Tag Archives: budgeting

Tracking Where Your Money Goes With Sankey Diagrams

Sankey diagrams are a type of flow diagrams with differing widths of arrows that track where an initial amount goes.

They make for a great budget tool to see how your money ends up going. You can easily plug in your weekly or monthly expenses and paychecks or even put in your yearly W2 data to track our how your expenses and money have been going.

Sanekmatic.com is a great free tool to make your own charts.

Here is sample Sankey chart made using SankeyMatic:

Is It Practical to Use Zero Based Budgeting

Business owners and top-level managers invest a lot of time budgeting and in bigger organizations, the process itself incurs huge costing. In traditional methods of budgeting, the managers are required to review the previous year’s budget and then make amendments based on the performance expectations. However, in Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB), a completely reverse approach to planning and budgeting is applied.

Zero Based Budgeting doesn’t take into account the previous year’s budget and is instead begins at Zero. The managers need to justify all the budgetary expenses and not limit themselves to the previous year’s budget. Everything starts at zero and the planning and decision making is done on the basis of budgeting. One of the prerequisites of this budgeting is that the mangers need to be ready for detailed documentation and budgeting. The managers also have to identify and even justify the expected expenditures and arrange the activities in accordance to their relevance and costs.

Zero Based Budgeting paves the way for the high level management to make decisions as well as budgetary curtailments based on the documents during any time of the financial year. There is no provision of pre-financing as is in the case of traditional budgeting. This is a big reason why this type of budgeting is followed in the non-profit sectors and government. However, Zero Based Budgeting has to undergo frequent reviews, usually every year, as it is a costly and time-consuming process.

People favoring the Zero Based Budgeting usually point to the following advantages:

  • Resources are allocated vis-à-vis requirements and benefits, which is extremely efficient
  • Managers are compelled to find cost-effective methods for improving activities
  • Inflated budgets can be easily detected
  • Service departments find this to be extremely efficient because often it’s difficult to identify criteria

 

Naysayers point to these disadvantages of Zero Based Budgeting:

  • It’s time consuming because defining expenditures is often challenging for the managers
  • Zero Based Budgeting needs too many support staff and managers to prepare
  • Managers have to be given prior training on this method of budgeting before they can actually begin the process, which again is time-consuming
  • Everyone has to be aware of the details as huge volume of data as well as forms are needed for effective Zero Based Budgeting

 

Zero Based Budgeting is considered to be an honest approach to budgeting but when it is not too practical for private organizations and larger businesses to follow. They are bound to face capital and manpower shortage while trying to implement Zero Based Budgeting.

Just a Tip

Saving money is something we all struggle with from the young age of 16 to the adult age of 50.  After a little experimenting I have found a couple simple and easy ways to save money.  As a college student, these few methods are very simple and very do-able.

Bank Your Change

You may have heard of programs like this on television.  You use your card to make purchases and the bank rounds the purchase amount to the next dollar, putting the difference into the account of your choosing.  For me, the account my change is placed into is my CD account. When starting a CD account, you choose how long you wish to keep your CD untouched.  That means you will be forced to save money through saving your change.

The Jar Technique…

…otherwise known as the literal save your change technique.  I do not like to carry cash, but when I do I try to break it down to as much coin change as possible.  I think put it in an old mason jar and save it to a certain date or till the jar is full.  I also like to put my one and five dollar bills in the jar.  If I have something planned, like a dinner date with friends, a bowling night with family, a car wash, etc., I get the money in cash and put it in the jar as well so that I know I have it when I need it.  If you are like me and spend cash when you have it, the jar technique is an experiment you may want to invest in.

Savings jar
Even spare change put in a jar works for saving.

These are two small and simple ways to save money.  Whether you are a college student scrimping by for loan payments or an adult just trying to save a little pocket change, both these methods are worth your time.  Check them out and let me know how you do!

How to Juggle College Finances

With disposable income becoming a bigger and bigger problem both in the United States and globally and inflation and the economic situation increasingly unpredictable, investment in aspects of our lives like education is becoming harder to manage.

college finances

College education, of course, makes a critical the most important part of one’s education and is traditionally a major source of concern for the majority of families in the United States.

College education represents an expense process that covers many facets, and for a lot of people, the one thing that is focused on is tuition fees. Of course tuition forms a critical part of one’s college education but several other expenses play a role as well, without which the college degree may be encumbered or possibly not even achieved.

Apart from tuition fees, colleges have different fee structures that include registration, and access to different facilities at the university that may not be included in the tuition fees structure.

Daily living expenses are also important, as one needs to take into consideration meals, accommodation, transportation and things of that nature. Study materials, like text books and laptop computers cannot be ignored either.

All these and many more mean the study process for a college student is a difficult and expensive one for a lot of people.

However, there are a number of ways of reducing the cost implications covering the requirements of a college education.

Keeping the college choice within your state of residence or home states cuts back on transportation costs considerably and makes access to scholarships easier especially if you focus on those which are within your locality; people tend, surprisingly, to ignore these.

You can also consider the advantages, cost-wise, of using community college, which have particularly pocket friendly tuition rates and permit one to carry college credit accumulated in high school.

Applying for Free Application for Federal Student Aid doesn’t hurt at all, especially if you have more than one child attending college. You may just fall through the cracks or the criteria can include you because of the obvious implied financial strain.

