How-To Tuesday: Create a Household Budget

Whether you live paycheck to paycheck or pinch pennies and save like crazy, it's always a good idea to have a household budget. Here's how to set up a standard budget and stick to it.

1. First, decide what you'd like to achieve through setting up a budget. Do you to pay off your car loan? Quit your job? Have a baby? Save for a vacation? Build your savings account? Having a goal to work toward helps you make wise spending choices when you're faced with temptation. Every time you want to stray from the budget, ask yourself, "Would I rather go out to eat or go on that European vacation next year?" It might sound overly dramatic, but reminding yourself of the positive things you're saving for keeps things in perspective.

2. Put your budget in writing. Write down your entire monthly income and all of your expenses. Money left over after all required expenses (mortgage/rent, utilities, groceries, etc.) should be spread out over smaller categories that cover every possible expense. A list of categories might look something like this:

  • Mortgage or rent
  • Utilities (electric, gas, water)
  • Gas for vehicles
  • Internet and Cable
  • Cell phones
  • Groceries
  • Monthly services (pest control, lawn care)
  • Childcare
  • Medications
  • Entertainment (dining out, movies)
  • Clothing
  • Individual spending money (pocket money)
  • Misc. (for incidentals like postage, gifts)

You might have completely different categories, but this is a good example of an average family's expenses. Every dollar should be accounted for within these categories. How much goes into each category is entirely up to you. Is entertainment more important than clothing? This is also a good opportunity to look at how much you're actually spending each month on things that might not matter that much. If there are any categories you can get rid of, go for it! For example, many people are getting rid of cable these days and watching their favorite TV shows through online providers. The beauty of the budget is that it's highly customizable and can be adjusted anytime.

3. Use whatever method works for you. One of our favorites is the envelope system. Label one envelope for each category in your budget. Each time you get paid, divide cash among the envelopes according to the budget. This makes a much better visual than a standard bank ledger. Whenever an envelope is empty, that category is out of cash until you get paid again.

4. Use direct deposit wisely. Saving is much easier if you never see the money in the first place. Instead of transferring money from checking to savings every time you get paid, have your employer divide your check between the two. For example, $2,000 per paycheck goes into checking, and whatever's left over goes straight into savings. Your savings account will build exponentially, and you won't even feel the difference.

5. Adjust the budget as needed. You'll need to account for occasions like Christmas and birthdays ahead of time.

6. Realize that a budget is based on trial and error. You won't get it right the first time. (If you do, please tell us how you did it!) But if you keep at it and have a common goal to work toward, sticking to a household budget will become second nature.

What are your best tips for creating a household budgets? Tell us in the comments section below!


Friday Five // August 1, 2014


It's time once again for the Friday Five, where we bring you five fun and interesting things to do around the Lowcountry for the weekend. Check out an artists' market, enjoy Gullah culture, shop tax-free, and more! Read on for details.

Charleston Culinary Tours is hosting a Fresh at the Farm Dinner Series, and this weekend marks the second of the series. On Sunday, August 3rd, attendees can enjoy a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres hour from 5:30 to 6:30pm. Family-style dinner will be served from 6:30 to 8:30pm. The cost is $75 per person.

The Music Farm is the place to be this Saturday from 10am to 3pm for the Lowcountry Artist Market. Come see handmade and vintage items like jewelry, clothing, stationery, decor, art, and more. Admission is free, but bring your wallet! You won't be able to turn down some of the amazing wares vendors have on display.

On Saturday from 12pm to 7pm, learn all about Gullah/Geechee culture at the Gullah-Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival. The event takes place at the Charleston Maritime Center and features visual art, music performances, and a living Gullah/Geechee marketplace.

Reptiles take over the Omar Shrine Auditorium at Patriots Point during ReptiDay this Saturday from 10am to 5pm. View snakes, lizards, and exotic animals on display and available for purchase. Live seminars and demonstrations will show you that these animals are much more than creepy crawly critters! Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids aged 5-12. Children under 4 get in free.

