Monday, 28 December 2015

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Setting Goals This Year

2016 is nearly here!
Do you know what you want to do this New Year?

2015 becomes 2016

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what goals to set.  It doesn’t matter if you are setting goals for the infamous “New Year’s Resolutions” or at some other time of the year.  If you are as stumped as a tree, take a look at these questions to get those goals uprooted:

  1. How did you feel about your life this time last year? Question marks
    Are things the same? better? worse?  Have others noticed a difference in you?  What changes are necessary for improvements to be made?
  2. What do you want to have accomplished by the time you die?
    A great way to figure this one out is by writing your own obituary.  What do you want to be known for?  What would you need to do to die happy or at least satisfied with your life?
  3. Do you see an unfulfilled need in your community?
    Say you are the catalyst for change in this situation; what would you do to make a difference?  How can you inspire others to help?

I know these questions can be tough to answer.  They are deeply personal – but that deepness is absolutely essential if you want to make any improvements! 

The most eye-opening exercise I have done was writing my obituary over a year ago.  It helped me decide what I want to become and what personal successes I hope others will see in me.  Most of it was about what moral characteristics I hope to develop and what I hope to do (ie. goals I hope to accomplish) to become that type of person.

Will you consider these questions when creating goals for this New Year?  What else do you ask yourself when formulating new goals to set?

Next week’s topic: [My First Impression of Depression]

Don’t forget to download your free Microsoft Excel 2013 “templates” for setting up your family’s budget for 2016!  Make it a goal to be more financially aware this year!

Family Budget "Templates" for 2016

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Christmas Tree Letters

Only 4 more days until Christmas!!!

It's beautiful images like these that make me wish I had a DSLR camera.
(But yes, I did take this with a typical digital camera.)

This is our third Christmas together as a family and the second with Tevia.  This year things begin to get exciting with her.  We’ve only just started doing our own Christmas traditions.

Take a look a what we are doing this year:

It’s “Christmas” – NOT “Clausmas”

First, a note: we are not celebrating Santa Claus in our home.  None of our decorations represent Santa or his reindeer.  We only want to invite the true Spirit of Christmas, of Christ’s birth and all things beautiful and holy.

Yes, we will teach Tevia about Santa Claus – who he is based on (Saint Nicholas) – but we don’t want her believing that this man will magically bring gifts to her once a year.  I think that if this belief was encouraged, she would expect to receive gifts more than focusing on giving gifts to others. 

Presents under the Christmas tree
Nearly half of these gifts are from our Secret Santa!

The only “Santa” we will have is to be someone’s “Secret Santa” (and wear Santa hats if we wish).  In fact, we are recipients this year of some “Secret Santa!”  The doorbell rang late in the evening a few nights ago and Lucas opened the door to find some presents on the doormat.  I was so tempted to open them right then and there to see if they left their name(s), but Lucas took charge and won’t allow any gift opening before Christmas morning.

Secret Santa card and gifts
Who are you kind people?!

Family Christmas Fund

We would rather decide as a family what to budget for celebrating Christmas each year.  This year we decided to fill our stockings.  Maybe another year we can go on a trip or buy some special thing that the whole family could enjoy.  Ideally, the budget will grow as the family grows (assuming our income grows as well).

Tevia's duck stocking
My old duck stocking is now Tevia's stocking.

Christmas Tree Letters

A tradition we started last year is writing letters to each family member.  Lucas and I write to each other and to Tevia.  Once Tevia is old enough to read and write she’ll be able to write letters to us.  Until then, we are filing away the letters for her until she can read them herself.  We also hope to one year have our own personalized letter boxes to store these special letters.

Christmas tree with letters, stockings, and presents
With difficulty, the completed letters are placed on the tree.  Of course, the letters and stockings are hidden away for now because of Tevia's curiosity and enjoyment of destruction.

To close, I’d like to include the final paragraphs of each letter I wrote because I felt they were very fitting for all:
(To Lucas:)  “I am so happy to be able to spend Christmas this year with our lovely little family. I feel like this will be the most joyous one yet in our marriage. I can’t wait to open presents with our Little Lady. I love to admire the Christmas tree with her. I hope the traditions we are introducing (such as very little focus on Santa) will help her know what we are really celebrating: Christ’s birth and His gift of eternal life and exaltation. We will never be able to give any gift comparable to what He has given us. I think the best we can do is give of our love, kindness, and service, and spend quality time with family and dear friends.”
(To Tevia:)  “Remember that Christmas is about giving all of your heart and receiving with gratitude. Jesus Christ gave all of his heart for us when He atoned for our sins and died on the cross so that we can live with Him and Heavenly Father again when we die. Be grateful for this gift He has given to you and appreciate all that others do for you because of Him.”
Merry Christmas!!!

How did you see Christ in your life this year? star
(We have a star but it's too heavy for our tree.
So... we are using this star I got from church yesterday.)

What special Christmas traditions do you celebrate with your family?  Do you include Santa in your celebrations?  Why (not)?

