My calling in our ward is the Ward Welfare Specialist focusing on personal finances. What the job basically entails is to visit with people who are in financial trouble and help them set up a budget. It has been an eye-opening experience seeing the difficulties that people in the ward are experiencing. I thought that I had a pretty good idea of what a Bishop's calling entails, but as I have served in this calling I realize that I still have a lot to learn.
Following is an email that I sent out to the ward welfare committee because they were asking for my recommendations. I'm going to try and post a little more about personal finance/frugality topics here on the blog as well.
There are so many good financial resources. A few of my favorites are:
1. One for the Money Guide to Family Finance, by Elder Marvin J. Ashton. This is a pamphlet that you can probably get from your bishop or from Church Distribution. The address from which the pamphlet is adapted is a talk given at the welfare session of the April 1975 general conference. The original talk can be found here.
2. A second pamphlet (also available from the bishop or distribution) is All is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances. This pamphlet can be found online in its entirety here.
3. Possibly the best website on the internet for somebody starting out in personal finance is personalfinance.byu.edu. This website contains 5 beginning courses, 17 intermediate courses and 15 advanced courses that you can go through at your own pace as you create your own personal finance plan. Also available for download are more than 350 pages to use as a manual. The courses cover everything from budgeting to investing, life insurance to debt and loans.
4. There are many good budget programs available for use as well. One of my favorite free programs is pearbudget, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. This is a spreadsheet that allows you to easily track your expenses. In my opinion, this option is the easiest to use if you are familiar with spreadsheets (such as Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc). Download pearbudget here.
5. Another awesome program is Rainy Day Budget (incidentally created by my brother). The program is perfect for people who have never kept a budget before. The program takes you through the steps required to set up a personalized budget and allows you to track a budget more easily if you are unfamiliar with using a spreadsheet. It can be downloaded for free here.
6. My personal preference for budgeting is Quicken (or Microsoft Money). I really don't recommend jumping to one of these programs until you have consistently kept a budget for a while. Quicken ranges in price from $40 to $80. Every week before family home evening I download the weeks transactions from my bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investment/retirement accounts and categorize all purchases. Quicken automatically calculates where we stand as for our budget each month and calculates our net worth. Quicken data can also be imported into TurboTax making tax preparation a little easier. The learning curve for these programs is far steeper than for any of the others.
7. Another option that I have utilized in the past is a basic spreadsheet that can be printed out and used by hand or within the spreadsheet program itself. This option is basically a simple table for tracking your spending categories.
8. One final option for creating a budget is good old paper and pencil. Grab a calculator and find out whether or not you will have enough money to make it to the end of the month. The utlimate goal in keeping and creating a budget is tracking your expenses in order to spend less than you earn.
9. Often times, in order to stick to a budget you've got to cut your spending down. This can be accomplished with various frugal tactics. One of my favorite websites for frugal ideas (as well as all things personal finance and improving yourself) is thesimpledollar.com. The site has been around for a couple of years so the archives are very extensive. Type in any question that you have and chances are that thesimpledollar has answered it.
10. Another great website for frugal ideas and personal finance articles is wisebread.com. All of these sites mentioned also link to many other websites that cover similar material. There is an enormous amount of information available for saving money.
11. A great book with frugal ideas is The Complete Tightwad Gazette. The book is 972 pages of frugal ideas taken from newsletters that were published in the early '90s. There is something for everybody in this gem.
There are so many resources available to help people get ahead in their finances. I am more than willing to help anybody out in creating their own budget or helping research answers to any other financial questions. Please be aware that I am not a financial adviser, but only somebody that is willing to help you find your away around financial issues.