Before we move forward, let’s recap where we’ve been. I started out talking about my own experience in budgeting to show you that it can work. Next I talked about figuring out how much you make and what you owe, because you can’t start anything without knowing where you are. And last time, I talked about knowing your budget numbers and some ideas on what you might need to do as far as if you’re able to get out of trouble or not on your own.

Now I’m going to talk to you about creating your chart of payments. This is where you’re going to plot out when your bills are due and how much money you need to pay those bills each pay period. I’ll also show you how you can actually end up with a small benefit that can help you along the way throughout your year.

You’re going to want to use a spreadsheet program for this part, although you can write it all down and make multiple copies of your sheet. You’re always going to use the same template from this point on, which is why it’s good to use a spreadsheet program if you can.

Start from the third row down and list all of your bills in the first column, and the monthly amount you owe right now in the second column. Include money for gas and groceries also, because those are things you need. You might already have this part completed from step two; that’s a good thing. If it’s a monthly bill, write down that amount; if it’s weekly, like gas or groceries, write that down. The last thing to write down, after every bill and expense, is either your name or something simple like “Me.” This is where we’ll put in the amount you hope to have for yourself during the week; it might end up being almost nothing, but we’ll start somewhere.

Next, go to the worksheet tab at the bottom. It should say Sheet 1. Right-click on it, select Rename, and rename the sheet to the date of when you next get paid. If you got paid within the last two days, put that date in. Then, for the next four worksheets, put in the dates you expect to get paid. It will most probably be every two weeks; that’s how I’m going to talk about this, but if you get paid weekly or monthly, the same principles will apply.

Back to our main sheet. Skip a column for spacing. In the fourth column, you need to list all the bill amounts you wrote down in column two in this column if the payment dates for those bills come up within the two week period beginning with the date you wrote down below. This is how you’re going to keep track of when your bills are due. You obviously won’t be bringing all the totals over, but some will be consistent, such as grocery and gas bills. If you have to go back and look at all of your bills again, do it. This is a crucial step. It doesn’t matter where you type in the amounts; you can type the dollar amounts from the top down, or you can type the dollar amounts across from what it’s for. If it’s a weekly bill, you need to double the amount; for now, my dollars are low, but I’ll talk about that later on.

Once you’re done, in the second row of that same column, type this formula in: +sum(d3:d30). It’s doubtful that you have more than 27 bills to pay on, but if you do, you can increase that “30” to something higher. What that will do is give you the total amount of money you need for that week to pay that week’s bills. You might want to highlight that particular cell in some fashion so that it stands out from the rest of the cells in that column.

In column five, you’re now going to be tracking your total money as you go along. You can actually use this as a way to keep track of your checking account if you want to. In the second row, you’re going to want to type a formula that looks like this, but with numbers: +XXXXXXX+XXXXXX. The first set of X’s represents how much money you have in your checking account now. The second set of X’s is how much you either just got paid, or how much you’ll get paid your next pay day. This will show you just how much money you have in total to deal with. But we’re not done. In row three, you want to type this: +e2-d3. What this does is establishes how much money is to be taken away from the money you have. If you don’t have a figure in d3 that’s okay, because it will just bring down the amount you have in e2. Next, you want to copy what’s in e3, then go to e4, left click, and drag it down to e30. Then right click in the highlighted area, go to Copy, and select it. That will copy your previous formula into each one of those rows. Even if you haven’t listed bills all the way down to row 30, do it anyway.

After you do that, highlight everything from B2 to E30. Right click in that area, then slide to Format Cells. It will bring up a menu. You want to select Currency. Once it comes up, you want to make sure it gives you two decimal points, and then select the lowest thing under Negative Numbers. If you want, you can also select a dollar sign or not. Hit okay, and you’ll see your sheet formatted differently.

The final thing you want to do is title your columns. It doesn’t matter what you call them, but I use Bills, Amounts, Payments, and Totals. When you’re done, you should have something that looks like this:

I don’t like gridlines, so I always remove them, and I also centered the titles. You can customize as you like. Don’t let my numbers scare you; this is only to show you what the format of the sheet should look like. I’ll stop here, since this is a long article, but next time we’ll pick up from here, because we’re not done with our Chart of Payments just yet.

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