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How Do You Prepare Financially for a New Month?

prepare financially

Well, one month is about to end and another one to begin.  I don’t know about you, but there are times when I feel most months just fly by.  They start with little fan-fare and then blaze by with little notice.  Being the planner that I am, I like to have my month planned out financially to understand where I am and where I am going.  This is going beyond the budget and thinking about other parts of my financial life as well.  I wanted to share with you on how I prepare financially for a new month.

My First Step to Prepare Financially – Scan the Budget

The first step I like to make for each month is to scan my overall budget.  Do I have everything in place for the new month? Do I need to make any changes?  This is my chance to see if I have been staying on my budget path or if I have strayed.  I think it is important to look over your budget each month and make sure you have your numbers correct.   No matter if you budget to strict numbers or you have a loose budget, take the time to look it over and make any necessary changes.

Set Up My Payments

This might surprise you, but I don’t have any automated payments.  I have never been a fan of them and have seen so many issues with them when I worked at a bank.  Yes, setting up payments each month can be a pain, but this way I know they are going to be paid.  I used to do automated payments, but then faced technical glitches or double payments being sent.  No thanks!  I will take the extra 10 minutes per month and setup my payments.  Since I have quite a few bills due on the 1st of the month, I typically set these up when the new statement comes out.

Audit My Accounts

Running an account audit is really important. This is much easier to do when you have a service like Mint or Personal Capital.  Not only do I audit my bank accounts and credit card accounts, but I also audit my service providers.  Are they charging me more?  Have they calculated everything properly?  I have seen a few times here and there when a service provider will bill me the wrong amount or add an extra fee.  You have to be vigilant with your accounts and make sure you are not overpaying for anything and that no money is mysteriously missing from your bank.

Compare Prices

This only happens when I have a contract about to expire or renew.  I look over my services and see if I can get a better price.  If my car insurance is about to renew, I call them up to see if there are any new discounts.  If there aren’t any, then I go to other providers to see what they can offer.  Sometimes you find some savings, sometimes you don’t.  I never like to just stick with one service because I am comfortable.  Being comfortable tends to lead to higher prices.  I don’t like higher prices, so I take the extra time to make sure I am getting the best deal that I can.

Check My Credit

I am an advocate for checking and monitoring your credit on a regular basis.  I have started doing this on a monthly basis. When my services update my credit report, I want to see if there is anything out of the ordinary.  There are some great ways to monitor your credit for free, so making the excuse that this costs money doesn’t fly.  It can be very exhausting to deal with problems on your credit.  It only takes a split second to have someone mess up your credit, but it will take some time and effort to get it fixed.  It is always better to catch it early. The great thing is that some credit cards, like the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard, are starting to offer your credit score for free each month. You just log into your account online and it displays your score.

Pay Myself

I don’t really pay myself first like many advocate.  While I do have automated transfers setup into my savings accounts, I don’t put money into those accounts right when I get my paycheck.  I consider my savings a monthly bill.  At the end of each month, I will check to see how much extra money I made.  I will see what my upcoming expenses are going to be, and then I pay myself.  When I have extra money, I like to sock it away.  Yes, I could spend it, but I like to save.  If there is anything extra that was unaccounted for, then it goes into my savings account or my investment account.  Either one suits me fine, but it will depend on if I need money soon or would rather wait until retirement.

 

How do you prepare financially for a new month?  Is there anything that you do that most probably don’t? Have you ever been burned by not preparing financially?

 

 

Photo courtesy of: reynermedia

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Grayson is the owner of Debt Roundup and co-owner of Sprout Wealth and Eyes on the Dollar. After going to battle and winning against consumer debt, he decided it was time to learn how to use credit wisely and grow his wealth. He discusses all things personal finance and is not afraid of being controversial. He also is a freelance personal finance writer and offers blog owners blog management services.

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38 Comments

  • That’s pretty much how I do it Grayson, including the paying ourselves at the end of the month (and minus checking the credit report that often). On the rare occasion that I’ve missed scanning the budget, it tends to get out of whack for that month. I think that first step of checking the budget is a must so that nothing is missed for the upcoming month.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted…A Student Debate: Are There Absolute Truths About Money and Personal Finance?My Profile

  • Great run down, Grayson. Do you ever find that by waiting until the end of the month that sometimes you do not have as much to save as you might like? That’s our main concern and the reason why we save right after we get our paychecks. Then at the end of the month if there’s any extra we put the extra in our savings account too.
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted…Cutting the Card (Debit, That Is!)My Profile

    • Grayson Bell says:

      Hey Dee! Well, anything I have extra above what I schedule to come out on an automated basis is paid to me at the end of the month. I just don’t pay myself first when my paycheck comes in. I set a scheduled draft near the middle of the month that I consider an expense.

