How to Make an Annual Budget That Works for You

When I first started my budgeting journey, I only focused on reoccurring monthly expenses. I quickly found that miscellaneous items crept up on me throughout the year. The birthdays, vacations, weddings, pet items, etc., that popped up didn’t leave much room for savings or lowering debt. I knew my process had room for improvement, so I did a little research and tested out a few different styles. I finally crafted something that works for me, and I know the concept will work for you. Continue reading to find details on how I prepare an annual budget so those pesky funds don’t take away from my financial goals and/or awareness.

Grouping

I’ve tracked my expenses the past couple of years and have found six groups that stand out.

  • Income – Anything that increased my incoming cash flow. Last year, it was my primary day job, one stimulus check, tax return, and miscellaneous gifts (wedding and Christmas).
  • Taxes – I like to know the taxes I pay. Last year, this was primarily income and property tax for personal expenses. There are plenty of other taxes that can occur. I encourage you to look into your states Department of Revenue website to understand further. For my fellow Alabamians, individual tax info is here and business tax info is here.
  • Foundation – These expenses cover basic needs that are not debt. For me it includes health, housing, additional insurance, transportation, and pet items. I do not have any children, but if I did, I would put their monthly needs in this category too.
  • Debt – These expenses are what I owe, interest charging or not, and must pay back to avoid penalties or negative reports on my credit score. For me it includes loans, credit cards, credit lines, and any money I owe my husband. To be clear, I do not get any negative credit reporting from what I owe my husband. Since I owned the house before we were together, I have all the expenses under me. He pays me at the beginning of the month for a worst case scenario, and I return what wasn’t used at the end of the month.
  • Savings – This group is for money that you set aside for a later use. For me it covers emergency, retirement (401k), health (HSA), and maintenance. There are so many types of savings, but having at lease one short term and one long term savings is highly recommended. If you do not have at least one month of an emergency fund (short term) for your foundation and debt expenses, PLEASE START NOW. I may not know you, but I know that unexpected things happen all the time, and this fund will help out with that. Retirement savings (long term) is sadly often overlooked, but can bring the most return. The sooner you start this, the more your money can grow leading to a less stressful retirement.
  • Fun/Other – These expenses are not necessities, but help with peace of mind, life balance, or any other needs. I believe there should be something set aside for this even if it is $5 a month. For me it includes any contributions to charity, video streaming subscriptions, music subscription, fun food & drinks, miscellaneous items for myself, birthdays, vacations, and Christmas gifts. I also toss any annual fees here like Amazon Prime or specific credit cards.

Now that I have discussed how I generally group my expenses, it’s time for you to try. What is similar to what I have and what may be different? There may be some that could go into two or more different groups. For example, housing. I have a loan covering our house. I put the principle in the debt group and the interest and escrow in the foundation. That way I can focus on how much principle I pay down instead of grouping the other monthly loan expenses with it. Try to think of the governing group and if needed, set up more columns to add other descriptors. Figure 1 below shows this further relative to my life. Remember, I am married with no kids, and my husband and I still have separate checking and savings accounts. This should be used as a reference and modified for your personal/family needs. I love color coding to provide mental notes. Yellow showcases my projected column with the light orange being fixed costs and the light red showing costs that may slightly change. The lighter green are bills that my husband pays and the purple are what I pay. Last, the darker green shows actual numbers from the respective month.

Figure 1. Annual Budget Example

Sinking Funds

So those pesky items… This is where you account for them. A sinking fund is something that you know is coming up and would prefer to set aside funds prior vs after. The benefit to this is that you have more available cash (if needed elsewhere) and could even put it in a savings account to gain positive interest depending how long you are saving. Also, you can avoid paying any credit card or loan interest for the items you pay in full. I have sinking funds for my cat’s needs, Christmas gifts, birthdays, vacations, travel/gas, and annual fees. Some other good sinking funds would be a down payment for real estate, preparing for a baby, home upgrades/repair, and starting a business. The opportunities are endless! All you need is the available income to put aside until the time comes to use it for the designated intent. Keep in mind if you have minimal funds to dedicate each month, saving earlier/longer will help reduce this monthly number.

I would like to say that if you have outstanding credit card debt with high interest, it is recommended to pay that down as soon as possible instead of starting a sinking fund. It may take some time (often years if really bad debt) to be able to start one, but do not be discouraged. Personal budgeting is a journey and if you give up, the problem does not go away. You must be persistent and trust me once you get out, you will never want to go back. I find my mentality shifted greatly in the positive direction once I got ahold of my spending and started planning.

