I am constantly amazed at the amount of money people waste on bank charges. Overdraft fees are not worth the line of credit they provide. Are you wandering the rough ocean of overdraft? Keep reading for your map to calmer waters.

In a previous article, I addressed overdrawn accounts. The article prompted questions from my clients about their budgets. Most people think budgets are the magical key to solving their money woes. Budgeting helps you project where your money is going, in categories. It acts as a compass. Budgets usually show actual prior year figures versus projected current year figures. However, it is not the only aspect of effective money management. When used in conjunction with navigational tools you’ll sail much smoother.

The most simple and most overlooked navigational tool is a cash flow projection. You can quickly see where your money is going for the current month. It shows how much money you’ll need and when. If you’re one of us living paycheck to paycheck, as Nina mentioned in her recent article, try a cash flow projection. It may be the lighthouse you need to guide you away from trouble.

If you are apprehensive or afraid to look at the numbers, relax, and get comfy. Facing what is actually happening with your money can be freeing. Print these two Excel pages and follow along.

Cash flow sample

Cash flow blank

The first is a sample cash flow projection. The starting account balance for the month is $85. Then we added in all the actual bills and their due dates. We added in the two regular paychecks this person receives too. The column on the right automatically calculates the running cash balance.

This sample shows how this person will be low on money the last week of the month. It also shows the monthly expenses exceed the monthly income. It has provided a lot of information and leaves us with some options before it’s too late. Here’s a perfect example of anticipating an overdrawn account.

So take out your bills and dust them off! Open the cash flow template and plug in your numbers. Use all the actual figures you know and add in some extra for leeway.

You’ll see where you stand. If you have a week where your account looks like it will be overdrawn or very low, now may be the time to make payment arrangements for your bills. If it occurs consistently perhaps you can request the dates your bills are due be changed. Can you adjust the dates you get paid? Get creative. A little finagling now may help you avoid overdrawn bank account fees.

Keep using a cash flow projection and steer clear of negative bank accounts. Modify the sample cash flow file to work for you. Or develop and customize your own system. Put yourself in the captain’s seat on the sea of your finances.

We love hearing your money tips and tricks. Share them with Queercents readers below!