How I Track My Cash Flow

How I Track My Cash Flow

Ask me how much I spent on food in the month of March, because I can tell you very quickly.
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Your dollar is valuable. It's worth 100 cents, quite exactly. But you knew that. What you probably didn't know was that keeping spreadsheets for your personal finances can save you 15% or more off your typical day-to-day sorrow. It's true. When you have your financial transactions mapped out on Excel, you'll never again be able to say "Where in the world is all my money going?" Okay, I guess you could still say it, but you'd have a very neat way of figuring out the answer to your woeful question quickly.

I use thirteen Excel spreadsheets for every year, typically. Twelve of those spreadsheets cover a month each, while the last is a year-to-date doc updated monthly (unless I'm lazy and wait a few months before adding everything up).

My monthly .xlsx files are pretty simple to look at. Column A is labeled "Date." I type the numeral corresponding to the day of the month that any particular transaction is completed on in that transaction's row. To the right of that cell comes the category of income or expense for the transaction. In Column C comes the amount spent in U.S. dollars. Finally, a description follows in the fourth cell for each transaction, detailing in a few words what the transaction involved. In Column F, my categories are listed out so that they can be visually totaled in Column H. Between those columns is a column labeled "Budget," but I haven't used that column in a couple of years. If you have income and expenses with any sort of consistency, you could benefit from using such a column. Mine are so erratic that it became nearly pointless to try. I manually add my amounts from their transactions over to their Column H category totals, though using sum functions could be preferable for others, especially if you don't like adding in your head. At the bottom of my column of category sums, I do use the Auto-Sum button to add everything together. That row is marked "Net Gain/Loss." Excel will put your total in parentheses if it represents a Net Loss. Hopefully you won't encounter too many of those.

All of my spreadsheets for 2017 contain six income categories and sixteen expense categories. Over the years, I've refined the categories that I use, trying to make them specific enough that I can gain valuable knowledge from my spreadsheets while also keeping them from being so specific that they overcomplicate my system. Next year I'll be adding at least three new expense categories to my sheets, as I've found that too many transactions end up falling under Miscellaneous Expenses for my liking. What categories you use will be up to you. When considering your categories, try to think about what areas of financial loss or gain you'd like to be able to visualize most. If you feel like you spend 10% of your income on shoes but are reasonable with your spending on other forms of clothing and adornments, you could choose to have a specific category dedicated to shoes, to give one example. In any case, you'll want to have categories for Miscellaneous Income and Expenses. Just try not to throw everything in those.

As for my year-to-date spreadsheets, those give the best visualizations of my income and expenses. In the first columns, I manually add up each category's values from January through December. Below those totals, I use Auto-Sum to find a Net Loss/Gain, an Income total, and an Expenses total. Those let me see very quickly how much money I had come in and how much money I had come out in any given year. To the right of these columns, I build a grid in which my categories are bunched up into more overarching categories. I then use functions to find the percentage of income represented by those categories, the amount, and the percentage of my total expenses represented by my expense categories. When I'm in the midst of a year, I also have a column calculating what each category would project to if it increased at the same rate seen to date. To give an example, if I had an amount that was $200 and that amount represented January through March, my projected amount for the year would be four times that (so $800). When the year is over, I also make charts, especially pie charts, to help me look at my finances with a critical eye.

There are many legitimate ways in which to track your personal finances. This is my method, and I think it's a good method, but there are doubtless better ones out there. If you'd like an easy starting point, this method might be the one for you. All you need is Microsoft Excel to try it out. If you don't have Excel, you can still do the same bookkeeping for yourself, but you'd need graphing paper, and everyone hates graphing paper by the time they've graduated high school, right? I personally will stick with my virtual spreadsheets for now.

