A Mixed Bag – A bit of everything under the sun

Archive for the ‘money’ Category

The first step in taking charge of your finances is to make a budget. It gives you a clear idea of how much of you income is going where and what you need to cut down on. Only then can you think about saving money. Given that it is such a simple and important step, here is an excel template that makes it even easier.

This excel sheet was created by me based on another budgeting template available online the author of which is unfortunately not known.

Features of this budgeting spreadsheet:

Budgeting Template

1. Track your budget every month – There are 12 sheets for each month of the year and you can track the budget for the whole of 2010 in just one workbook. Also, it’s easier to refer to the previous months when you need to.

2. It is customizable – You can enter your checking account, savings account and credit card account names. You can add your own budget categories and their amounts.

3. Displays the amount budgeted and spent in each category – For every category you name and set a budget for, you can track your progress.

Click to enlarge

4. Summary graph of your spending – A graph in the summary page shows how your spending varies in each category every month

5. Shows your net worth – Once you enter all your accounts and their initial balances in the first month, the spreadsheet displays your net worth every month

6. Tracks your savings each month – Every dollar you enter as “Savings” in the category column is kept track of by the worksheet and is displayed at the top left corner of the page.

Click to enlarge

7. View all your account balances in one page – You don’t have to log into multiple accounts everyday. Once you have entered the initial balances, the spreadsheet automatically calculates the balances and you can see them all in one sweeping view.

8. Alerts you when you are exceeding your budget – A red box on that category immediately warns you that you are exceeding your budget allotted in this category.

Download this spreadsheet:

1. Download the spreadsheet in xlsx(Office 2007) format


Download the spreadsheet in xls(Office 2003) format

How to use this spreadsheet:

Step 1: Use the categories given or add your own in the drop-down box.

You can do this using Data Validation. Also update it in the budget section.

Step 2: Add your own accounts in the Account Summary section. Also add them to the drop-down box

Step 3:. Update the initial balances. You need to do it only once. The spreadsheet will keep track of it for the rest of the months.

That’s it. You’re good to go. Start tracking your spending.

More cool features:

1. Enter the initial balances only once – Once you do it, for the rest of the year, the worksheet will work out your balances for you.

2. Change the budget amounts whenever you like – When you do, the rest of the months will reflect the changed budget.

3. There’s place to figure out your budget – There is one sheet dedicated to planning your budget where you can enter your income, see how much you need for paying bills, how much you can spend in other categories etc.

4. Formulas are protected from accidental changes– Just to prevent accidental clicking and changing of formulas, the sheets are protected. You can nevertheless type in the fields which require you to. If you however need to make some changes, you can always go to Review -> Unprotect Sheet and make them.

Hope this proves to be a useful tool. If there are any bugs or questions, please do let me know. I will address them immediately.

Other articles you might be interested in:

15 Simple tweaks to save money without sweat

Earn some pocket money in your free time

Other downloads you might be interested in:

Organize with a Master Grocery List and Weekly Menu planner

Relationship Appraisal


Finding GPT Sites and what they are

I stumbled upon these out of sheer boredom. Sitting at home all day, i wondered if i could at least use some of the time to make a little money. And i entered a world of GPT sites. Well, GPT means “Get Paid To”. You earn money for doing simple things like click on ads, or taking surveys or signing up for an offer. I was cautious. I knew not all of them are legitimate. And of those that were, i liked some and disliked a few others. And what i like, i always like to share it with others.

How much can you earn?

These sites which i have listed below are GPT sites which give you half a dollar or a dollar or so for an offer you complete. Don’t be discouraged thinking that amount is insignificant. Remember, small things add up. And add up they do. Remember all the small amounts on your credit card which now have become too much to handle? Anyways, below  is the list of sites that i continually visit and make quite some amount of money. You can, on an average earn around 30$ a month on each of these sites. It is not much, but do it on three sites and you already have $100. All of them are 100 percent free. You don’t need to spend money everywhere. There are a few offers which require credit card. But you need not do them. You can always do the free offers.

How do they pay you?

The legitimate ones either pay you by check or by paypal. This is by far, the safest option. You don’t have to give your card information or bank account information anywhere.

Which are the good ones?

1. CashCrate

This is one of the simplest sites I’ve come across. There are no frills to it. You can go there and start earning money. As simple as that.

Features of this site:

1. Lots of offers to choose from. No fee for anything. You can always ignore the credit card offers

2. They have a minimum payout of $20 in a month. Meaning, you will have to make a minimum of 20 dollars for them to pay you. If you do not make $20 in that month, it’ll be carried over to the next month.


1. It’s very reliable. If they say the payment comes on a certain date, it will definitely come to you that day.

2. There are quite a lot of offers to do and they  pay well.


1. They pay only by check. This could be an advantage or a disadvantage depending upon you.

2. The payment will be only in the later half of the next month. For example, if you earn $20 in December, they will process your check on the 15th of January and you will get the amount only on 21st of January. This is not so bad, you only have to be a little patient. It is well worth the wait.

2. Treasure Trooper

TreasureTrooper This site has similar offers and is much more fun. Along with cash earned in offers, there are also chances of winning gold coins, pearl and platinum coins. You can buy fun stuff with them or trade one for another.


