In addition to organizing my pantry, I have also been inspired to organize all of our financial information before the end of the year. It is so easy to put off many of these changes until later, but I've found that if you wait for later, it never gets done. Take care of some of these things now!
I am so excited to let you know that I think we have finally found a budgeting and expense tracking system that works for us. If finding a pantry system that works for you is important, finding a budgeting and tracking system is even more important. Everyone operates differently with money and needs their own way of organizing systems related to money. We tried several approaches before we've finally settled on one that works for us right now. That has really helped me prepare for the end of the year.
I budget and track our expenses on a monthly and annually basis using an Excel spreadsheet I downloaded for free from vertex42. If you really enjoy organizing things and using spreadsheets (ie: if you are a nerd like me), I highly recommend you browse the vertex42 site. They provide unbelievably smart, clean, and easy to use spreadsheets, all for free. I have been using their Money Management Template to track our finances this year, and it has been a great system for us. You will definitely need to have a working knowledge of Excel or a friend who will teach you if you want to use this. It shouldn't take you more than a few hours to set up and a few hours each month to input your expenses.
Annual Budget and Expenses
I've spend some time this month making sure I've put in all of ourexpenses for this year and printed out each month's record. As soon as December is over, I will be able to print out December's record of expenses as well as an annual record. We will go over this as a family and take note of any spending habits we would like to change for 2011. Going into the new year with knowledge about spending habits and goals for what you would like to change is very empowering. Even if you didn't track your spending over 2010, I would still recommend you take a few minutes with your spouse or family members and set some goals for spending in the new year. One thing I have learned over the past few years is that if you don't tell your money where to go before you get it, you'll overspend and have no idea what you spent it on. If you haven't set a budget and tracked your expenses before now, the new year is a perfect time to start!
I haven't spent a lot of time on our retirement plans, but I have tidied up several things. This is the time to make sure you've contributed as much as you planned to your retirement plans. We ended up having to bump up our Roth IRA contributions this month to make sure were were going to put in as much as we were allowed to contribute. Even though you can contribute to your Roth for 2010 until April, it is such a good feeling to have that completed so that we can actually focus on 2011's contributions in the new year. This is a good time to review your accounts and make any necessary changes.
This is a great time to check up with your bank account and make any necessary changes. We'd been receiving an unauthorized $5.95 charge on our account every month since the summer, and although I had been following up with the bank to get it removed, it wasn't until I was really in the swing of getting everything tied up at the end of the year that I actually got it removed. Look over your account statements and make sure everything is in place. We are considering switching some of our checking and savings accounts into an online bank account – this is a good time to research different bank options and get yourself to actually make the changes.
It is a great practice to calculate your net worth at the end of each year. It is encouraging to track, and hopefully you will see it growing! The Evenutal Millionaire offers a great post on tracking your net worth with easy to use spreadsheets or pdf files that you can download for free. I like using the net worth excel spreadsheet because it calculates everything for you. If you've never calculated your net worth, this is a great time to start.
*Please remember that I am not a finanical advisor. This post is based solely on things that have worked for me and should not be construed as financial advice.