Cover Image Credit: pixabay

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15 Things That Need To Be Invented Now

The next round of needed life hacks.
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For Millennials, life is constantly being made easier. Compared to our parents' generation, almost everything about the way we run our day-to-day lives has been modified for speed, simplicity, and convenience. You want a cup of coffee? Here, have an instant cup of hot coffee at the push of a button! Missing your friend across the country? Call them with your smartphone, see them instantly! You can Google virtually any question, there is an app for every want and need; each step of the way Millennials are working to make things easier. I have a few ideas to contribute:

1. Extending USB cord: There must be USB plug that can stretch. The way a dogs leash will release more cord as it is pulled on, there needs to be a cord that can stretch as I roll over in bed without pulling the plug out of the wall. The struggle of being attached to a wall is too great.

2. Closet Organizer App: Some mornings you wake up and wonder how it was ever possible that you once found a decent looking outfit in your closet. Other days the prospect of having to dress yourself is just too much. There needs to be an app that can record what is in a closet and make an outfit, for any event, at the ready, similar to what Cher Horowitz has in Clueless.

3. Hangover Curing Drink: Stronger than Gatorade, better for you than pumping your stomach with Advil and water, and putting an end to the old "flu" excuse at work. A foolproof drink that can give everyone what they need to get up, pick their dignity off the floor, and soldier on. You all may thank me later.

4. Rent-A-Boyfriend: Have you ever had one of those weeks where you just need someone to bring you chocolate cake in bed and tell you you're beautiful? Maybe you really can't figure out how to build all the new Ikea furniture for your apartment and you are incapable of rounding up a guy friend to do it. Either way, the ability to rent a boyfriend on a needed basis would be quite handy. Think of all the stuff they could do for you, then you get to return them when you're done! It's like a dream.

5. Parking Tracker: What is it about parking garages that suddenly make everyone's memory go blank? Whatever the reason for the world's inability to keep track of their cars once stationary, it needs to be resolved. Too many minutes are lost aimlessly wandering the garage carrying heavy shopping bags. Please, someone invent a tracking app for your car, so that you can remember exactly where you parked and follow the map directly to it.

6. Forever-Hot Coffee Mug: I'm not sure what type of wizardry would be required to create a coffee mug that can abolish the awful lukewarm state that coffee turns into after such a short period of time, but someone needs to discover it. Long nights of studying and hours-long brunches of switching between the mimosa and the sweet nectar of the Gods will be forever changed by never again fearing cool coffee.

7. Teleportation Pad: The year is 2015; I was promised a flying car. In lieu of the flying car -- I am willing to accept teleportation pads. Think about travel becoming as easy as "stand here and click that button." Imagine not having to bother putting on a bra to go from your apartment to your friend's apartment for wine night! This could be revolutionary.

8. Sassy Siri: Every girl could use someone to help them come up with the perfect come back in a pinch, and who better than Siri! With her constantly involved in your conversations, it would be easy to just ask Siri for a little sass-assistance the next time your best frenemy mocks your highlights.

9. Compliment Earrings: If you have never seen Aquamarine, go rent it now. For those who recall, the star fish earrings were "notorious suck ups" to the girls who wore them. Imagine going through a tough day, when unexpectedly you are given a compliment! Talk about a great mid-day pick up.

10. Food Printer: My stalking of Pinterest food pages has progressed from a mild addiction to a full blown problem; I always find I want the things I see in the pictures immediately. I want to be able to hit print on one of the pictures and have those lemon-blueberry iced cupcakes in my kitchen right then.

11. Necklace De-Tangler: Ladies across the country lose thousands of necklaces to tangled knots. Chains break, two beautiful separates become one big mess, and before you know it your jewelry box is empty! There must be a machine where one could drop their knotted necklaces and have them come out the other side in perfect condition.

12. Hot Slippers: On a cold Monday morning when walking around the kitchen, debating which is worse, waking up or being awake, it would be nice to be comfortable. Nice pajamas are all well and good, but a fuzzy pair of slippers that can become warm? That is the dream. There is no morning too grey or hangover too intense that would not be cured with these slippers.

