Pre-Budgeting Activities

Brent Pittman —  01/06/2012

Are your finances tangled in knots?

Many of you might not be ready to budget your money yet. In fact, if you do you’ll fail big time. Why?

  • You don’t have the skills, confidence, and support to win.
  • Your spouse really isn’t bought into the idea, they are just going along to avoid another money fight.
  • Your money is such a tangled mess, that you have no idea what’s going on.

Start with these activities if your money in a mess:

1. Track Your Spending on Paper

Track your spending for 30 days to see where your money is going. Don’t just track your debit and credit cards. Track your cash spending also. This will take some pen and paper or your could use something supercool like Evernote.  You’ll be shocked and hopefully motivated to begin budgeting. This might also get your spouse on board when they see the numbers.

I also like to suggest Mint, but this will only show your online spending and you’ll need to configure the categories. This is a great tool if you are tech savvy. Writing it down and entering the information in yourself is best for correctness and shock value.

2. Talk to Your Spouse

Begin discussing with your significant other that you’d like to start budgeting and organizing your finances. This could be a long conversation or a series of conversations, but it’s best to have buy-in with all parties before beginning. Focus on Why your want to budget and not How you will budget.

3. Balance Your Checkbook(s)

This could be a big task, but it has to be done. Why? You need to know how much money you have in order to start budgeting. Also, by looking at your checkbook you’ll begin to see what you value. If you need help, there are many good resources.

4. Figure your Personal Net Worth

By knowing how your assets and liabilities (what you have minus what you owe) stack up, we’ll have a much clearer view of how to budget and attack your debt. Plus it might make you feel good about your self as you’ll notice assets you forgot about.

On a sheet of paper make two columns:

  • Assets-List the money in all your savings and checking accounts, retirement & stock accounts, and any another money on hand. Also, list any other assest of value.
  • Liabilities- In the second column list your debts and loans: credit cards, car loans, home mortgages, lines of equity, personal loans, school loans…etc.
Here is a net worth calculator if you want to try online or see my example below.


Real Estate 1 150,000 85,000 65,000
Real Estate 2

Car 1 2,000 0 2,000
Car 2 12,000 7,000 5,000
Cash on Hand 4,000
Checking Account 1 245
Checking Account 2 1,250
Savings Account 1 1,000
Savings Account 2 5,000
Money Market Account 100
Mutual Funds 100
Retirement Plan 1 10,000
Retirement Plan 2 1,000
Retirement Plan 3

Retirement Plan 4

Stocks or Bonds 500
Insurance (Cash Value)

Household Items 6,000
Jewelry 4,000
Antiques 500
Unsecured Debt (Negative)
12,000 (12,000)
IRS Debt (Negative)
500 (500)

TOTAL $197,695 $104,500 $93,195


Hopefully the knot of cords which was your personal finances is beginning to unravel a bit.


Action: Begin the pre-budgeting activities and let me know how you are progressing in the comments. 


(Photo by William K.)
[This is part of my How to Budget Like a Pro blog Series]

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.