Monthly Archives: November 2011

Spreadsheet For Children’s Savings – Encourage Kids To Save

I recently created a spreadsheet to help my son track his savings.  He has moved beyond the simple three-jar setup that we used for his older sister – and I recently helped him open his very own Kids Savings Account from ING DIRECT.

He really digs updating the spreadsheet, which helps him visualize just how much money he has saved.  Kids are visual – and explaining the concept of an online savings account can be rather challenging.  The spreadsheet keeps him informed and motivated.

The spreadsheet – which is free to download below – tracks how much he has in his Totes Digital Football Coin Bank piggy bank, his wallet, and his savings account.  Screen shot –

The spreadsheet is designed to track savings for one 30-day calendar month.  Enter beginning balances at the top of the spreadsheet – and then track any deposits or withdrawals that are made throughout the month.  There’s also a cool chart at the bottom of the page, to show savings progress.  Screen shot –

Click here to download the spreadsheet (available in three formats) –

Kid’s Savings Spreadsheet for Microsoft Excel

Kid’s Savings Spreadsheet for Open Office Calc

Kid’s Savings Spreadsheet for Google Documents (No Chart)

Remember to include any interest earned.  I simply enter it on the last day of the month.  If a particular month has 31 days, simply combine withdrawals or deposits on day 30.  The goal is to keep the spreadsheet as simple-to-use as possible.

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No Credit Needed Weekend Roundup

Here are a few of my favorite posts from some of my favorite personal finance writers from this past week –

From my fellow Money Tips Network members -

Five Cent Nickel suggests four ways to save water and money at home.

Generation X Finance has ideas for lowering the cost of Thanksgiving Day.

Get Rich Slowly updates their 2011 garden project.

Squawk Fox has some ideas for negotiating lower credit card interest rates.

Money Talks News has five reasons for not signing up for department store credit cards.

The Simple Dollar has a detailed post about the cost of making your own coffee.

Wise Bread has shopping tips for what to buy and what to avoid during November.

Mighty Bargain Hunter has an awesome post about talking to kids about money.

From some of my favorite personal finance blog writers -

Bible Money Matters shares 100 frugal gifts for Christmas.

Christian PF asks if you should pull money from your retirement plan.

Clever Dude reminds us of just how important it is to have emergency fund.

My Two Dollars has 10 ways to stop wasting money.

No Debt Plan encourages readers to get out of debt – by focusing on next year.

Paycheck Chronicles has an ever-expanding list of discounts for Veteran’s Day.

Shaking The Money Tree is having a ‘use it up’ month.

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Make The Payment To Yourself

My wife and I have been saving up for a new-to-us automobile.

Instead of financing the purchase of a newer car, we have been making monthly payments to ourselves.

Each month I initiate a transfer from my local checking account to my online savings account.  (ING Direct makes these transfers super-simple to set up.)

The amount transferred is equal to the estimated cost of the vehicle, divided by the number of months until the purchase will be made.

This approach works for any major purchase – and helps to keep us out of consumer debt.

Obviously, we all know that we should save.  However, most folks never get to the point where they do save.  We look around and see all of the stuff that we want – and we borrow to get it.  We are then stuck with monthly payments and interest charges.

My own debt addiction left me miserable and broke.  I had a mailbox-full of bills and a life-full of stuff that I didn’t really need.

Thankfully, my eyes were opened.  I was able to see how dangerous my borrowing habits had become.  I broke the cycle – and I never want to go back to it.  Instead, I save for future purchases.  I focus on what I already own – and work hard to save for things that I actually want and need.

Today is not the day to bury our heads in the sand and ignore our financial situation.  Instead, today is the day to take charge – to look ourselves in the eye – and do something.

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Beginning And Ending And Beginning Again

Over the past several weeks, I have been working on several projects around the house.  I built my son a bunk bed (picture below).  I constructed a storage-and-shelving unit for the shed.  I installed a new mailbox, with a a new post, and I tilled and planted a new flower bed, around the post.

I love working on a project, especially when it has a definitive beginning and ending.  For instance, the bunk bed took almost two weeks to complete, but when it was complete, it was complete.  (I worked on it mainly in the evenings, and there were a couple of days when the weather just wouldn’t cooperate.  We had three days of high humidity and heavy rains – and those days just were not fit for painting.  Push-come-to-shove, the bunk bed could have been built, rather easily, in just a couple of days.  I took my time, because there was no rush to finish the bed, and I was working all by myself.)

Now, let me get back to my thought:  I like it when I complete a project like building the bunk bed.  I can walk away, knowing that A finally worked its way to Z – and I am done.

I also have other projects – take the landscaping of our lawn – that never really “get completed”.  There are always leaves to be raked, mulch to be applied, compost to be, well, composted, etc.  Every single time I walk in my backyard, I notice two things – all of the things that I’ve recently done – and all of the things that I really need to do.

When I think about money management (personal finance) – I’m reminded that there are some projects that have a beginning and an ending and that there are others that are open-ended – always requiring some attention.

Getting out of debt – that was a beginning and an ending project.

So was creating a fully-funded emergency fund.  A to Z.  Finished.

Lots of other projects – like preparing for retirement or saving for kids’ college – these are open-ended.

And, for someone like me, who prefers the former, the latter type of project, the open-ended project, can feel overwhelming.

I try to break major, long-term projects, into manageable short-term projects. 

I cannot possibly save enough money, this year, to send all three of my children to college, but I can save X amount, per child, this year.

I cannot imagine how much I might need for retirement in thirty years, but I can save G amount, in H account, this year.

Even with a concrete goal, like paying off my mortgage in less than 10 years, I still have to break that goal down.  I need something that I can “see” – something that I can achieve – in a relatively short amount of time.

Thinking in terms of yard-work – I know that I cannot possibly rake all of the leaves, trim all of the shrubs, water all of the vegetables, prune all of the trees, clean all of the gutters, pressure wash all of the siding, and mow all of the lawn – today.  So, I break things down, map out some achievable, short-term goals, and tackle them, one-by-one.  I’ll rake Monday.  I’ll trim shrubbery Thursday.  I’ll prune trees next Wednesday.

The problem, for folks who think like me, is that we like to see and know “things are in order, complete, and finished”.  One would think, when dealing with “just” numbers and math, finding that sense of complete would be easy.  However, it’s really not.

Every achieved goal leads to another goal to be achieved.

I’ve had to learn to accept this cycle.  I know it’s very, very important that I set goals – and even more important that I work to achieve them.  I also know (somewhat paradoxically) – that I will never actually achieve every goal.

There will always be a budget to manage, bills to pay, taxes to calculate, and “something that needs doing”.

Here’s to the process – the process that brings both satisfaction and (a bit of) frustration.  Here’s to managing our finances, without losing our minds.  Here’s the pic I promised. (Go Dawgs!)

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