13. Calorie Rewind: There needs to be a way to take back that entire pepperoni pizza you ate last night. Whether you were not in the proper state of mind to be making that decision, or even if it was emotional turmoil over exams; it shouldn't count. Perhaps the next big thing in weightloss is a pill that allows you to take back a meal. A way to go back in time and undo that embarrassing trip to the doughnut shop down the road in favor of a more healthy alternative? Not a bad idea.

14. Sleepy-Time Studying: How awesome would it be if you could fall asleep with headphones in and wake up knowing an entire textbook? Humans spend an average of 26 years sleeping-- there should be a way to put that time to good use. A way to absorb the information while you sleep should be the next big invention. It would be the perfect cure to the all nighter!

15. Decision Making App: Desperately struggling to pick where to go for dinner? Unable to decide whether to go out or stay in? Unsure of whether it's a day for heels or for flats? These are the everyday questions faced by thousands of Millennials. We need to find a cure for the indecisiveness. An app that takes the guess work out of meaningless day to day questions such as, "Do I want a grande or a vent?" (Or I suppose you could just flip a coin...)

Bonus 16. Articles That Write Themselves: I wish I had a magic box I could give an idea to and it would instantly put print out the article I am trying to write.

Cover Image Credit: giphy.com

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9 Quick And Easy Summer Jobs For College Students

It's summer, which means it is time to build your resume.
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Summer is upon us, and that means sun, fun, and looking for ways to build your resume. Some of these jobs can be done from the comfort of your home, and others can pay extremely well. None of these are in a particular order.

1. Freelance graphic designer

If you are good with design and know your way around Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, this job might be for you. You can set your own hourly rate, your own hours, and spend time doing something you love, designing. There will always be a need for graphic designers. If you are serious about becoming a freelance graphic designer, there are a few websites you use to look for work! Search on Google "freelance graphic design websites," and a few should pop up.

2. Nanny

If corralling children is something you are good at, being a nanny might be right for you. Busy parents with kids out of school for the summer may be willing to handsomely pay. This job is perfect for students who want to be a teacher, physical therapist, or even doctor, because having experience with children is always a good skill to put on a resume.

3. Waiter

Waiting tables can be tricky, because you will sometimes have to deal with picky and/or rude customers, but the tips can pay really well. A lot of actors started their career journey waiting tables, so who knows, maybe you can be the next Chris Pratt. Another good alternative to this would be bartending!

4. Mow lawns

If you have the equipment and don't mind being out in the heat all day, starting a mowing business can make you a ton of money, and people usually pay in cash too. As far as resume building goes, you can put down that you started your own business. Plus, you can get a sweet tan.

5. Intern

One of the best ways to gain job experiencing is to intern at a real company. Some internships are paid, some aren't, but you will gain valuable experience by interning in a field you would eventually like to work in. Sometimes, the company you intern for will even offer you a job after college!

6. Freelance writer

For students who want to be a journalist or other similar job, being a freelance writer can be a valuable. You will get paid to write articles, which is super cool if you love writing! You'll also learn how to be concise and to edit. Just like freelance graphic design, you can set your own hours.

7. Start an online store or Etsy shop

For creative individuals, making products and selling them is a good way to turn a hobby into a money maker. Are you good at embroidery, jewelry making, calligraphy, or knitting? Selling your products online might be a good thing for you to do. You can set your own hours and are your own boss.

8. Be a brand ambassador

Some brand ambassadors for certain companies make commission on each item they sell with their unique code, and you typically don't have to work at all, other than posting about the brand on social media. This job is perfect for students who don't want a job, but still want money.

9. Camp counselor

Relive your favorite childhood summer memories and become a camp counselor! If you attended a summer camp as a kid, check and see if they are hiring any counselors. Churches might also need people to help with their camps. This is a fun way to make a little extra cash, but it can also be stressful being in charge of a group of kids. Overall, being a camp counselor takes lots of work, but it can be rewarding.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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