OK, maybe not so far back as “the beginning,” but spreadsheets were the beginning of my personal journey to tracking spending and becoming more thoughtful about purchases. Initially, I didn’t use a computerized spreadsheet; rather I went to the local office supply store and purchased one of those accounting ledgers with so many columns where I could enter data. I used some parts of the book for monthly expenses and tracked the categories in each column. In another area of the book, I started to track items I was purchasing at the grocery store, noting sale prices I would find along the way.
As I started to fill in the blanks, I was establishing thresholds for spending in areas such as food, toiletries, and other household items as well as getting an idea of our average monthly utility expenses so I could conservatively estimate these bills from one month to the next. Over the course of the next few weeks, I plan to walk through this method to hopefully make it as user-friendly and understandable as possible. Today I’m going to focus on the big picture, which includes the household expenses. Later, we will look at the grocery spreadsheet, which will prove helpful in developing a price book and ultimately a menu plan.
As we learn in the Compass Bible study, I started gathering data by tracking our monthly household expenses. My husband gets paid every two weeks so I would look at the calendar and determine his pay dates. From there, I would assign bills between the two pay dates and try to “even things out” as much as possible so we would have money left for food and gas each pay period.
As an example, in a given month, his pay dates might be the 8th and the 22nd. Our list of bills might look something like this: mortgage=$1,000 due on the 1st; electric=$145 due on the 29th; home gas=$55 due on the 12th; trash/water=$65 due on the 15th; cable/internet=$100 due on the 18th; home phone=$35 due on the 9th; cell phones=$90 due on the 17th; HOA dues=$40 due on the 1st; homeowner’s insurance=$125 due on the 1st; auto insurance=$125 due the 1st; and our tithe/charitable contributions=$400 weekly.
These amounts total just shy of $2200 so I would try to set aside about $1100 per paycheck for our bills, trying to keep them within their respective pay periods as much as possible. Even if the figure for the bills that come due at the beginning of the month is larger, I still set money aside from each paycheck to make sure the bills are paid on time. For example, the tithe and the mortgage are divided between both paychecks so that one paycheck isn’t just for paying bills—because we’ve got to eat! Using this sampling of bills and their respective due dates, my grid might look something like this:
|Pay Period:||8th||Pay Period||22nd|
|Bill||Due Date||Amount||Bill||Due Date||Amount|
|Home Gas||07/12/–||$55.00||Auto ins.||08/01/–||$125.00|
Looking at the column for the 8th, we have two weeks of tithe; $550 towards the mortgage; the home gas bill; the trash/water bill; the cable/internet; home phone; and cell phone for a total of $1095. On the 22nd, I would set aside another two weeks of tithe; $450 for the remainder of the mortgage payment; the insurance premiums; the HOA fee; and the electric bill, which add up to $1085. After dividing up the bills, what was left was my allowance for food and car gas.
The spreadsheet for the monthly expenses was working so well that I decided to do the same thing with the groceries. Coming soon, the grocery spreadsheet!
“Good stewards live with joy and gratitude for the blessings they have received—including those that have multiplied through diligence and hard work.” USCCB, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, p. 2