Create an Epic Budget and Become Rich

budget plan

Do you ever feel out of control when it comes to money? There are times when nearly everyone feels this way, usually during a period of reduced income or unusually heavy expenses. But if you find yourself feeling this way most of the time then your financesâ”and even the little voice insideââ”may be crying out for a budget.

To some, being on a budget is like being on an allowance. It’s very limiting and makes you feel as if it’s something to be rebelled against. While that’s a legitimate analogy, limits are exactly what are needed in order to get control of your finances. The sooner you do and begin getting used to it the easier it becomes to live with.

The ultimate payoff of a budgetâ”almost ironicallyâ”is more freedom. That’s because a budget puts you in control of your money, and that always gives more freedom and flexibility than it takes.

How do you start a budget if you’ve never had one in the past?

Track your spending

Before establishing a budget, you first need to determine where it is you’ve been spending money so far. It would be best to do this by tracking your spending over the past several months. I’d say that a three month look-back is the minimum, but six would be even better. A full year would be optimal since it may reveal seasonal spending patterns that could be important.

You have to be sure that you track your spending from all sourcesâ”checking accounts, credit cards and even cash if you keep your receipts. An Excel spreadsheet will be a great help in this effort, as you’ll need a way of recording and sorting a large number of transactions. Sort all spending by general categoryâ”food, housing, utilities, insurance, entertainment, credit card payments, car payments, etc. You’ll need this to identify spending patterns.

You may even want to analyze certain categories in greater detail to find areas of excess. For example, how much of your spending on food also included restaurant meals? Or how much of your utility expense might be hiding movie rentals or online games?

Figure out what expenses to cut

Once you’ve determined where you’re spending your money, you’ll be in a position to know where to start cutting back. Hint: the largest expense categories will present the greatest sources of savings. This will help you to clear the deck so you can begin establishing priorities.

Variable expenses, like food and entertainment, are the easiest to cut back on. But if you’ve never tracked your spending patterns in the past, you may be surprised at what you find. You may discover, for example, that your money problems are due to high structural costs, like housing and debt, rather than careless excesses. This will require a very different approach to expense cutting.

For example, if housing is consuming a disproportionate amount of your monthly incomeâ”say more than 30%–you may need to consider moving to a less expensive home. If two car payments are choking your cash flow, you may need to focus on eliminating one of them as a priority. Excessive credit card payments may require a concentrated effort to begin paying them off, or even to work out a debt settlement.

Establish your priorities

After you’ve tracked your spending patterns and identified where to cut expenses, it’s time to determine your priorities.

If you’re carrying too much debt, then that has to be the priority. Debt is about paying off yesterday’s bills, and that needs to change as quickly as possible. Also, as you pay down and eventually begin paying off debt, you’ll free up cash flow for other priorities.

If it’s never been a priority in the past, saving money needs occupy a prominent position in your budget. A well stocked bank account provides budgetary flexibility as well as a cushion in emergencies, and having one is the beginning of financial security.

Charitable giving should be given a place as well. If you’ve been blessed with any measure of prosperity in your life at all, you need to give some backâ”to church, to the less fortunate, to those facing crisis. Balance this with your debt position first however, otherwise you may be unknowingly giving with borrowed money.

Commit to it!

Once you’ve prioritized your spending, cut excessive expenses and have begun paying debt, saving money and giving, you have the makings of a budget. Congratulationsâ”you’re almost there!

Now you need to apply it consistently! And this is where most budgets either succeedâ”or crash and burn. In order for the budget to work you need to commit to following through on it. You may never have had a spending plan in the past, but now you do, and it needs to be guide in all things money. And not just for you, but for everyone in your family.

Being on a budget is like being on a dietâ”there’s self-denial, discomfort and a long period of adjustment. In fact, if none of these are present, you probably don’t have a very solid budget in place.

Fortunately, as time goes on and you settle into your new way of handling money, it will get easier, and that’s when the biggest payoff comes. You’ll be comfortable and you’ll be in control!

(Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.)

photo by alan cleaver_2000

Earn Big Cash Back With PerkStreet Debit Card


PerkStreet Financial is a relatively new company.  It’s not often I recommend financial companies on this website, but I just had to write a review on PerkStreet Financial.  PerkStreet is now offering a 2% cash back debit card plus 5% on select categories and retailers.  I know other companies like Discover and Chase offer credit cards with these deals, but who offers a debit card that can do the same thing and not take the risk of overspending on a credit card?

Simply put, there truly is something special and unique about a debit card that offers such great rewards.  Not only that, but PerkStreet is renown for fantastic customer service.  Let’s get into some of the benefits of using this card.



-Free checking account with your new PerkStreet debit card

-Unlimited free checks

-No minimum balance and no fees when your account is being used

-$25 bonus when you open your first account!

-24/7 customer support

-2% cash back with 5% in select categories

-Free fraud protection

-Your funds are FDIC insured

-One of the largest ATM networks in the country.  Over 37,000 ATM’s within their network

-Their online banking system is full featured and easily accessible


More on rewards

The cash back rewards program with PerkStreet is pretty straight forward but I should go over some details. PerkStreet has a vested interest in having you keep a balance in your PerkStreet checking account.  So, PerkStreet gives you an incentive.  If you have under $5,000 in your checking account, you will receive 1% cash back on all your debit purchases.  If your account has more than $5,000, then you receive 2% cash back on all your purchases.  Also, when you shop at select retailers, you will receive 5% cash back.

It’s important to point out that only non-PIN debit purchases count as eligible purchases.  In reality, many purchases require a PIN.  So, you will have to choose to buy something with a “credit card” and use your PerkStreet instead.  PerkStreet has basically found a loophole to provide massive value to their customers in the form of cash back!