Next week’s topic: [3 Questions To Ask Yourself When Setting Goals This Year]

Monday, 14 December 2015

Family Budget Spreadsheets FAQ

Last week I released to you two free budgeting Excel worksheets that work together to help you keep track of your expenses and stay within your proposed budget.

Note: I found an error in one of the files.  If you downloaded the files before Dec 14, 2015 you may want to re-download them.

Free Family Budget "Templates" for 2016

Q:  How do I set up my budget plan?

A:  Here is a basic run-through:
  1. FamilyBudget_Balance2016.xlsx: go to the “Start Here” tab.
    1. Modify, replace, or add new categories that fit your family’s needs.
    2. Modify, replace, or add new accounts that your family uses.
    3. Modify, replace, or add new transaction descriptions that you know you will be likely to use frequently over the year.
    4. Modify, replace, or add new locations that you know you will be likely to use frequently over the year.
    5. Enter the starting balances for each account.
  2. FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx: go to the “Budget” tab. (Keep other file open.)
    1. Copy category items related to income (eg. “Income (Gifts)”) from FamilyBudget_Balance2016.xlsx to cell A7 on “Budget” tab of FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx.
    2. Copy remaining category items (ie. not related to income) from FamilyBudget_Balance2016.xlsx to the first cell in column A below “Expenses” on the “Budget” tab of FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx.
  3. Repeat step 2 for copying category items to the “Actual” tab of FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx.
There is a bug with the copy-paste method above that I currently don’t know how to get around.  If it doesn’t work properly, undo paste, press tab at the end of the table, and add each new item individually or modify existing items.  Right click to delete table rows for any excess categories you don’t want.  If you desire, you can sort the list alphabetically by selecting all cells under “Income Type” or “Expenses” (as appropriate), right click, and select Sort –> Sort A to Z.

Q:  How do I edit or add new categories, descriptions and/or locations?

A:  Add items as needed by pressing tab at the end of each list.  Modify and delete items as needed.  After you have entered all items, sort the edited list alphabetically by clicking the gray box to the right of the header and select Sort A to Z.

Q:  How specific should my categories be?

A:  As specific as you would like them to be.  We decided to combine groceries, personal hygiene supplies, and basic home supplies (such as batteries) all under “Grocery.”  Check out this blogger’s article about 20 categories that are often overlooked when making a budget.

Q:  Why do I need to list these account names, categories, descriptions and locations?  Am I wasting my time?

A:  In the long run, this is a time-saver!  When a cell under Description, Location, Category or Account is selected, there is a down arrow that appears to the right of the cell that allows you to choose an item from a drop-down list.

Drop down list example
Default drop down list for Location.

For Description and Location, this is just more convenient than always re-typing the same information when you complete similar transactions on a regular basis (buying groceries or paying rent, for example).  It is necessary, however, to list category and account names because this information links to various parts of both worksheets in order to make calculations.

Q:  What happens if I don’t do as you say and end up deleting or renaming a worksheet tab (for example)?

A:  You will most likely break it.  All tabs draw from data on different sheets, so it is important that none are deleted or renamed because many functions won’t be able to find that data anymore.

Q:  There are only 5 lines for each month’s balance sheet and I have more than 5 transactions to enter for this month.  What do I do?

A:  The default number of lines for each month was set to 5.  To add more lines to the end of the table:
  1. Select the bottom right cell.
  2. Press tab.

Q:  It’s the end of the month and I just realized that I forgot to include one transaction in the middle of the month.  Do I have to delete all of the rows of data I entered after that date and pretty much start all over?  Can I add a row in the middle of the table, and if so, how do I do it?

A:  No, thankfully you don’t have to undo all that work you’ve already done in entering your transaction history!

To add a line in the middle of the table:
  1. Select any cell in the first row that passes the date of the transaction you missed.
  2. Right click the selected cell and select Insert --> Table Rows Above
  3. You will notice that the cell containing the balance at the end of the row below the new line will have a small green triangle in the top left corner.  Select the cell and notice the warning symbol that appears to the left of the cell.
  4. Click on the symbol and select Restore to Calculated Column Formula.  If you do not restore the formula to that cell, the new transaction amount you enter will not be added to the current balance.

Q:  What is this “Cash Available” table all about in FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx?

A:  This table shows your cash flow and has a slightly different purpose on the “Budget” and “Actual” tabs in FamilyBudget_Plan.xlsx. 

When planning your budget (ie. on the “Budget” tab), ideally you want the numbers here to be equal to $0.  This table is helpful for setting up or adjusting your budget because it helps you to know how much money you have left to set aside for each category.  When you enter your expected income in the “Income” table, the values in the “Cash Available” table will be positive.  Then, as each expected expense is entered, the value decreases.  If the value drops below 0, your expected expenses are greater than your expected income – ie. you will not be “living within your means.”  Either you need to find a way to make more money each month or cut some of your expenses.