Once in college, it is important for the student to remain focused on his or her studies and goals. All those extra semesters or papers carried forward imply additional costs that add to your financial load. Some universities also offer programs that help you save or recoup on certain costs like tuition, travel costs for visiting family as well as text books (http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/08/24/colleges-offer-hidden-savings-to-students). It helps to be on the look out for such initiatives.

Being prudent with your money at this point in your life is always going to be a challenge but it forms an integral part of learning financial discipline. Look out for student discounts in college towns, which are usually on offer at restaurants, shops and clubs. Prioritize your technical needs, for instance, do you really need to have a printer in your room? Make the most of what the college does offer you, like meals which make an unnecessary dent in your personal expense account when you eat out.

When looking to cut costs or save, it’s more often than not, the little things that actually count and the same applies to college-related expenses.

Budgeting College Style

Every college student knows that money does not exactly grow on trees. Sometimes you have to make choices about what you do or buy based on how much money you have. This is called budgeting and it is an important skill to have, especially in today’s economy.

college saving

The summer is an especially hard time to budget because of all the fun stuff to do and the free time to do it, but the more you save now the more you will have come the fall, and the start of the school year.

A few tips to help budget and save money are:

1. Limit how many times you go out to eat, each time you go out you are typically paying for food at a higher price than you need to. For lunch it is easy to buy cold cuts and make sandwiches instead of going to a deli to buy them. Not only will it be cheaper, but cold cuts can last for several meals making the cost even less.

2. Try to find free or cheaper things to go to. Look around your area for free activities such as concerts, fairs or even just going to the park or the beach. It is easy to find fun things to do that are free or inexpensive if you just spend sometime looking for them.

3. Keep track of your spending. If you keep a record of what you spend your money on, you not only will see how much you money you have and how much you are spending, but you can also see what you do not need to buy, and places where you can save a little extra money.

Financial Downfalls of a College Student

Every college freshman is confronted with new finance problems and issues. Out of their parent’s house, not having to report where they are going or explain what they are doing all the time. It is like finally understanding what freedom is supposed to feel like. Cloud nine feels pretty good for a while. You are floating along, going to parties, going out to eat, spending all the money you saved from the summer before or all the money Mom and Dad sent you off with when suddenly, the money and the cloud are gone and you are left sinking into a major money problem, with a bank account sinking as well.
Financial Downfalls of the College Student

Don’t be ashamed. It happens to almost all of us incoming college students. Here are a few helpful tips to keep you in line during your first year and keep you on that cloud and out of debt.

1. Find a job.

This may seem obvious to those who worked during high school, but for those who did not need to, this may seem like a last resort. You may begin looking at all the negatives of what getting a job can mean; less study time, less social time, and more responsibility on top of your school work. Now, push those thoughts out of your mind and look through the positive ones. You will make money and new friends with your co-workers, gain good real world experience, and create new opportunities for yourself. Look for places where you have the possibility to move up, or that have benefits for college students. I currently work for a grocery chain in the Midwest, Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee offers a 401 K plan for everyone ages 19 and over. This is the kind of benefit I am talking about.

2. Find the right bank.

Look at the banking options you have around you. Check out the savings account and checking account options. Which one has the highest interest rate? Do any of them offer start up or joining benefits? Pick the one that seems like the best fit for you and go start a bank account! I highly recommend starting out with a checking account. Once you’ve accumulated around $500, start a savings account. Usually savings accounts have to be started with a $100 deposit. Once you do this, start a monthly automatic transfer of a small sum from your checking into your savings. This way, you will be automatically saving money and not even needing to think about it. A small amount, such as $10, $15, or $20 will not be missed during the month.

3. Create a budget.

This may seem like the solution to all your problems. “Oh I’ll just start a budget and stick with it. No problem.” Well, it is actually a lot harder than it seems. First, take a look at the things in your life that are costing you money, like driving, eating out, groceries, going out with friends, other car expenses, rent, utilities, etc. Then take a look at how many hours you work during a week. This may seem overwhelming, but once you know where all your money is going, where you can cut back, and where you can afford to give more, you will feel much more confident in your financial situation. Make a list of all things you cannot live without, like driving, groceries, rent, utilities, etc. Now, plan out how much you can put towards these items each week. Remember; do not plan out on spending all your paycheck on these things every week. You will want to have a little “random” fund set aside in case of emergencies or something comes up that you had not thought about. If you are planning on creating the savings account with the automatic transfer of money, do not forget to budget that in either.

Once you figure out where all your money will be going, you will feel so much more secure in your financial situation.

4. Take advantage of your options.

If you are attending school in a big town, like I am in Iowa City, take advantage of the buses. Many times the “Cambus,” or the university’s bus system will be free. If you can use their buses, you will save your gas money for the week.

Look for coupons online and at the grocery store you use. I am not recommending that you become an extreme couponer or anything. Just think about what you are buying and where you can afford to save money.

Find the free shows downtown or go to the park and play Frisbee golf with friends! Activities that are free usually tend to be a lot more fun for you and your pocketbook. Jump into your new financial situation with confidence and knowledge, and have a great time doing it! Check back often for more great easy to understand financial advice, that every college student is going to want to know about.