Prioritizing

What needs to be paid first and at what rate (amount/time)? The priority does not directly appear in the figure above, but I know that I don’t mind paying my house, student, and car loans to their full term so I can have funds for other things. I also have 0% APR (limited time) on items that carry a credit balance and another loan for our water softener ending soon. Each of those I have a plan to pay down by the designated date. At this moment, I am more interested in developing savings and sinking funds. This may change in the future, but it reflects where I am at now.

How will you prioritize your funds? Would setting an annual goal help you achieve this? I have another blog post on how I made my annual goals here if you would like more support on that.

Business

This budget is for my personal expenses, however the thought process can be applied towards small businesses as well. I apply this thought process to my business, Functun, and continue to put any remaining personal money into it.

Maintenance

This may be the most important part to fulfilling your annual financial goals and where you may find the most varying resources. I am not here to tell you the best way to maintain your budget, however, I will share what works for me. I like to budget by the half month since my primary income is received on the 1st and 16th. I always designate where my money goes by the paycheck (sometimes more if unexpected income). Otherwise, I WILL SPEND IT. I know myself well enough now to know that I will not set it aside later if there is no purpose designated for it. Note there are plenty of online/apps that can help with budgeting, but I chose to make something specific for me on excel. There is more to the process when you get to the monthly motions. Stay tuned for another blog that will cover how to make a monthly budgeting process that works for you.

Thank you for taking the time to read all the way to the end. Please reach out here to book a free introductory call so I can learn more about you and your personal and/or small business needs. I would be happy to share my excel file and draft a version for you!

XOXO – Mrs. Molly Murphy

Birth Budgeting Series: Postpartum

The Birth Budgeting Series was inspired by both The Doula Nurse and Functun’s audience: people focused on their goals and budget. One goal many people share is to become a parent. Even though we may be told we will never be prepared for children, we can be knowledgeable of the finances involved with having children. This series explores key areas during the prenatal, birth, and postpartum phases that one would want to be aware of and decide if it needs to be included in their personal budget. This is not to find the most cost-effective way to have a child, but to understand the potential resources provided to each of us based on some of the most common birthing practices. If your situation is not listed within these articles, we encourage you to do additional research or reach out to alternative resources that may be within your desired industry. The series will be presented in four parts: introduction, prenatal, birth, and postpartum. This is part four, postpartum. 

We discussed important and potential birth expenses in the last section. We also touched on how learning about and creating a birth plan can help alleviate any stress of the unknown. Now it’s time to learn more about your little one(s) and how life works as a new unit. Postpartum needs can vary drastically from person to person, but baby supplies will always be on that list. In addition to the items discussed during the prenatal period, the following items may need to be incorporated into the foreseeable budget: 

  • Additional medical or disability needs 
  • Upgrades as baby grows (clothes, strollers, bedding, etc.) 
  • Toys and development items 
  • Scrapbook to document milestones 

You will typically follow up with your care provider within a few weeks and the pediatrician you chose for your baby will also want to see them within 3-5 days. If your child experiences complications after birth, they may be admitted to the NICU for a few hours or a few weeks depending on the amount of care they need. After you return home or your care team leaves your home, your postpartum doula will begin their home or virtual visits to help you during recovery and then as you transition into parenthood. You may want to consider hiring a night nanny, or see if your doula does overnight care, as many sleepless nights lay ahead.  

If you’re having trouble with lactation and feeding your baby, a consultation with a lactation consultant could be very beneficial. They may need to work with you over several visits depending on your needs. Other services to consider during this time are mental health support, exercise classes, chiropractic care, postpartum massage and yoga, pelvic floor therapy, naturopathic or homeopathic medicine, and folk or traditional healing practices. 

Lastly, think about when you (and your partner if applicable) are going back to work. If you have family or friends available to help care for your baby, the transition back to work might be easier. Regardless, you will likely have to think about child care at some point. There are so many different daycare services and programs including Head Start, which may have a wait list depending on your area. Look into and plan these things as far ahead as possible to ensure you are able to secure what you need for your family. 

Thank you for reading our Birth Budgeting Series. We hope that you learned a few things and were inspired to begin planning ahead for your growing family. As always, feel free to reach out to Kat for doula support and resources (thedoulanursekat@gmail.com) and Molly to help achieve specific goals for personal or small business needs (molly.murphy@functun.com). If you have any questions related to the information provided throughout this series, please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us. 

