Creating a NoteBook For Your Financial Future

by Broke Professional on February 15, 2011 · 9 comments

I know that I turned my life around when I started planning rather than letting life carry me wherever it wished.  I lost over a hundred pounds, I quit smoking, and I started to get our family finances in order.  Ok, that last part is clearly still a major work in progress.  Mrs. BP has had similar results (although she never had the weight to lose like I did).  Although you certainly do not need our help in writing your goals in a notebook, I think some structure could be helpful, so it is not overwhelming.

If you’re like most us, you probably sometimes lack a cohesive plan for your future. If you share financial responsibilities with another person such as a spouse, it can be even tougher to get started. What may be needed is a guide with which to implement a well-thought out plan. It may be time to consider starting a notebook: a Notebook for your Financial Future.

This post will go over, step by step (and perhaps in boring detail) the idea of a Written Notebook plan “Life Notebook?” as well as some ideas as to how you can implement such a notebook into your daily life.  You will find in the weeks to follow some more posts on the subject scattered about, if there is interest.  It is something I find really helpful but I know it may not be for everyone.

If there is some interest in the subject, however, the plan is for there to be a culmination with a free e-book we are creating that can serve as a template for your notebook and help organize goals, accomplishments, etc.  In short, the plan is for the notebook template to be filled with just about all you will need to start making a great plan for your future….on a number of levels, that everyone should be able to tailor to their own specific needs.  We will provide the template, then you can write in your progress, goals, etc as you desire.

Of course I’m biased (because I created it), but I believe it will be a great companion to this and future posts, and will help us stay motivated to make the changes we seek in our lives.  I know a similar notebook has been really helpful for me in losing weight, meeting my career goals, and working towards general self improvement.  I also know perhaps the biggest common denominator amongst our readers is the desire for continued, multi-facitated self-improvement.

It wasn’t easy to get used to putting everything in writing, but it was very effective.  It forced us to take time for ourselves and think about our direction in life, our goals and dreams, where we are succeeding and falling short, and how we can better utilize our resources.  I find the hardest part is just sitting down and thinking about all of the different moving pieces and how to go about organizing them. Another benefit of writing things down is it makes them become tangible, and it makes you better remember your hopes and goals.

Why Almost Everyone Should Make a Written Plan

As stated above, when I was in graduate/professional school, I lacked a financial plan.  I wasn’t a spendthrift, but I still wasted money.  The biggest problem was I didn’t have a firm grasp of my finances.  I wasn’t sure where my money was going.  I never journaled my expenses or thought about how I should have been pinching every penny to cut down on my future student loans.  It never occurred to me that the $1.50 coffee I drank in 2007 would cost me $3.27 over the next twenty-five years.  It just didn’t.  Nor did I really ever fully and consciously realize how the pounds had crept up on me throughout college.  While the idea of journaling such things probably goes back to people being able to write, I think that a successful journal that people will stick with should have certain attributes, which hopefully we will include in the proper balance in the e-book, should there be interest shown.

In short, when you lack a plan, you may be falling behind without even realizing it.

What to Put in the Financial Notebook

A. Near Universal Goals

Sure everyone needs to have their basic needs met, and hopefully they are.  For the average reader of this blog though, finances really relate more to accomplishing goals rather than basic survival (although admittedly some months the line becomes blurrier than I would prefer).

Goals change throughout life, but there are several basic financial goals most people share.

1. Purchasing/Maintaining a House.

2. Education – For yourself or your children.

3. Transportation – Generally a dependable car or two.

4. Emergency Fund – Not to be confused with a rainy day fund and only to be used in the case of true emergencies.

5. Short-Term Savings/House Repairs Fund – For when the roof leaks or the tires go on your car.  If you have this fund it will preserve another line of defense before you get to the Emergency Fund.

6. Vacation Fund – Saving up for a debt-free vacation is a common goal for those who have the means and the will.

7. Retirement Fund

Other Common Goals

1. Money for Starting a Business.

2. Paying down/off debt.

3. A Boat/Other “splurge” type purchase.

4. Renovating the House/Putting on an addition, etc.

5. Second Property (investment or vacation home).

6. Health Fund.

7. Insurance

Ranking the Goals

Listing goals is easy.  Figuring out how to prioritize the goals is hard.  Allocating the proper amount of resources to achieving the goals is nearly impossible.

