Saturday, January 31, 2009

Personal Finance

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:

Personal Finance

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 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 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 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.


Ben said...

I dealt with a lot of these issues when I was in the branch presidency in NJ. It's a total eye-opener, and I've decided that a personal finance class should be required to graduate from high school, although I don't know how much it would help. Anyway, this was a great post; thanks!
Here's a couple other links you may or may not know about: Like Quicken but free and online. I use it and really like it a lot. It connects to all of your financial accounts, automatically categorizes your expenditures, and allows you to create your own budgets. The Church's website on provident living. The "Family Finances" page has great tutorials and insightful financial calculators.

tysqui said...

Thanks for your comments Ben. I actually debated about whether or not to include in my email. The reason I didn't is because I'm not entirely comfortable of having an online entity have all of my bank account information (google keeps enough information about me to keep me nervous). No security system is without its flaws, but I have heard great reviews on mint from everybody I know that uses it. You can't beat free, right?

Dan-o said...

Another great tool that my wife and I use to budget is Google Spreadsheet. This is a spreadsheet communication tool. The reason this works for us is that I post our budget there so that she can see it, edit it (or not if that's a problem), and have clear visibility to what our spending expectations are. I don't update what we've spent each month, but that would be an option too. I have a separate sheet for tithing and all I have to do is enter my latest paycheck YTD earnings and add in any additional money or gifts and it spits out how much I've made since last month, adds in the fast offering and tells me how much to pay. Five minutes before church and tithing is a snap now.

I use too, but just to make the link between my spreadsheet budget and my actual spending. Not even so much on a monthly basis, but over six months or a year you can figure out how much you spend on gas or groceries pretty easily as long as they are categorized correctly. Much like Quicken, I assume.

tysqui said...

That's a great idea to use Google Docs. I hadn't thought of that. Probably the biggest challenge, though, is that most of the people that I have been working with are spreadsheet illiterate and many are even computer illiterate. This makes it tough to decide how to start.