Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Setting a Household Budget

The only way to really get your household finances in order is with a spreadsheet. You can set one up yourself if you have basic excel skills, here is a picture of a demo one I made to go with this post, not my actual finances don't worry. Excel also has templates you can use, one is set up specifically for household budgeting.
There are other programs available for keeping track of your spending if you fancy trying something else. Before you spend a load on special software just be aware that you can do a lot on Excel for free (if you have Microsoft Office on your computer - I am assuming you have access to a computer).

This information assumes you are paid monthly, just adjust it if you are paid at a different frequency. Your first task is to go through a couple of bank statements and work out some figures. You need to know the following information:

1. How much money is coming into the household each month?
2. How much do we owe?
3. What monthly expenses do we have (utilities, insurance and school fees, for example)?
4. What annual or quarterly expenses do we have? Add this all up and then divide it into your monthly budget. You can put this figure into your savings account monthly so that it is available when you need it.

Once you have ascertained the above information you should be able to work out how much money you have left to spend on the more variable household expenses such as supermarket shopping, entertainment and gifts. Once you have thoroughly gone through all your different areas of spending try to set a figure for each one. Once you have done this you may discover that you don't actually have the finances to cover your newly set figures. If this is the case, check your regular monthly expenditure and see if you can reduce in any areas. For example, scaling down your cable package or modifying your cell phone plan could save you a significant amount. If you get creative you will hopefully be able to cut everything down to the point where you have  a reasonable budget that you can stick to. Make sure you have put a savings pot into your budget. If you have no debt, this should go straight into your savings account at the end of the month. If you have debts to pay off, try to put the majority of this pot towards your debts. Look at your credit cards or loans and work out how much interest you are are paying, it may be a big chunk of your monthly outgoings if you are significantly in debt. You need to try to fix this as you are wasting money when you can not afford to do so. Look around to see if you have any other options and if you can find a way to pay less interest. I don't want to give you specific advice on this as I am not a financial expert. Do look into it and try to find an expert to help you if you feel you need to.

Try to be flexible for the first few months. If you did not set the gas budget high enough and need to fill up your car and yet you have spent only half of your gift budget, think about transferring money from one budget area to another. You must not go over your total budget because you can not afford to do so but allow the different areas of your budget some movement till they naturally settle at an acceptable and workable amount.
If you have a smart phone, an iPhone or an Android phone for example, check out the available apps for your bank. You can keep a very close eye on what you are spending if you have access to your bank account from your phone. Some banks will let you deposit a check by simply taking a photo of it with your phone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Towel Folding

It may sound terribly simple, but folding your towels in the right way can save a lot of space and looks much nicer.

This tutorial shows you how to fold towels and pillow cases so that your linen closet has room to spare and looks presentable when opened.

I would apologize for the atrocious state of our towels, but lets not dwell on that as this is about organizing on a budget after all. They certainly look less scruffy once they are folded neatly.

Here is a before photo of four towels on a shelf, they have been folded and stacked but they are not looking their best or making the best use of the space.

These towels all need to be re-folded in the following way:

1. Fold in half like this.

2. Then fold in half again bringing the fold at the top down to meet the bottom edges.

3. Once you have this long rectangle, take the left edge and fold it in one third of the way.

4. Now take the right edge and fold to the left making a neat rectangle.

5. Stack the towels with a folded edge facing forwards so you don't see any of the towel edges.

6. Now repeat with your remaining towels.  Ahh, doesn't that feel better.

This also works very well for pillow cases.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Organizing your Photos

Organizing your home includes organizing your home computer and all your photos. If you don't know what to do with all those photos here is a really lovely idea. Get a video montage made of your most special moments. Your baby's first steps, your wedding day, anniversary or graduation. It's a wonderful and moving way to present your precious photos and makes a great gift for family and friends.

This company provides a great service for a competitive price:


Free and affordable containers

If you want to keep your home tidy and organized you need plenty of storage solutions. If everything has a place to go, it is easier to keep your belongings in order. Containers are very important because they help in categorizing your things, keeping them separate from each other and easy to find.

You can spend a lot of money on nice containers. But if you want to save money there are plenty of less expensive alternatives.

Baskets can be surprisingly affordable. You can purchase them starting from just a couple of dollars and they are really versatile. I often receive gifts in baskets at Christmas. I keep the baskets as I know they will come in handy later.

 Other places you can find very affordable containers are stores that sell everything for 99cents or a dollar and that famous Swedish furniture store.
 Click here for other budget tips.

The Kids Drawer - restoring order

 If your child is old enough and willing to help, get them to help you with this project.

A kids drawer that gets regularly rummaged in can quickly become so messy it's almost impossible to find anything.

Here is a girl's pajama and undergarment drawer.

The first step is to take everything out of the drawer. Sort it all into piles by type. Take anything with holes or any odd socks out and place them to the side.

Pick out the items in the very best condition to keep. Put all the excess items to the side. These will go in the trash or fabric recycling. The thrift stores will not want worn out undergarments.

The next step is to count how many pairs of socks, tights, underpants etc. there are and decide, depending on your washing facilities, how many of these items your child realistically needs.

Try to find a couple of boxes around the house to contain some of the harder-to-control items like socks and tights. Shoe boxes, cut down cereal boxes and old gift boxes will all do. These old Ikea foldaway boxes cost very little and are still in use 4 years after purchase.

 Pack the messier items into whatever boxes you have available and assemble all the items you have decided to keep.

 If there is any chance of the odd socks eventually being reunited put them in a separate bag, a plastic sandwich bag is used in the picture, if you have younger children it is safer to use a paper or cloth bag or a small cardboard box. This container will go back in the drawer.

Put everything you are keeping back in the drawer. Ah, isn't that better. It will be easier for your child to keep their things tidy now there is some order. Show them what you have done, if they haven't been helping you, and explain how much easier it will make it for them.

For more photo tutorials click here.