The most important thing to do with money is to provide it with direction. Learn how to track where your money goes by drafting a budget that considers your expenses and your income, along with your saving, investing, and debt. More information can be found in Chapter 2 of the EQUITY book.
Chapter 2 Budgeting (PDF)
OK! Let’s check out some of the tools and worksheets to put what we have just learned into practice! When it comes to budgeting, we have five, yes five, great tools thanks to our project with CFPB.
Income and Benefit Tracker
The first tool is an income and benefit tracker. The main goal here is to be sure you capture every type of income and benefit you receive on a monthly basis.
If you get SSI, write it down. SSDI? Write it down. Even benefits without a cash value, be sure you write that down. For example, let’s say you have a housing voucher that pays $600 of your rent. That has a value of $600, even though it is just an offset to your rent.
Does rehab pay for your bus pass? Internet access? Write it down. Just make sure the income tracker captures the full picture of your income and benefits each month. The tracker also has some great instructions and ideas on how you can share it with others. Check out the income tracker here!
Income and Benefit Tracker tool (PDF)
Here’s another great tool. Ever get a bit disorganized around which bills you’ve paid and which ones you haven’t? Because, we sure do.
Once we even sent the utility payment to the credit card company, and the credit card payment to the utility company. And, well, that didn’t work out so well.
Here is a great way to keep track of all your bills and due dates. Make sure you capture each monthly bill, and, depending on how you pay it, by mail or electronically, make sure you leave enough time for the payment to arrive.
Bill Calendar tool (PDF)
OK, we’ve seen how to use the income and benefit tracker and the bill tracker, so it is only natural that we now jump into the joys of the spending tracker!
Ah, spending, who doesn’t like tracking where their money goes? Well, anyway, if we don’t know where it is going, we can’t make better decisions about where we would like it to go.
That’s really what this entire section is about: just knowing what stuff gets money spent on. We remember the first time we looked closely at our spending–we were amazed. Small bills had crept up over time. We even had a subscription service we had forgotten about. The key here, just like the income and benefit tracker, is to make sure you are capturing everything you spend money on, and then to make sure you put that spending into categories that make sense.
This tool has some great tips from CFPB about how to track spending, keep receipts, photograph receipts, use a debit card, and whatever else works for you. Just do it for a few days, a week, a month.
Lastly, let’s not judge what people spend money on. One of the authors of EQUITY happens to have a large spending category for dog toys and exercise, while his sister likes expensive dinners out. As long as we’re making conscience decisions about spending, folks get to do whatever they want.
Spending Tracker tool (PDF)
Paying for Assistive Devices
Not sure where to start when you need to purchase an assistive device? This tool can help you organize and think outside the box to come up with a sensible plan!
Paying for Assistive Devices tool (PDF)
Well, now that we have tracked our income and benefits, as well as our general spending and our more specific paying for assistive devices, it’s time to put it all together in a monthly budget. Check out and please share with friends and colleagues this great budget tool from our work with CFPB that puts it all together.
Once you’ve entered all the information and data, it gives you a great overview of what your monthly money picture really looks like!
Once it is all in one place, you get to take action!
Maybe trim that monthly cable bill or find a cheaper phone plan. On the other hand, with those savings, maybe start an ABLE account or an emergency fund or start paying down debt by making larger payments! It’s all up to you, and this tool helps you do it!
Monthly Budget tool (PDF)
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