XOXO – Mrs. Molly Murphy

Birth Budgeting Series: Birth

The Birth Budgeting Series was inspired by both The Doula Nurse and Functun’s audience: people focused on their goals and budget. One goal many people share is to become a parent. Even though we may be told we will never be prepared for children, we can be knowledgeable of the finances involved with having children. This series explores key areas during the prenatal, birth, and postpartum phases that one would want to be aware of and decide if it needs to be included in their personal budget. This is not to find the most cost-effective way to have a child, but to understand the potential resources provided to each of us based on some of the most common birthing practices. If your situation is not listed within these articles, we encourage you to do additional research or reach out to alternative resources that may be within your desired industry. The series will be presented in four parts: introduction, prenatal, birth, and postpartum. This is part three, birth. 

We discussed in the last sections how insurance and the care provider chosen will provide a starting point to understanding your upcoming financials. The insurance company can provide plan specifics and inform you how much of your deductible you have met within the calendar year, while the care provider can provide insight into the extent of their care and billing practices. This includes how long the care lasts and specific costs involved for tests, medicine, etc. so there are no financial surprises due to miscommunication. You may end up working with multiple care providers and each may have their own prices with the chosen insurance plan. We also touched on some key items to purchase/get gifted for baby and parent and thoughts to help structure your birthing plan. Let’s explore the day(s) of a little more.   

Pre-planning will be key to minimizing and understanding costs when it’s go time. This includes researching your desired birth plan and emergency interventions (such as a cesarean section). We want things to go to plan, but also being knowledgeable of the alternatives can help your stress levels if something does not go to plan. Consulting with your doula or childbirth educator can help you be prepared for the many situations that may occur during labor. We have listed some items below that may involve financial resources during birth.  

  • Transportation to and from a location other than home 
  • Overnight bag prepared with essentials 
  • Labor tools and comfort measures 
  • Food and drink 
  • Nights of stay 
  • Cost for any other person’s care if absent (parent, child, other) 
  • Medical interventions (such as epidural, Pitocin, etc.) 
  • Emergency costs (just in case) 
  • Birth photography 

Some items to consider to facilitate your labor and provide comfort are a birth ball, peanut ball, labor scarf, birth pool (which can sometimes be rented from local birth professionals), massage balls, stress balls, oils, lotions, diffuser, hand fan, and a mini speaker to play music of choice. If you have a doula or midwife, they may provide some of these items for you. A hospital or birth center might have tubs for water birth and birth/peanut balls – be sure to inquire about these items ahead of time to be prepared and ensure your birth setting will meet your needs. Also, be aware of policies or interventions that may limit your ability to do things while in labor. For example, many hospitals may not allow the birthing person to eat while in labor due to the potential for an emergency cesarean. 

Stay tuned for the next article exploring key financial areas within the postpartum phase. As always, feel free to reach out to Kat for doula support and resources (thedoulanursekat@gmail.com) and Molly to help achieve specific goals for personal or small business needs (molly.murphy@functun.com).

XOXO – Mrs. Molly Murphy

Birth Budgeting Series: Prenatal

The Birth Budgeting Series was inspired by both The Doula Nurse and Functun’s audience: people focused on their goals and budget. One goal many people share is to become a parent. Even though we may be told we will never be prepared for children, we can be knowledgeable of the finances involved with having children. This series explores key areas during the prenatal, birth, and postpartum phases that one would want to be aware of and decide if it needs to be included in their personal budget. This is not to find the most cost-effective way to have a child, but to understand the potential resources provided to each of us based on some of the most common birthing practices. If your situation is not listed within these articles, we encourage you to do additional research or reach out to alternative resources that may be within your desired industry. The series will be presented in four parts: introduction, prenatal, birth, and postpartum. This is part two, prenatal. 

Let’s start by discussing the most essential components of the prenatal period. First, you will need to select your care provider. Will you be working with an obstetrician or a midwife? Sometimes this decision will depend on if you’re considered to have a high-risk pregnancy. While most providers accept an array of insurance providers, midwives who welcome home or birth center babies may or may not accept insurance. Additionally, the medicines, tests, and procedures in the hospital will be an expense to anticipate and the amount you pay will again depend on your insurance. Next, consider whether or not you will have a doula. The cost of a birth doula can vary quite a bit and will depend on where you live. Childbirth education classes can be very helpful in understanding birth and the accompanying stressors. You can look for online or in person classes or attempt to find free resources. Insurance may provide some reimbursement for classes. 

