Finance System that Makes “Cents”

Creating a Finance System for Your Home

The key to staying in control of your finances in your home is a plan.  The plan doesn’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming – in fact, the simpler, the better.  The first thing to do is determine how much discretionary funding you have each month (to do this, use the printable below).  From here, you can determine how much you would like to spend on “extras” and how much you want to save.

One method that works for some people is to take out cash for groceries, gas, and miscellaneous expenses.  It’s important to only take out the amount that you have budgeted for that expense.  You can keep this in one envelope, or even designate an envelope for each expense.  This will ensure that you don’t go over budget.

It’s also important to keep track of how much you are spending each month.  You can do this with a notepad that you keep with you, the Notes function on your phone, or a budget app such as Mint or Toshl (both free!).  Do what is easiest for you!

To eliminate extra spending, you can also make a budget for your unneeded expenses (I like to call them luxury expenses – even if they aren’t luxurious).  A good way to determine how much you should budget for these is to look at how much you spend, on average, for this expense each month.  Then determine if you’d like to continue spending this amount, or if you’d like to spend less.  You can then take out the amount you have budgeted for the expense in cash, put it in an envelope, and write the expense type on the envelope (such as “coffee money”).  When the money in the envelope is gone, you can’t spend money on that luxury until the next month.

Making Payments on Time

One of the best things you can do to simplify your finances is to make your payments on time.  This helps your credit, prevents late fees, and alleviates stress.  One way to make sure you make payments on time is to sign up for auto bill pay for all your bills so that the money is automatically deducted on the due date.  You can also write it on your calendar, set reminders on your phone, or do whatever works best for you.

Examine Your Finances

When you sit down and weigh your income versus your expenses, you might see that you have more expendable income than you think.  This is also a good way to find areas in which you can save.  You may not realize that you’re spending $25 a week on Starbucks or $250 a month on gas.  Financial planning should also include your long-term financial plans such as college savings and retirement.  Even if you can only save minimally for the future, this is much better than nothing.  The length of your investments is more important than how much you contribute (read about this, and other important financial planning tips in this article).

Little Ways to Save Money

  • If you own property, look into refinancing your house – this can save a significant amount of money on your mortgage each month
  • Create a budget (see the printable at the end of this post) and stick to it
  • Minimize how often you drive.  If you can, use public transportation or carpool.  Gas is expensive and adds up very quickly!
  • If your finances get really tight, put yourself on a “spending freeze” and only spend money on necessities
  • One place in which families tend to spend too much money is food – watch how often you’re going out to eat, and look for ways to cut down on groceries

Little Ways to Earn Money

  • Sign up to be notified of local marketing or research studies in which you can participate.  Through a quick Google search, you’ll find many marketing companies that pay individuals to take part in market research.  Inquire at nearby colleges and universities to participate in research studies.
  • Do freelance work – you can find opportunities on, or you can provide a service (such as preparing taxes or data entry) for people you know.
  • Have a garage sale, sell items on Craigslist or eBay, or bring your slightly used clothes and household items to a consignment store

Family Finance 101

  • Begin saving for retirement as early as possible (insert graph)
  • Meet with a financial consultant
  • Diversify stocks and bonds


Here is a very basic finance sheet – the expenses are separated by type.

In Excel: Finance Spreadsheet

In PDF: Finances