A couple of weeks ago I wrote about volunteering and last week I started working on my first big project. I mentioned previously that I created a budget spreadsheet and that hopefully personal finance classes will be starting soon.
My ideal situation is such that I can meet with small groups of people (probably 5 or less) once every week or two to have an “Introduction to Budgets” class. During this class, participants would be given the budget spreadsheet I created and asked to fill it out estimating their income and expenses for the month.
At this session, clients would be given an expanding file folder. It will contain a folder in the front for bills that need to be paid, and then labeled folders for each month. We would talk about setting up routines for paying bills, and about writing the date and check number on bills paid. We’d also discuss saving ALL receipts, and how all receipts, paid bills, bank statements, etc. would go in the appropriate month’s folder. Clients would also be given a small notebook and pen for tracking cash expenses.
Once a month, during the first week of the month, I would like to host a “Budget Party” sort of event. We would set aside 2 or 3 hours in the evening and clients would be invited to bring their expanding files and reconcile their budgets. This would be a chance for them to record their actual expenses, compare them with estimated expenses, and make a new budget for the current month. Hopefully another volunteer or two and I will all be available at these “Parties” to assist in answering any questions that arise. We may be able to provide some sort of snack food. Ideally we could also get some high school or college students to volunteer to babysit (I haven’t worked this idea out completely yet).
My goal is that clients will get in the habit of monitoring their money and creating and reconciling their budgets. The “Party” makes budgeting a fun and social event, with people on hand to help with questions. Hopefully this also helps everyone get in the habit of creating and reconciling budgets at the beginning of the month, so that if someone comes for a few months they don’t necessarily need to continue participating since they will have formed the habit and know what to do already (though of course they will still be more than welcome to attend!).
Do you have any suggestions about how to expand or build on these ideas? We’re still very much in the planning stages, but I would love to start within the next few weeks and have our first “Party” in early April.