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Budget Napkin

Hey, everyone!

What’s the best tip you’ve learned from “Napkin Finance” so far or any other budgeting tips that have worked well for you?

I hope you’ve all had a chance to pick up a copy of “Napkin Finance” by Tina Hay. Even if you haven't, the book covers so many different aspects of personal finance and I welcome you to join in on our discussions!

For those who are reading: How are you liking the book so far?

I really like how “Napkin Finance” uses graphics to illustrate different financial concepts. The “fun facts” and “key takeaways” in each section are super helpful and interesting to me. I also appreciate the use of repetition to drive home each point.

For example, you can see how the 50/20/30 budget works in the graphic, then you read more about it on the following pages and it’s also included in the quiz at the end of the first chapter.

Speaking of the 50/20/30 budget, what do you all think about that budgeting method? (If you haven’t grabbed a copy of the book, read about this budgeting method here.)

I remember when I was paying for child care for my daughter as a single parent, there was no way I could keep all my essentials under 50%. (Child care was definitely an essential.) Now that my kid is in elementary school, I’ve been able to make it work — but I still don’t love the 50/20/30 method.

“Napkin Finance” mentions that you can come up with your own custom-made budget — though it doesn’t delve into how. I set budget limits for myself each month by referring to my normal spending trends plus factoring in anticipated irregular expenses. I usually stick to less than 10 broad budget categories. I also really lean into tracking my expenses by hand (I prefer the pen-and-paper approach over using an app) and reflecting on my spending and saving, journal-entry style.

My budgeting system is part kakeibo, part calendar budgeting and part zero-based. It’s totally okay to take aspects of different budgeting methods to come up with your own! (Read how Kumiko Love of The Budget Mom did just that.)

While the 50/20/30 method has you dedicating 20% of your earnings to saving, I’m hoping to challenge myself to save even more this year. I love the tip in “Napkin Finance” about putting your savings aside before spending any money. That’s not new advice for me, but it’s something I’ve yet to put into practice.

**Writer at The Penny Hoarder. All opinions expressed are my own and don't necessarily reflect the views of The Penny Hoarder.**


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Last edited by Theodora
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I am a huge fan of the 50/20/30 method but I keep it fluid too so it's not too restrictive.  I stick to it mostly but also allow myself the freedom to adjust the percentages some months as needed.  Budgeting is like following a diet or any other regimen where flexibility helps one to stay the course -- if the rules are too right, it's very easy to feel deprived and fall off the wagon.

Last edited by Theodora

I haven't had a chance to pick up the book yet, but I love how Tina Hay illustrates the 50/20/30 budget on the napkin above. I particularly like the examples at the bottom of finding ways to cut back on seemingly small treats or conveniences so you can save hundreds of dollars each year. Like Nicole, I really like the tip on setting aside money for savings before spending money. Although I've never been the best about keeping a formal budget, this year, I'm prioritizing saving as much as possible and am focusing on where to cut back on my expenses.

I haven't loaded the book yet to Kindle (will do that on Friday). I had heard of this book before when Michelle Obama was doing some promotion I think for it, and took a look around their site and liked the illustrations. It was actually quite addicting, sort of like that Notecard finance book.

So, when I heard PH would be discussing, that meant that instead of being on my backburner, it became on my front burner.

I use Mint app because I like the automation (sometimes, it's off), but I also use an Excel spreadsheet, not so much as a budgeting tool, but as a spending plan. For example, in my January 2021 workbook, I have already red-flagged overspending in the Miscellaneous category. I have a lot of categories, because I like lots of granular detail. Simultaneously, I hand-write entries in my checkbook register (yep, I still use one). I've also hand-written sticky notes of debt paydown and attached to my kitchen cabinets...trying to get 2021 off a good start!

Now that I think about it, I think I want a hardcopy because I like to take physical notes and highlight things, and can't really do that in Kindle.

Last edited by sthom

@Nicole D., I use three methods so I can watch what I'm spending closely. Obviously I'm a bit anal but it also forces me to always be thinking of how I'm using my money.

Yep, @Sushil, that's exactly right. There's something about hand-writing that helps me retain things. While I will use technology tools if they help me see things clearly, I am still pretty old-school (thus, the checkbook register, and the color coding in there actually helps me at tax time).

Once I get the physical book, I'll be able to make more comments about its content.

And, absolutely yes to funding savings first. I've always done that (my Mother forced me to do that with my first teenage job). While sometimes it feels as if as soon as I make a deposit I have to turn around and take some out, I still keep at it. I remember my Dad feeling the same way about this as me🙂.

@Michael J, when you create a new spreadsheet in Excel, you can actually select from various budget templates. There's a "personal monthly budget" template, which is a great option -- but if you have specific needs like budgeting for a small business or budgeting for a wedding, there are other budget templates you can choose from.

Tiller Money is also an excellent spreadsheet budget software. It comes at a cost, but you can test it out with a free trial.

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