When analyzing your budget (ie. on the “Actual” tab), ideally you want the numbers here to be greater than or equal to $0.  A negative number (which might appear within parentheses) means you are losing money and a positive number means you are making money.  A balance of $0 (whether for the month or by the end of the year) means you are keeping exactly to your budget. 

Q:  A cell turned red in the “Expenses” table on the “Actual” tab in the file FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx.  What did I do?  Did I break it?

Red Cell
A red-highlighted cell means you have spent more than your budget allowed for that month.

A:  Don’t worry, you didn’t break anything!  In fact, it is very important to note if a cell has turned red.  It means that within that category, you have spent more than what your budget allowed.  You may need to revisit your budget plan and make a few adjustments to that and other categories to decrease the chances of another month of overspending.  It would also be advisable to review what your money was spent on within that category (ie. review your budget balance for that month) to see if you could cut out any of those expenses next month.

Q:  Little green triangles keep showing up in the top right corner of the cells under Description and Location on my balance sheets in FamilyBudget_Balance2016.xlsx.  What are they and why won’t they go away?

A:  These triangles alert you that there is an error with the contents of that cell.  Blank entries or entries that are different from those listed under Frequently Used Descriptions and Frequently Used Locations from the “Start Here” tab will appear as errors.  You can ignore those.  If you really don’t want to see them, select the cell with the error, click the warning symbol that appears to the left of the cell, and select Ignore Error.

Ignore error
How to ignore error for non-frequently used description.

Q:  I have an Apple computer.  Can I still make these files work for me?

A:  If you have Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 or 2016, I assume everything should work fine.  If you are only able to use the Mac program, Numbers – comparable to Microsoft Excel – it might be compatible, but may not look the same.  I’m not sure if all of the formulas or other functions I used are available in Numbers.  I do not have a Mac to test this out on, so if any of you fellow readers have tried this out, please share your experience with it!

Q:  Can I delete the instructional text boxes in the worksheets?  They’re in my way.

A:  Of course!  Everything you need to know is on this page for you to refer back to.

If you have a question about these budgeting worksheets that was not answered above, please comment below!

Next week’s topic: [The Christmas Tree Letters]

*This page will continue to be updated as needed.*

Monday, 7 December 2015

Microsoft Excel 2013 Family Budget “Templates” for 2016

  1. Do you have a budget? 
  2. Do you stick to it? 
  3. Do you track your expenses?
  4. Is it too much work to make sure your spending is within your budget? 
If you answered YES to the last question, regardless of how you answered the first three questions, I have a solution for you!

Free Family Budget "Templates" for 2016

I struggle with sticking to a budget.  For about the first year or so of our marriage I only kept track of our expenses because we weren’t sure exactly what to budget for.  (I think this was alright for us since we had money and time to spare – but only barely.)

Then, in the last year we set up a budget as best as we could with a very random pattern of income.  But it got tiring adding up all the amounts we spent in each category each month and then comparing it to our budget.

The New Family Budget Spreadsheet

What I am about to reveal to you is actually an updated and much cooler version of what I adapted for us.

I took some online courses this year that included Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced courses in Microsoft Excel 2013.  I absolutely loved it!  I took what I learned in those courses to set up these linked worksheets to make the user’s job so much easier.


  • Track your monthly expenses, including details such as cheque number, date, description of transaction, location, account transferred from or into, and credit (deposit) or debit (withdrawal).
  • Watch as your balance is calculated for you after each transaction is entered.
  • See whether your cash flow is increasing, decreasing, or staying the same each month.
  • Compare your starting balances to the current balances in each account.
  • Save time by listing frequently used descriptions and locations to choose from a drop-down list. (optional)
  • Watch as each category’s expenses or earnings are calculated for you each month.
  • After entering in your proposed budget, see different categories turn red if your spending has exceeded your budget for that month.
  • BONUS:  View a breakdown of your yearly expenses in a pie chart.

Instructions are included in the files, but they will be more in-depth here for future reference.

Download Instructions:

Two files are included in this free download: FamilyBudget_Balance2016.xlsx and FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx.  These are not true templates because they are linked together, but they act as templates.  It is necessary to keep them in the same folder or else the data can’t be transferred to FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx.

Note: I found some errors in one of the files.  If you downloaded the files before Jan 2, 2016 you may want to re-download them.

You will need to unzip the file folder after you download it.  Then move the files to your desired location but just make sure they are saved in the same folder!

DO NOT rename, move, or delete:
  • File names
  • Tables
  • Columns or rows within a table
  • Headers
  • Sheet tabs
  • Cells with formulas
DO rename, sort, or insert:
  • Category items
  • Account names
  • Frequently used descriptions and locations
  • Rows into monthly balance tables (how-to included)
TIP:  It is recommended, though not necessary, that both files are open whenever changes are being made, preferably opening FamilyBudget_Balance2016.xlsx before FamilyBudget_Plan2016.xlsx.

If you download, please comment below and share the wealth!  (Pun totally intended.)

Please ask any questions you have about using these files!

Next week’s topic: [Family Budget Spreadsheets FAQ]