So, what is all needed to care for your new baby? Here are some items to consider: 

  • Crib & crib mattress 
  • Baby clothes 
  • Diapers 
  • Blankets 
  • Wipes 
  • Soap & lotion 
  • Baby monitor 
  • Bottles & nipples 
  • Breast pump 
  • Formula 
  • Car seat 
  • Stroller & carriers 

This is just a starting point, as there are many items you can look into buying for your baby. If you want to splurge on certain products, feel free, but know that the affordable options are just as good for your baby as brand name ones. 

Now, we should think about what all you will need for the day of the birth. How much time will you be taking off and will it be paid for? If you’re not having a home birth, how will you be getting to the place you’ll be birthing in? And what are you bringing with you in your bags? You should also think about how many days you’ll be staying away from home and the costs associated with additional days at the hospital and meals. If you have other children, you may need someone to take care of them while you are away. 

Some other services to consider are things like chiropractic care, prenatal massage and yoga, naturopathic or homeopathic medicine, mental health support, and lining up a birth photographer. If you’re going to be having a baby shower, you can include ways to pay for some of these services through funds or gift certificates. Maternity clothes and self-care products should also be budgeted for as your comfort and wellbeing are critical to birthing a healthy, happy baby. 

Stay tuned for the next article exploring key financial areas within the birthing phase. As always, feel free to reach out to Kat for doula support and resources (thedoulanursekat@gmail.com) and Molly for specific budgeting and time management/process support (molly.murphy@functun.com). 

XOXO – Mrs. Molly Murphy

Birth Budgeting Series: Introduction

The Birth Budgeting Series was inspired by both The Doula Nurse and Functun’s audience: people focused on their goals and budget. One goal many people share is to become a parent. Even though we may be told we will never be prepared for children, we can be knowledgeable of the finances involved with having children. This series explores key areas during the prenatal, birth, and postpartum phases that one would want to be aware of and decide if it needs to be included in their personal budget. It will be presented in four parts: introduction, prenatal, birth, and postpartum. This is part one, the introduction.  

Kat Louis is a Birth and Postpartum Doula who is in the process of becoming a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. She has a background in public health and nursing and answered her calling to birthwork as she learned about the unjust practices within the US obstetrical healthcare system. She provides physical, emotional, and practical support; education; and advocacy to birthing people in the Atlanta area so they can reclaim their power and autonomy throughout their birth and postpartum experiences. 

Molly Murphy has worked as a mechanical engineer for the last eight years. The first three were on the research and development side for desired metallic properties, while the latter five have been regional support on fastening (nuts and bolts) for top manufacturing companies. She created Functun as a way to apply her technical mindset towards helping other women and small businesses achieve their goals. She focuses on analyzing budgeting and time management relative to each client’s need and/or industry but specializes in product development and financial planning.  

We will start off with the most important note throughout this series: the birthing person’s care and parental education are top priority. Everything found within this series is to inform on the process and the potential finances involved with the prenatal, birth, and postpartum phases. This is not to find the most cost-effective way to have a child, but to understand the potential resources provided to each of us based on some of the most common birthing practices. If your situation is not listed within these articles, we encourage you to do additional research or reach out to alternative resources that may be within your desired industry.  

We believe the budgeting process starts with the individuals involved having open communication on the anticipated needs during the birthing process. This will be different for all but putting a plan together indicating the financial income and time available for resources will help keep everyone on track and aware of the families’ goals throughout the birth cycle. We will explore priority and supplemental needs within each phase.  

The second step would be to discuss insurance. This deserves its own series, but to keep things informative, we recommend fully understanding your current insurance plan. Is it through your employer, network of choice, Medicaid, under parent/guardian or partner, or uninsured? Please reach out to your provider or provider of choice to get financial and network specifics on the current or desired policy to determine if it satisfies your preliminary birth plan. Insurance is important because birth plan specifics will have different financial outcomes depending on the plan chosen. Such as, do you want to give birth at a specific hospital? If so, are they in network? Will you want an epidural? If so, that will have an additional cost. Being aware of the preliminary birthing plan will help determine the proper insurance to align with it. This should be fully understood to put everyone’s mind at ease, knowing when and how much a medical bill will be.  

Stay tuned for the upcoming articles that will explore key financial areas within the birthing process, starting with prenatal. As always, feel free to reach out to Kat for doula support and resources (thedoulanursekat@gmail.com) and Molly for specific finance and budgeting support (molly.murphy@functun.com). 

XOXO – Mrs. Molly Murphy