  • Hey Grayson! We prefer to not do our finances monthly. We find that too frequent. We actually do a “financial check in” every 4 months where we update our budget and saving goals. Then we update any automatic payments if necessary. We find this give us control over our finances but it doesn’t become overwhelming.
    Gaming Your Finances recently posted…Net Worth Update: $808,553My Profile

    • Grayson Bell says:

      That is all good! There is nothing wrong with doing it every 4 months either. At least you are doing it. I find a monthly check is really easy for me to do and I get a good picture of what is going on.

  • Each month I record all our income and expenses into an Excel spreadsheet and then view the trend month-over-month to see if anything is out of the ordinary. I also schedule credit card payments and other bill payments. Finally I reconcile all my side income and expenses. I think it’ll save me a ton of time when tax season rolls around again.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…How Many Shoes Does One Girl Need? No, Really…My Profile

    • Grayson Bell says:

      I have a spreadsheet like that as well DC! Nice work on reconciling your income and expenses from your side business. That is always helpful when it comes to tax time.

  • I do pretty similar to you. Review my budget, set up payments to my credit card and I don’t pay myself first either. Setting a budget and tracking expenses is only half the job as it’s useless if you don’t look back at them on a regular basis. Granted one month is such a small sample that maybe you should do quarterly checkups but there needs to be some kind of regular interval when you check to see if there’s something you’re needing to remedy.
    JC @ Passive-Income-Pursuit recently posted…Does The Procter & Gamble Company Belong In Your Portfolio?My Profile

  • Good point on paying yourself. It’s always better to do it at the start of the month, because somehow when you wait till the end, there’s nothing leftover ;)
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Groningen, The Netherlands: Ever Heard of It?My Profile

    • Grayson Bell says:

      Well, I don’t pay myself at the start of the month. I have an automated draft setup around the middle of the month and I treat it like an expense. I then save whatever I have left over at the end of the month.

  • Love this, Grayson, and we do things much the same way. Each month I write out a list of our upcoming expenses, and I don’t autopay on much either. I like having that control over my money, even when it is going to someone else. :-)
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…April 2014 Recap and Why We’re Not Revealing Our Debt NumbersMy Profile

  • E.M. says:

    I always review our budget and make changes for the next month. It’s important that we are aware of our spending (especially when it comes to groceries). Besides that, we don’t have too many bills to worry about, but I do review the amounts when entering the numbers into our budget spreadsheet. I also have automated transfers set up to my savings account.
    E.M. recently posted…Are Credit Cards Evil?My Profile

  • Kathy says:

    Ours is a 2 day process. And it is pretty extensive. On the last day of the month, I print out a Quicken report of all our spending. Hubby then updates our excel spreadsheet so we can see how we’ve done for the month as well as year to date. He also updates all or our reserve accounts like real estate taxes, medical etc. which is how we think of our savings for emergency fund. We also have a financial meeting to discuss and review. The first business day of the new month, when our pension check gets deposited into our bank account, I go in and schedule payments and transfers to investment accounts etc. It probably is more intensive than most people but he is a retired accountant so it sort of comes naturally.

  • I don’t do anything when a new month rolls around. This is how my money flows:

    1) Roth 401(k) maxed out
    2) ESPP purchased
    3) Roth IRA funded
    4) Life’s misc. expenses
    5) Other investments (taxable investment account, flipping cars, whatever tickles my fancy)

    Pretty simple. I’m single and young so that helps.
    @WilliamLipovsky, First Quarter Finance recently posted…How I Live in the Country Club Neighborhood… For FreeMy Profile

  • Yes I always reevaluate what is coming up for the month and where I need to improve or make changes. Since I’m a freelancer and my income fluctuates, I don’t have a certain amount that is transferred to savings each month, instead I do it manually based on percentages. Kind of confusing I know. I’m still working on “the perfect system.” It’s a learning process.
    Tonya@Budget & the Beach recently posted…April Review/May GoalsMy Profile

  • I had an internship in college that was in the finance area of a large financial services company and every month we all worked late into the night preparing the month-end numbers and the next month’s budget numbers. It was amazing how much you learned in the process of recapping the month despite the fact that we tracked everything on a daily basis as well. So, I kept that process for myself personally. I tell people to review quarterly, but really monthly is the best plan if you can fit it into your schedule.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Does money make you happy? {Infographic}My Profile

    • Grayson Bell says:

      That was probably a great experience. My mother in law does that for a large hospital where they stay late into the night for a week when their months and quarters end.

  • Hey Grayson, great post! I prepare a little differently than most because my income varies so much. As a business owner, I first do an audit of customers I have in contract for the next month. Because there’s no guarantee I’ll bring on new customers, I live by that total, so I do my budget based on what I know I have coming. All new clients payments from the month prior go into savings unless contracted clients won’t cover the bills. In which case, I transfer some of the funds from new payments to checking where auto drafts happen for my bills. Thanks again for the great post!
    Josh @ CNAFinance.com recently posted…Being Nice Bites! My First Rental Income Fail!My Profile

    • Grayson Bell says:

      You do it right Josh! You need to only count the money you know is coming in. No need to take what you think you can make. That is not going to pay the bills.