But There’s More to Life Than Finances

Although the main “niche” of this site is personal finance, there are many other goals that must be addressed as well. Do you want to lose weight, get a higher paying job, start a business, or simply want to be a better person?  There should be goals and progress made in all of these areas, if needed.

In my opinion, almost every goal/objective is best met with proper planning.  This generally will include figuring out a timeline, which tools you already have, which tools you will need to acquire, and a multitude of other considerations.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoy the idea and when the time comes, the Free Broke Professionals Notebook E-Book. It is still a work in progress, so  now is the time to let us know: what would you like to see included in the e-book?  Is there any interest in the idea at all? We’re never trying to force anything onto you guys that you are not digging, so let us know.  The last thing we want is to work hard on something with little interest.  If we were going to do that, I would go back to writing novels.   ;-)

I am looking forward to hearing your responses on this.  Be honest, (like that one individual who keeps grilling me on my grammar and punctuation mistakes).  It is the best way to learn!   Thanks!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joyce February 16, 2011 at 7:48 am

I think this is a great idea. Even though I didn’t have this when I was starting out, I have given my daughters and son ideas on how to keep on track financially.

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2 Mr. Broke Professional February 16, 2011 at 7:54 am

The only problem is, really, who has the time? There is something to be said for action as well as preparation. That said, we find at least, that writing out goals and plans is a positive activity and a good way to stay focused on both the near and long term future. We are hoping the free e-book will make it easier because hopefully a lot of the work on how to structure the notebook will be there for you, or at least give ideas of the types of things that could be included. Thanks for checking out our blog!

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3 Philly area February 16, 2011 at 10:36 am

Great idea. Once we’d gotten our fully funded emergency fund in place, we stagnated for several years financially . During that time, we did not have purposeful savings and the end result was we spent too much of our money. We felt rich with all that liquid cash in the bank. Problem was, that money isn’t to pay for a replacement car or our kids’ tuition – it’s to get us through a job loss or a health crisis.

I got the idea from J.D. Roth’s blog to have individual ING accounts for separate purposes. I wish we would’ve done it sooner. We started in October and we’ve already got next year’s tuition and this summer’s vacation funded. And the money’s completely separate from our EF. For the next few months, all extra money will be going into our car replacement fund. Once we hit summer, we’ll go back to funding all three accounts again.

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4 Mr. Broke Professional February 16, 2011 at 11:02 am

Yeah we have always done that as well. I find that J.D. Roth (Get Rich Slowly) has just about the best advice for the average person interested in personal financ, I did not know that was an idea of his, although it does not surprise me. We like being able to keep everything in one place, although at the same time sometimes we feel upset because we know we could be getting a better rate with another bank.

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5 MoneyCone February 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Looking forward to the book BP! There needs to be a column to track goals. As you say, easy to list goals and forget about them. There should be a way to track them as well and make corrections along the way.

Anything too rigid is bound to fail.

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6 101 Centavos February 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm

This is a good topic, Mr. BP. It helps to visualize your goals when they’re written down, and revisited from time to time.
I forget exactly when I started keeping notebooks and journals. I have several that I carry with me all the time, including an idea notebook for this blog ( I put up a scan of it on the blog), a mini-clipboard with loose notes, and a financial planning/investing notebook. There’s also a couple of diary/journals that I like to write in from time to time. And that’s not including the agendas and journals I keep at work.

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7 Mr. Broke Professional February 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Keeping an idea blog if you are a writer is definitely clutch. I think the fact that I am a control freak is a big reason why I feel the need to “keep track” of so much of my life. It gives me a palpable sense of control, even where sometime control does not exist.

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8 Temi February 18, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Just a note of encouragement. I found your blog from a link in a post that was linked to “the simple dollar” blog. Of all the blogs I’ve looked at in the last couple of years ( too many), yours is the only one that seems as consistently entertaining and useful as “the simple dollar”. And I’m not even a broke professional!

If you can keep up the pace, I’m sure your blog will be a huge success.

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9 Mr. Broke Professional February 18, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Well Temi, I have to admit that is the nicest comment we have ever received on our site. I really appreciate the high praise, and it inspires us to try and raise the bar for our site. You made our week with that comment.

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