Don't forget about tax-free weekend in South Carolina! This Friday through Sunday is the perfect time to get your shiny new school supplies, back-to-school wardrobe, and college necessities. For information on what items are exempt from sales tax this weekend, click here. Hint: It's a long list!

That's it from Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company this week. Have a fun, safe weekend!


Tips For Making A Move Easier On Pets

Moving is usually stressul for everyone, but it can be especially vexing for the furriest members of the family. If you're moving with pets, there are a few things you can do to help them stay calm and acclimate to their new environment more easily.

 Before the move:
 -Request your pet's records from the veterinarian. Having those handy when  you visit a new vet will help make the switch seamless. There won't be any  question about medication names or due dates for vaccines.

 -Buy a new collar with updated tags. You'll need to make sure you have your  new address and phone number printed clearly.

 -Check to see whether the county or state you're moving to requires pet licenses. If so, register them in advance so you'll have the tags ready for the new collar.

-Take your time with packing. The more of a "norm" it becomes for pets, the less stressed they'll be when they see their home being upended from top to bottom.

-Make sure you have a refill of any medications so you don't run out during the move or before you can find a new vet.

During the move:
-Keep your pet in its crate. Even though it might seem cramped and uncomfortable, it will actually bring them a little comfort during the stress of travel. It'll also keep pets and other travelers safe.

-Make sure food, water, medications, toys, etc., are easily accessible.

-If you're driving, don't forget to make regular stops for bathroom breaks!

After the move:
-Lay out your pet's essentials before unpacking so he or she has a few familiar items in a strange new house.

-Start a new routine right away. Pets need routine to feel comfortable. Allow them to familiarize themselves with the neighborhood or surrounding area.

-Seek out a new vet right away if you haven't already done so, and find out where to take pets in the event of an emergency.

Do you have other tips for helping make a move go smoothly for family pets? Let us know in the comments section!


How-To Tuesday: Paint A Piece Of Wood Furniture


Painting old furniture has become a great money-saving trend in the design world. It's much more convenient and thrifty to salvage a piece or breathe new life into one you already own than it is to spend time searching for the perfect new piece that fits your budget. In just a few short steps, you can have a brand new, custom piece of furniture that fits in seamlessly with the rest of your decor.

Step 1
Remove the hardware and clean the piece of furniture well, especially if you rescued it from a junk heap, yard sale, or thrift store. Use damp paper towels or a rag to remove any dust or dirty spots. Pay close attention to corners, where dirt and sawdust can gather.

Step 2
Decide on the perfect paint color and finish. Think about the room this piece of furniture will live in. Sleek, modern decor begs for a shiny, polished piece, while a seaside cottage style might require something matte.

Step 3
If you're working with stained wood, give it a light sanding. Don't sand too hard, or you could damage the wood. If you're painting over laminate, there's no need to sand. In fact, it could damage the surface and make your paint job look messy.

Step 4
Clean it again! Use paper towels or a soft rag to clear away any grit left over from sanding.

Step 5
Prime your surface. Don't skip this step! Priming will help the paint adhere and last and keeps you from having to apply multiple coats of color. If your piece is laminate, a primer that's made for adhesion is absolutely necessary. No ifs, ands, or buts. Use a foam roller to get a thin, even coat.

Step 6
Once the primer is dry, it's time to add some color. Use another foam roller to paint the piece. If there are small crevices, apply paint with an angled brush and then smooth it over with the foam roller. Allow to dry for at least a few hours before you apply a second coat.

Step 7
Give the piece a coat of polycrylic to finish it. This step is optional, of course, but it will help keep the piece durable and looking great. Polycrylic is low-odor and won't yellow over time.

Step 8
Change the hardware. This is optional as well, but a new look deserves new accessories! Choose something modern or browse antique or salvage shops and websites for older options. You can customize them with a quick coat of spray paint.

Painted furniture can change the look of a room completely, giving it the perfect pop of color you didn't know you'd been missing. Of course there are purists who cannot fathom the thought of covering a mid-century mod stereo cabinet or antique hutch, for example, in aqua paint. But listen to your own needs and tastes and do what's best for you. What's your opinion on painting old furniture? Tell us in the comments section below!

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