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Planning for 2014

It’s the time of year when we know everyone is starting to think about planning their budget for 2014. To help you plan your irregular spending for 2014, we’ve got a new set up page available at pearbudget.com/set_up_2014. It will allow you to plan for the amounts you’d like to set aside and spend for your irregular categories in 2014.

If you’d like to start 2014 from scratch and not carry any balance from 2013 to 2014 for your irregular categories, just make sure the checkbox in the “Apply 2013 Balance to 2014 Goal?” column is unchecked. Of course, if you want to carry that balance over, make sure the box is checked.

If you have any questions or problems, please let us know. help@pearbudget.com is the best way to contact us.

Happy budgeting!

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Budgeting with Love: Part 4, Budget Weariness

All throughout this month, I’ve been posting budgeting tips for you and your spouse or significant other.  Last week, I included some tips about eliminating debt. This week, I’m talking about ways to decrease budget weariness.

Many couples (and people!) run into budget weariness after being on a budget for a while.  To help alleviate this, I highly recommend having 3 extra categories in your budget. First, I recommend having a grace category. The grace category gives you a built in cushion for when unexpected expenses come up in a month. This is especially helpful for a while when you are first starting to budget and are still adding categories to your budget. The other two categories I recommend are splurge categories—one for each of you. Even if money is tight, there is usually something that you can allot to those categories.  The beauty of these categories is that it allows you to spend money on things your spouse doesn’t necessarily want/need/see a reason to spend money on without having to feel guilty.

Another way to alleviate budget/financial weariness is to try some frugal but fun activities. These will vary widely based on your interests but could include things like walking, reading library books, attending free or inexpensive concerts (such as on a college campus or outdoors), free movie rentals (Redbox is always releasing codes for free movies, or get them from your local library), visiting a museum (our local art museum has free admission), visit your local or state parks, or anything else that you find enjoyable that doesn’t have a high price tag.  Doing something like this can give you a chance to recharge your batteries and lessen the stress you might be feeling.

Photo by: dbgg1979

Photo by: dbgg1979

This brings us to the end of our series on budgeting with love. I hope it has been an encouragement and a help to you! And, if you have any final thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Other posts in the Budgeting with Love series:

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Budgeting with Love: Part 3, Eliminating Debt

Every Thursday during the month of February, I’m posting budgeting tips for you and your spouse or significant other.  Last week, I shared tips for setting and achieving financial goals. This week’s tips are devoted to helping you to get out of debt.

First, let’s talk about the biggest thing that has helped us not fight about money during our marriage: Getting out of consumer debt. We still have a mortgage, but eliminating credit card debt and car loans has made a world of difference. No matter your financial state, working towards being debt-free is definitely a goal worth striving for.

Photo by: Dan Simpson

Photo by: Dan Simpson

But what if you are barely making ends meet? How do you work on eliminating debt or building some savings if you can barely pay your bills each month? Well, there is lots of advice out there on how to reduce your spending in different areas, but what it came down to for us was the reality that we needed to make more money. As a result, after 7 years of marriage, I couldn’t even begin to name the number of side jobs we’ve taken on. At one point, I think I was working at least 6 of them at once. Crystal, of Money Saving Mom, has lots of great ideas for earning income on the side.  I think I’ve personally done at least 5 things on that list, and all of them helped add to our income at various levels. You can try as many ideas as you have the time and energy for, and I promise you can find something that will work for you.

Next week will be our last week of this series, and I’ll share some final tips for alleviating budget weariness. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in the comments with your thoughts on ways to eliminate debt.

Other posts in the Budgeting with Love series:

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Budgeting with Love: Part 2, Setting Goals

During the month of February, I’m sharing budgeting tips for you and your spouse or significant other.  Last week, we focused on a few budgeting-specific tips. This week, I’m including tips about how to set and achieve financial goals.

After you’ve begun budgeting your money, and you have an idea where it is going, it’s time to decide where you want it to go instead. We try to sit down every 6 months and examine where we’d like any extra monthly income to go. (Paying off debt? Retirement? HSA? Christmas budget? Vacation to Cancun?)  Even if we only had just a few dollars left at the end of the month, we made sure that we had goals for where we wanted that money to go.  Setting goals that you are both in agreement with helps you to stick to your budget, because you know that if you do, you’ll be working towards those goals and you’ll reap the benefit (Being debt-free, having money to retire, being able to pay medical expenses, having money to buy Christmas presents, treating yourself to a fabulous vacation, or whatever you’ve chosen).

Another tip is to write down your financial goals. If your lives are like mine, they can often be busy and hectic, and in a month, you may have no idea what the goals you set the last time you talked were. So, I highly recommend taking written notes (digitally or on paper), and keeping them someplace safe where you can come back to them. This applies to long-term and short-term goals both.  And of course, keep records of when you achieved your goals to celebrate!

In many relationships, it makes sense to have one person be the one to pay most of the bills and track the spending for the family. If you’re that person, then you need to make sure you keep the other person in the loop, in order to stick to your monthly budget. We’re pretty informal about this—I tell my husband when we’re out of money in our budget categories, and he stops spending money that month!  But, I know other couples do this in a more formalized way. Kristen over at The Frugal Girl writes her husband a monthly money e-mail, which I think is a great idea. Depending on your situation, a weekly update might be a better choice.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments!  Next week, we’ll be looking at tips for eliminating debt.