Get your money back on each purchase.Compare the best cash back credit cards.


Their site is awesome

I don’t know about you but I can’t stand most bank or credit card sites.  It’s full of boring information and repetitive ads about their latest card offers.  PerkStreet does things a little differently.  With the various corruption stories lately, PerkStreet is out there to prove the skeptic wrong and become the “go-to” company for checking and debit cards.

They truly are dedicated to providing the best.  They financial blog is no exception.  It has a more personal feel to it and is very similar to other personal finance blogs.  Their writers clearly know what they’re doing.  The blog covers topics other than banking so it goes to show they are worried about your big picture personal financial life.


Should you open an account?

To answer this question, you have to decide what you are trying to accomplish.  If you are looking to build your credit, then this card is clearly not for you, since it’s a debit card, not a credit card.

Now, if you’re trying to avoid the temptation of credit debt, then this PerkStreet debit card is for you.  I’m actually thinking of switching to this card.  Knowing you have a cash limit definitely limits one’s spending.  I see this as a huge plus if falling into debt is something you struggle with.

I’d love to hear from the readers.  Who currently has the PerkStreet debit card?  What are your thoughts?  Good, Bad?  Share below!

Budget Better By Turning Expenses Into A Routine

For most of us, the vast majority of our cash outlays come from those things that happen repeatedly and at frequent intervals. We pay our mortgage and our bills at the same time every month. Our membership to the health club needs to be renewed once a year. Car insurance payments? Perhaps every six months.

Even those expenses that don’t have due dates still tend to follow routines. We might go out to a nice restaurant a couple times a month, go grocery shopping after work every Monday, and take a vacation for a weekend in the summer and a week in the winter. Let’s face it: humans are creatures of nature, and our affinity for routine and predictability comes through all the time â“ even when it comes to our expenses.

Of course, there are always those expenses in life that cannot be predicted and don’t fit into a routine. Most of these are costs we would rather not have in the first place, and thus can’t prepare for: there are the hospital bills, the bail bonds, and the new laptop when the old one unceremoniously dies. Certainly, few crystal balls can see these costs coming.

Still, we generally follow a routine with our bills and expenditures. Since we’re already inclined to act this way, we might as well take advantage of it. Start by conducting a trial: for a few months, keep detailed track of your expenses on a calendar. Every time you pay a bill or buy yourself a bagel for lunch, be sure to write it down. Analyze your data carefully after the trial is over. What was your monthly entertainment spending? When during the month did most of this spending occur? After asking those questions of all facets of your expenditures, you can then work backwards to create a budget. This budget should allocate your spending per month, by category, and it should note the particular days when spending should occur, thus giving you the ability to see those costs as they approach.

In this manner, we can make our budget in a more natural way. Instead of determining arbitrary numbers (say, $300 per month on food), we can instead build our budget off of our natural routine. Of course, if your spending exceeds your means you’re going to want to force yourself to adapt new routines. But most of are probably pretty responsible on a routine basis. By locking into that routine, then, we can eliminate some outliers without cutting our quality of life, thus allowing us to save some money while also anticipating those expenses on the horizon. Review: A Great Budgeting Tool

This is a guest post by Jeff B. whom I graduated high school with.  He is an engineer with a passion for investing and personal finance.   Enjoy!


It’s that time of year again, the holidays are approaching quickly and everyone is out shopping for last minute gifts.   This time of the year can be hard on many people while they are trying to squeeze every penny out of their budget to help make this Christmas season a memorable one.

Budgeting can be hard for many people when they have multiple credit cards, joint checking/savings accounts, divided incomes, and a mortgage payment.   It makes it even harder now that you want to surprise your significant other with a gift that will bring a smile to their face.   Well luckily for us, there is an easy way to balance all of these expenses in our life and find out how much money we really have, how much we are saving and most of all how our Christmas shopping will affect our net income this year.

The tool is called Mint ( It’s a personal finance website created by Aaron Patzer back in 2006, which imports and displays all your online banking activity.   It has since been purchased by Intuit (creators of Quicken and TurboTax) and been upgraded to support virtually any bank in the US (and now Canada) that supports online banking.   It is feature rich and easy to use, giving you a simple way to find out how much money you actually have.


Mint has a couple notable features I’ll describe briefly here.   The first is the home page; it gives you a rundown on all your financial accounts, whether it’s a checking account, credit card or mutual fund, it’s all shown on the front page in an easy to read and understandable format.

Mint also features a transaction page which resembles that which you would see in Quicken.   Here you can edit your transactions, split, label and categorize them.   This is important for another feature of mint which shows the breakdown of your expenses by category.   The transaction page allows you to view your aggregate transactions or transactions by account.   This is a good way to see what you’re spending and to check for any incorrect charges.

One of the most helpful features that mint boasts is the Trends page.   This is the eye candy that makes Mint what it is and it’s just that: Eye candy.   It’s a way to visualize your money.   It stead of adding up numbers in your head and trying to see where your money is disappearing to, Mint delivers easy to read and informative charts and graphs.


Mint offers other features such as budgeting and savings plans that show you how much you’ve put away for a specific goal.   The best part about mint is that it’s FREE to use.   What’s better than a free way to help you manage your money?


When it comes to money many people are apprehensive to giving online banking access to 3rd parties.   Luckily for you Mint is run by the same people that run TurboTax, Intuit.   Intuit is a well established company in the financial world, and they are just as secure as your online bank and are not going to run off with your account information.   They only provide read access through, meaning that if someone steals your Mint password they will only be able to see your account balances.   They will NOT be able to make transactions, transfer money or retrieve account specific information.

If you’re still not convinced you can view Mint’s privacy page here:

If you haven’t yet, visit by clicking on the Mint advertisement on the upper right hand side of the website!