tangible. You take the cash out of your account and organize it based on where it fits in the budget; Gas, Food, Fun Money, Clothes, etc. When you purchase something that is not in the budget, it is used from another area. This provides an immediate cause & effect.

Going back to the iced coffee example from above, I would spend the money directly from my food budget and it would be immediately gone.  That way I don’t forget when buying food and spend more than I have left in the budget. Mr Ramsey sells a fancy envelope system. We went with a 6-pocket expandable coupon folder from Dollar Tree.

<– Only $1!!!! Talk about staying in budget. 🙂

 

 

No matter how you organize, it is important that you do some organization. Budgeting on the fly results in miscalculations and stress. Money doesn’t have to stress you out.  You can be in control. There is no shame in saying “I’m sorry, that just isn’t in the budget this month.”

Do you have any budget organizing techniques? Please share them in the comments!

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I am an Egg Donor, and Proud of It [PART 1]

BudgetingJoy.jpg

This post is different then what I usually write. I decided to write a post about my experience donating eggs because there isn’t very much information out there from a donor point of view, nor is it something you hear about very often. I am proud of my role as an egg donor and would encourage all the women reading this to consider it if you are able.

How does one get into Egg Donation?

It all started because I lost my job last summer. I was freaking out – we were going to Disney in two months and didn’t even know how we would pay our basic bills on Hubby’s inconsistent retail income. A friend suggested I apply to be an egg donor. Fairly easy money, and always needed.

Egg Donation? Me?

I hate shots. I cried, in fact, about every one until well into middle school. Could I handle who-knows-how-many injections…by my own hand?

I decided for my family, I could do anything. So I researched clinics that work with egg donors and chose CNY Fertility. They were not the highest paying, but the most respected and, I felt, most experienced. I applied at the end of June 2013 and passed all of the requirements. I was officially accepted as a donor. Unemployment came through, the summer flew by, Disney was a success, and I got a new job. (So did Hubby, Praise the Lord!)

In November 2013, I got an email; someone chose my profile as her donor. Was I still interested?

Well….was I? I mean, was I in it for more than money?

In the end, my heart won. This woman had looked at a number of profiles and chose me as part of her (potential) future child. How could I say no and put her back into the process? I said yes.

It started with blood tests to be sure I didn’t have any risky genes (I didn’t) and the pill to coordinate my cycle with that of my recipient. Two days after Christmas, the part I had been dreading began. First up, Lupron to suppress ovulation.

I mentally reviewed every step –

  1. Cleanse the vial and injection site, somewhere across my waist below my belly button.
  2. Open a new, sterile needle and insert into vial
  3. Turn upside down and draw liquid to specified volume
  4. Insert needle into skin at a 90 degree angle, dispensing medicine once in

For the first time, I was grateful for my Christmas cookie layer. You know, that extra jolly jiggle in your middle that inspires New Years Resolutions? I barely felt the needle. Success!

After 10 days, the Lupron was reduced and a second medicine was added -Gonal to stimulate the ovaries and increase follicle production. My body didn’t react as easily to the Gonal, so the dose was doubled, then tripled. While it added 4 days to the original timeline, it put it on a Saturday so I didn’t have to worry about a ride or who would care for the kids. Amazing how God turns obstacles into blessings!

Thursday I had one last injection; a super dose of Lupron to trigger ovulation (I have no idea how the same medicine suppresses and triggers the same process). Finally the day of my donation arrived.

The honest truth? I remember little of the donation. I met the head doctor and anesthesiologist, then the next thing I knew it was over. My husband picked me up and I proceeded to sleep most of the day. I do remember the nurse telling me they retrieved 13 eggs, and I felt proud. Donors can release as few as 3, and up to 15 in a cycle.

Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it was a piece of cake. Not all the injections went as smoothly and there were a few side effects. I experienced occasional headaches from the Lupron and was painfully bloated for about a week after the donation. The extended time on the Gonal increased my estrogen levels too high and I had to inject blood thinners to prevent issues as my ovaries returned to normal. Those injections felt like a bee sting every time and bruised.

Was it worth it?

A million times yes. I was able to truly help someone. My husband and I are done having kids, we are blessed with two beautiful ones and I couldn’t imagine my life without them. How could I not give my perfectly good eggs to help someone find the same joy?

Will I donate again?

Again, yes. In fact, I am at the end of a second cycle already. I was contacted a week after the first donation to say I had been chosen again. This time the Gonal was correct from the start and I am following the timeline perfectly. I donate in two days.

I don’t know if I will be chosen again, but I know I will say yes. I may never meet the children who share my genes, never know their names, but I will rejoice at every live birth and know God used me for a miracle.

4/18/14 Update: Round two went smoothly, other than my runaway veins leading to 3 separate nurses attempting to insert the IV. I went in at 8:30am this morning, was prepped and given anesthesia by 9:10, and was woken up at 9:45. This time I was able to donate 19 eggs! 🙂

The rest of my day will be spent snuggling in bed rotating between sleeping, reading, and drinking lots of water.

[Continue to PART 2]