Friday, 30 November 2012

Saving the Browns



Friday! Welcome to your Weekly Phil.

Yesterday, Cass caught you up on our Fall schedule that comprises everything up to the end of this month.  We’ve been busy—sometimes too busy—and while in our culture we might where that as a badge of honour, it’s time to stop thinking like that.

So this week, after a rough beginning, we’ve slowed down a bit. We’ve celebrated her mom’s birthday. We’ve watched a friend’s band play at a cool local coffeeshop/used bookstore (how is that not my favourite place on earth?).

And so I don’t have a renovation story to share today. We’ll be working through the weekend, trying to get our bedroom ready, so don’t worry, Grandpa Joe’s House will keep moving forward. But today I want to talk about something different.

I want to talk about money.


You see, I know a Nigerian prince who needs…

Just kidding. This isn’t about soliciting donations.
This is more about "saving the browns," which in 1995 Cleveland meant something entirely different than it does in Canada.
That's right. We're talking about...


How do we get the money to renovate with?

You might be able to DIY your way through the d├ęcor in your home. You might be able to dumpster-dive, repurpose, and turn lead into gold. But want to do a big bathroom renovation (like we hope to do around the holidays)? Want to redo a kitchen? Finish a basement? You’re going to need some cash.

It’s a well-known fact that money doesn’t grow on trees; it’s made from a plastic polymer now, so I guess it’s drilled out of the ground? And although my employer provides for me very generously, living on one salary doesn’t necessarily lend itself to having a lot of disposable income to throw at the house. So to be able to keep renovating, we have to be pretty judicious with our spending.

Fortunately, we’ve been big on budgeting from the beginning. (Alliterate that!) We aren’t exactly Dave Ramsey envelope-users—though if you have money struggles, check him out for sure—but Cass and I have a budget that we use to plan our spending in advance and track how closely we stick to that plan.

As long as we remember that our money is there to serve us, not the other way around, the process of budgeting remains a great source of blessing in our lives.

How do we budget?

It’s a common-sense series of 4 steps.
  1. List all the reasons you get money (your paycheques, your tax return, your birthday card from Great-Aunt Zelda) and you spend money (your rent or mortgage, your car, your groceries, and hopefully NOT your heroin habit). Don’t forget to list the special things you want to do, like renovations, charitable donations, or vacations (anything that ends in “ations,” apparently).
  2. Estimate your costs. The internet is your friend here. Err on the high side; it keeps you from running out of cash halfway through, and makes you feel good for coming in under budget. 
  3. Adjust your budgeted expenses to balance your income and expenses. This was probably the hardest part for us, prioritizing what’s most important, and imagining how we’d do without premium cable, our regular Starbucks runs, or (in my case) realizing I may need to re-sell some of my Blue Bomber tickets. But you can, and with the help of Netflix, a refillable water bottle, and a non-playoff Bomber team that often made me want to cover my eyes, we are. 
  4. Track your actual expenditures to make sure your keeping within your budget. The heartache of step 3 makes this step all the more tolerable. You realize you don’t miss spending money and that a beautiful new bathroom will outlast the pains of the sacrifice


How do you track all those transactions?

Some people use a paper ledger, others use accounting software. We’re somewhere in between. Fortunately, a few accounting and small business courses in university got me well versed in the creation of spreadsheets for just such purposes. When I was first moving out and getting ready to get married, I built a spreadsheet for use to track our spending. I kept refining that spreadsheet and, when our pre-marital counsellor asked us to give him a copy that he might share with others, I was inspired to try to make it accessible to everyone.

So here you are:

Every expenditure gets tracked. This is a good thing. It’s a bit time-consuming, but it’s also instructive: If you’re making too many transaction to want to type them into a computer afterward, you’re probably making too many transactions. The receipts sometimes to pile up, but fortunately the credit cards have online statements that we can check at any time and catch up on any entries we may have missed.

If it’s too complex, we’d be happy to answer your questions in the comments below or by connecting with me via Twitter.

Finally, on a totally different note:

November 30 means the end of Movember. While I didn’t participate formally (please donate to my good friend Ryan’s Movember campaign if you can), I did take the opportunity to test my mo’-growing mettle. Now, in my defense, I needed to be clean-shaven for my brother’s wedding on the 10th, so I only had two-thirds of the typical moustache cultivation period. How did things wind up? Judge for yourself.
Like a combover or mullet, trying to make up for a lack of thick hair by growing it longer doesn't work. This is why the moustache will be gone tomorrow.

If you really need to ask why there’s a terrified look on my face, it’s a healthy fear of having posted a photo on the internet that even the elephant man would consider “unflattering.”

Are you on a budget? How do you track it? Have an underwhelming moustache? Let us know in the comments!

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