  • Looks like you found a plan that suits you perfectly, Grasyon. I like to review my budget monthly too. No month is exactly the same and it keeps me on my toes so I don’t get complacent. I do autopay the majority of our bills for the convenience, but I also regularly review bills to ensure that everything is correct too. As you said, mistakes happen and it’s very easy to overlook increases too when you autopay. Our savings/investment allocations are both automatic and manual. Most are automatic but any excess money I allocate personally to where it’s needed most. I encourage many of my clients to automate their savings/investment money as they are not quite as disciplined as you or I are and there is a much greater chance that will spend it, rather than save it. :)
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…How We Told Our Children About Our Debt SituationMy Profile

    • Grayson Bell says:

      I agree that no month is exactly the same. Some months we have more expenses, like when I had to pay much more for taxes. Other months are less. I like to make sure I know what is going on.

  • Kim says:

    Our expenses tend to be pretty much the same each month unless something unexpected comes along. I try to figure up all the bills that happen bi annually or annually and divide those by 12 and put that amount into savings each month so there are no surprises. My paydays vary depending on which days I work, and sometimes the government job doesn’t pay during a month but doubles up the next, . A few years ago, that would have freaked me out, but we know to how to plan for it now. My monthly audit might come on the 10th or 17th, but it’s all good if you are prepared.
    Kim recently posted…Is Private School Better Than Public School?My Profile

  • Kassandra says:

    I operate much in the same manner as you Grayson. I’m the CFO of the family finances but I do sit down with my DH to review our credit card/bank/bill statements to confirm charges made as I’ve been a victim of identity theft in the past. I also update our income and business expense spreadsheets every month end so that I’m not pulling my hair out come tax time. I make sure to take into account any expenses that are not monthly such as the yearly life/car insurance payments etc… and factor that into the next month’s spending plan. I don’t use auto bill pay either!
    Kassandra recently posted…Living Below Your Means, Your Way!My Profile

  • I have a “budget worksheet” that I prepare for each month. Since our primary income arrives bi-monthly, I pay our bills twice a month. Things due between the 1st and the 14th are paid on the 1st, things due between the 15th and the end of the month are paid on the 14th. Thus my budget worksheet has two blocks of monthly expenses. On the 1st day of the month (Today!) I create the worksheet, make any necessary changes to the months bills (add in any one time expenses, remove anything that doesn’t exist for that month, update variable bills such as utilities). Then it’s time to pay the bills. When I’m done, I always make sure I utter the phrase, “Looks like we get to keep our stuff for another month.” :)
    Travis @debtchronicles recently posted…Is Investing in Gold A Good Retirement Strategy?My Profile

    • Grayson Bell says:

      That sounds good Travis. I get paid bi-monthly, but I pay my bills when they are due. I will schedule most of them days prior, but I have a set way that I pay them in a specific order.

  • I already set my budget every month, right now I’m the bread winner in our family. I’m living with my parents but my father passed away 7 years ago. Sometimes it’s really hard to make a budget because we are eight in our family. I set aside my money for our bills, groceries and insurance.
    Marie @ Gen Y Finances recently posted…Positives of Being Your Own BossMy Profile

  • Karen says:

    At the beginning of the month, aside from the usual expenses, I also add any social money events to my spreadsheet. (Showers, weddings, birthdays, etc). That way, I get an idea of how much I should allot to each event and make a note to myself to not do as many additional social outings (such as going to restaurants) or I should try on cut back in another area of spending because I know I will be attending several showers and birthdays for the month.
    Karen recently posted…Personal Finance Advice and Exchanging Money When Travelling OverseasMy Profile

  • It’s funny that when I used to be seriously in debt, I used to hate the end of the month. Here in the UK, it’s standard to get paid monthly – while (I believe) every two weeks is more normal in the US?

    Anyway, I’d dread seeing that sudden influx of cash, followed promptly (like, within a day or two) most of it disappearing again on just meeting my minimum debt repayments. Scary stuff.

    Now I’ve paid that off, I actually enjoy the end of the month. It’s when my wages go in, when I plan for the next month and revisit my finances from last month to see how my budget performed and where there are any potential savings or hints of lifestyle inflation to be more aware of ;-)
    Richard at FrugalityMagazine.com recently posted…Growing Baby Sweet CornMy Profile

  • Abigail says:

    My husband and I each receive our checks once a month, usually within a week of each other, so a lot of review goes into it.

    I have to break down all of our expenses for the month and make sure there’s enough in checking to cover it all. Then I transfer money into various sub-accounts. (Like you, I don’t like automated payments. Sometimes it takes us longer to deposit checks due to health problems. I don’t have the option of direct deposit, and my check is too big for remote deposit.)

    It’s a little harrowing, but at least a lot of conscious thought gets put into everything. Or so I tell myself through gritted teeth once a month.

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