Other posts in the Budgeting with Love series:

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Budgeting with Love: Part 1, Budgeting

In honor of February, the month of love, this month on the PearBudget blog we’re going to focus on budgeting tips for you and your spouse or significant other.  Each Thursday, I’ll share a few things that have helped us along on our budgeting journey.

The first and most important financial thing we’ve done is create a budget. Of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a large chance that you’ve already made a budget. No matter how much money you make, if you have no idea where it is going, then you’ll never meet your financial goals. When we first got married, we spent a few months just tracking our spending. When we looked at the results, we were shocked at some of the amounts we had spent. (I think we were single-handedly keeping the restaurants in town in business!)

To help track where your money is going, it is really important to keep close tabs on it. One habit that we implemented early in our marriage was keeping every receipt from every purchase in one central location until we entered it into our budget and reconciled it with any credit card or bank statements.  We just use a little white bin from the dollar store for this purpose, but I love the statue that Charlie and Sarah use. Whether you have a solution as unique as theirs or as cheap as ours doesn’t matter, as long as you keep those receipts in one central place. Otherwise, receipts will float around the house, and you’ll have no idea if they have made it into your budget.

Our Lady of Constant Procrastination

Our Lady of Eternal Procrastination

Another tip to help you stay on budget is to avoid spending large amounts of money without taking time to think it through.  There are all kinds of situations with large amounts of money involved where there is a false sense of urgency.  But, really, the door-to-door salesman selling a Kirby vacuum isn’t the last person on earth selling an expensive vacuum.  And that amazing sale at the local furniture store? Yeah, they’ll have another one. Even with smaller purchases, it’s a really great idea to wait a week or two or even a month or two to make sure you’re spending your money wisely on that item.

I hope these tips are helpful to you, and I’ve got many more to come this month. Next week, we’ll be discussing financial goals. Feel free to ask questions or share tips in the comments!

Other posts in the Budgeting with Love series:

 

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Free Tax Prep Software from the IRS

Hoo, boy. Tax season’s coming up.

tax papers

Photo by Ed Mitchell

Good news, though: If you make under $57,000 a year (that’s after you take out retirement contributions, HSA contributions, and so on), you can get tax prep software (normally $30 – $60) for free, through the IRS! All the info on the program is online: Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes for Free.

Um … have fun?!

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A Sly Way to Enter Dates in PearBudget

Of course you know how to type in the month, date, and year of a receipt, or to choose the correct date by using the drop-down calendar. But did you know that PearBudget has a super-fast shortcut for entering a receipt from the current month?

It’s true! Say it happens to be Monday, January 14th, 2013, and I want to enter a receipt from grocery shopping that I did last Friday, the 11th. All I need to do is enter the number 11 into the date field, and PearBudget will know that I mean 01/11/13.

Did You Know Date Entry Blog Post
Hooray for saving time! Now go enter some receipts!

If that didn’t answer your question, get in touch with us by e-mail, at help@pearbudget.com.

Where Do I Enter Irregular Expenses?

Irregular expenses are entered in just like monthly expenses.

When you’re planning your budget, you’ll tell PearBudget how much you’d like to assign to that category on the Plan page. (Let’s say it’s $50 towards “new lawn mower”).

Over the months, as you set aside more, the amount available in “new lawn mower” will grow. Then, when you’re ready to buy your new lawn mower, you’ll enter it in on the Enter page, just like a regular receipt.

Once you’ve spent money from an irregular category, the Review page will show how much you have remaining in that category (or, if you’ve overspent, it’ll show you that, too).

If that didn’t answer your question, get in touch with us by e-mail, at help@pearbudget.com.

Backing Up … Your Gift Cards

A store gift card from The Gap

Photo by Neff Conner

Maybe you got a store gift card at Christmas, or you returned some merchandise to the store and got a card with store credit.

Cards with store credit are great in lots of ways, but one of their downsides is that — unless you have a good place in your house to store them (or you want to carry them in your wallet all the time) — you can lose them without too much trouble. Many stores let you use the card to shop online, though, so as long as you have the number, you can still use the card.

So if you got a store’s gift card for Christmas, take a digital photo of the back of it, so you have a backup record of the number. (If the card has one of those scratch-off areas to get the PIN / security number, go ahead and scratch that off before you take the photo!)

It’s also not a bad idea to read the fine print on the card and make sure that if it has an “expiration date” that you add a reminder on your calendar so you can use it in time.

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Help Us Make PearBudget Better

The short version: Help us out by filling out a super-short survey.

The slightly-longer version: Over the years, we’ve gotten some great input from users, about how we could make PearBudget better.

We’ve collected lots and lots of suggestions for features that we haven’t been able to develop yet, but that we’re thinking about for 2013. Grouping categories into buckets, setting any category (not just irregulars) to roll over from one month to another, and developing new ways to import your receipts (without you ever having to give us your bank passwords).

But since we’re such a small team, though, we can’t build everything at once. We need some help prioritizing features. Would you help us?

We have a super-short survey, and we’d really love to hear your answers on it. It’s just a few questions, and shouldn’t take you more than a minute or so to fill it out. (We’ve left most of the suggestions off the list. Some are already in the pipeline, others we’ll hopefully get to later on. This list is a very short “ideas we like, but want to gauge our users’ need for” list.)

2013’s going to be a pretty cool year, and we can’t wait to get started on making PearBudget better. Fill out our four-question survey and help us get going!

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