1. It is similar to CashCrate. The minimum payout is $20.

2. Payment method is by check or paypal if you have a paypal account


1. The additional earnings in kind are good and makes it more fun

2. Paypal account makes it easier, at least for me.


1. Like cashcrate, the payment is processed only in the last half of the next month.

3. PaidTheFastest

PaidTheFastest This has become my favorite website. The offers are good, they credit soon and the payment is under 24 hours. The payout is also very low. Just $3.


1. Minimum payout of $3. 2. Payment is via paypal.


1. Low payout and they pay within a day. You don’t have to wait for one and a half months.

2. There are a couple of games where you can make extra money

3. There are a number of contests going on which keeps you motivated to earn more and more


1. None that i can think of.

So that was my list. If i find myself consistently attracted to something else, i’ll definitely add it to the list. All the above websites also give you a 20% commission for getting referrals. So go ahead, have fun and maybe you can afford that Wii you wanted all along.

How anyone would love to see the Savings Bank meter go up! For that, one needs to cut down the impulse to spend and make some wise choices. The key is to not go overboard and deny yourself of all pleasures. But, how is that possible? Well, here’s what to do:

1. Track your expenses
– Too obvious to mention, but anyway. This is the first step and it is important. You need to know where your money goes and only then you can figure out what to do about it.
Use a notebook and pencil, a self made spreadsheet (that works best for me!) or any other tool available on the web. A month’s expenses would be optimum to track. If you are too impatient to wait for a month, just download your debit/credit card transactions for the last month and analyze them. Here’s an easy-to-use budgeting template

2. Stop shopping every week – I used to do this often, but have stopped it now. And it works wonders. Initially we used to go shopping every week and every time we go there, I would buy things on an impulse. All those things would seem necessary at that time. So the best thing to do is not visit it so often.

3. Go through your kitchen and make a monthly/fortnightly list – Forgetting to buy things and hitting the stores again is one of the major sources of spending. Keep a magnetic grocery list on the refrigerator and as soon as anything in your kitchen gets over, put it on the list. Also, rummage through the kitchen and make a list of all things that would get over in a week’s time. And then shop only once a fortnight or a month. That way, you won’t go to a store just because something got over suddenly. Use a Master Grocery List and Menu Planner to get organized.

4. Plan a weekly menu – Before going to buy vegetables, make up a weekly menu list. That way, you won’t be buying excessively and vegetables won’t get spoilt too. I also cook according to the plan without having to worry about what to prepare the next day. And since we spend time making a plan, we end up eating a variety of vegetables. Lots of advantages.

5. Fix an amount before you go the store – And don’t go beyond that amount. When you are dropping the items into your cart, just keep a rough idea of how much you’ve spent so far. When you realize you are nearing your allotted amount, you will automatically skip the unnecessary items or look for other options around the product which may be better but you wouldn’t have noticed before at all. Contrary to popular belief, don’t shop in a hurry. If you do so, you are likely to buy whatever meets your eye. Instead shop patiently, take your time and compare products before you decide to buy.

6. Pack your lunch to work – If you are in the habit of eating out every work day, it’s time to cut it down. If you find this difficult, at least do it for a couple of days in the week. But remember to put the money you saved in the savings account.

7. What you save in a day, goes to your account – Else, it gets lost. If you feel you have saved some amount in a day by either not buying what you usually buy or by spending better, put that saved money in your account or piggy bank. Whatever you cut down should show up as savings.

8. Cut down on subscriptions – You are not reading all of it anyway, so try this for a month and see if you miss them. Put that amount in your account.

9. Eat out every week for lesser – Dining out is a major expense. We tried cutting down on this, but it didn’t work for us. Mid week, we would get bored and go out anyway. So I have found a workaround for this. Go out every week, but eat for lesser. If you were spending $30 each time, spend $15 now. Find out the restaurants near your place. Some websites give you the menus and rates for restaurants nearby. Check out, plan and go. This way you will even be exploring new restaurants instead of visiting the same ones.

10. Search for coupons on anything – But only on what you already use. No use buying things which you don’t need just because there are coupons for it.

11. Cut down on hitting the theaters – unless it’s really worth watching. Download or rent instead and in goes that money into the piggy bank.

12. Convert everything to rupees – Being an Indian, when I came to the US, it took time for me to get adjusted to the economy here. 30 dollars seemed like 30 rupees to me and that was way too affordable. I spent and spent till I got a 3000 dollar bill! But now, I know better. I convert everything to rupees and it helps me realize the value of money. I know one dollar is 40 rupees and 10$=400 rupees. It won’t seem like 10 rupees anymore!

13. Find expense-less methods of entertainment – In many cases, people shop as a form of entertainment. Find other methods and enjoy your life. Go to a book store, visit a lake, go hiking, biking, take a stroll with your partner, join a volunteering association. There are more ways to lead a meaningful life.

14. Have a coin jar – Keep it in a place where you empty the contents of your pocket everyday. Put all the day’s change in there and when the jar gets full, convert half to notes and put into savings account. Every cent counts!

15. Cut down on junk and ready foods – This will cost you health and money. Substitute them instead with something prepared at home. Make your own yogurt(here’s how), make your own salsa, try out new foods. Cooking is a relaxing hobby however bad you are at it. So experiment and enjoy!

So these were a few painless tweaks that will put more money in your pocket without reducing the quality of your life( it improves I must say, by making you experience new things ). They are nothing unique or spectacular, but rather a reminder of tried and tested methods which work.

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