financial essay | Personal financial plan
Money Assignment Instructions
GENC3004 Personal Finance
Please put these dates in your calendar now (with reminders)!
Money Assignment Checkpoint: 9.00am (Sydney time), Mon 21 Dec 2015 Money Assignment Due: 9.00am (Sydney time), Mon 25 Jan 2016
Start recording transactions: Mon 7 Dec 2015 Finish recording transactions: Sun 24 Jan 2016
Course code to enter into software: PFJB
* All times are Sydney time
The objective of this assessment is to allow you to observe your spending and earning behaviour between the start and finish dates identified above so that you can clearly identify where your money is going each month and how much you are saving. You will then use this information to identify areas of possible improvement and create a responsible and achievable budget for your Financial Plan Assignment.
You are required to monitor your income and expenses using the free ‘Snowballing Money’ website at www.snowballingmoney.com or the Snowballing Money apps developed by the lecturer. The ‘Snowballing Money’ app is available for both iPhone and Android and they are available on the app stores for those platforms. There is also a free web version available at www.snowballingmoney.com . The data from the smartphone app synchronises with the website and so you can enter transactions at either location and the transactions will be updated across all your devices.
You should enter the above course code indicated above into the software under your user profile. Please note that the course code to be entered is NOT GENC3004. It is a code that starts with PF and then has 2 letters which is different for each session.
This assignment has worked extremely well within the regular session 1 and session 2 offerings but students have experienced some difficulties in summer session courses in the past. I recognise that there is a wide variety of circumstances that you might find yourself in over summer (including travel or working on-site for an employer). If you believe that there is anything particularly unusual about your situation, then you should let me know about it when you provide your details at the Money Checkpoint (on the course website).
You should start recording your income and expense transactions at the ‘start recording instructions’ date listed above. You may also need to enter some transactions from before the start date for any large expenses for which you are now receiving a benefit (such as course fees, your laptop computer or car insurance). For more information, see ‘Spreading transactions to smooth them out’ below. You are also welcome to start recording transactions earlier than the official start date if you would like to do so (such as at the start of the month) and can also continue recording transaction after the assignment is over.
There is a Money Checkpoint due at the date listed above. You should go to the ‘Assessments …
Money Assignment’ section of the course website. You should answer the questions at the Money
checkpoint including information about your username and situation so that I can mark your
assignment at the end of session. You don’t need to do anything else at the checkpoint as I will be
able to mark your assignment from the server.
You don’t really need to do anything extra for submission at the ‘Money Assignment Due’ date listed
above since I will mark your assignment based on the information that you have provided in the
software. You must make sure that all your transactions are entered correctly by the due date
because that is the cut-off date for any transactions that are assessable. If you enter transactions
after the due date then they will not be included in the assessment.
No marks or feedback are awarded for the checkpoint but 20% of the maximum mark will be taken
away from your final mark if you fail to submit it by the due date. You should put the due date for
the checkpoint in your calendar now so that you do not miss it as no reminder will be provided.
You are responsible for entering your income and expenses into the software early in case you or
the website experiences technical difficulties. Do not store your transactions on your local computer
and enter them at the end of session since your computer may fail and you may lose your
transactions. Also, marks are awarded for regularly entering transactions.
Spreading transactions to smooth them out
Most of us find that either our income and/or expenses are quite ‘lumpy’ as we receive money from
our parents, work extra shifts at work or pay for large bills. This can make it really difficult to work
out on a daily or weekly basis whether or not we are saving money since the bank account balance
bounces around a lot! A key feature of the software is that is spreads each income or expense
transaction over a period of time to smooth out these ‘lumps’. This gives you a better idea of whether
you have genuinely saved money on any particular day or week.
Each transaction will be turned into a ‘per day’ amount according to its category to smooth out the
expense over the period in which you receive the benefits from that expense. For instance, if you
buy some groceries for $70 then those groceries will be spread out over one week so that it registers
as $10 per day (for 7 days). An electricity bill for $90 will be spread out over 3 months by default so
will be $1 per day (for 90 days). This concept of spreading also works well for holidays and other
large expenses. If you spend $1,200 on a holiday and you only go on an expensive holiday once a
year, why not spread that expense out over the following year so that you incur $100 per month?
Spreading expenses makes it easier to work out how much you are spending ‘on average’.
Even though each transaction defaults to a certain period of time according to the category selected,
you are able to change that period easily yourself on the edit transaction screen.
You must enter transactions for which you receive a benefit between the assignment start and
finish date even though you may have actually paid for it earlier than the start date. For instance, if
you paid for course fees at the start of session then you should still enter these course fees when
you paid for them and split them over the length of the session. If you drive a car and paid for motor
vehicle insurance earlier in the year, then you should find out how much you paid (or estimate it)
and then spread that transaction over the following year.
If you are deferring your course fees using HECS then you do not need to enter them. If you or your
parents are paying the fees directly then you must include the course fees. If your parent’s paid
them (or provided you with the money), then you should also include an offsetting income amount
to the expense (more on this below).
Bills should normally be spread ‘forwards’ after they are paid rather than ‘backwards’ over the period
in which they relate. So if you receive an electricity bill at the start of session that relates to the 3
months prior usage, then you should actually spread it forwards over the following 3 months. If you
only spread expenses ‘forwards’ then there are no unexpected surprises that reduce savings in
previous weeks or months.
If you have recently gone on a holiday then it may be a good idea to also spread that expense so
that you are reminded about it. If you usually go away for holidays twice a year then spread the last
holiday expenses over 6 months. If only once a year, then spread it over the following year.
Some students do a significant amount of holiday work (say in December and January each year)
to provide for income in session. If this is the case, then it is a good idea to enter that income and
spread it over the following year. The main idea here is if your income is ‘lumpy’, spread it out over
the period in which you actually ‘use’ that income.
For students who are outside Australia while doing assignment
You should make sure that you use only one currency for tracking expenses and income (it doesn’t
need to be in Australian dollars). The software does not currently allow you to record income and
expenses in multiple currencies. So pick your home currency and then stick to that.
If you are travelling to other countries (that don’t use your home currency) then you can use the
calculator screen to convert the foreign currency to your home currency by dividing by (or
multiplying by) the appropriate conversion rate.
For students who are on holiday or doing unusual vacation work
This assignment works better when it is offered during the regular university sessions rather than
over summer since many students go on holiday or do unusual vacation work (sometimes living onsite).
If you believe that there is anything unusual about your situation, then you should let me know about
it when you provide your details at the Snowballing Money Checkpoint (on the course website).
Also, remember the objective of this assessment (above in first bullet-point). Do the best you can
at recording your income and expenses while on holiday (or working). If you are on holiday (and
you only go on one large holiday per year) then you are welcome to allocate your holiday travel,
accommodation and food expenses to the ‘Holiday’ category and spread them over the following 1
year (ie. 365 days).
For students who live with their family
This assignment is obviously much easier for people who still live at home because your parents
are subsidising your true cost of living.
You should pretend that you are “flatting” with your parents as “flat-mates” and that you are sharing
all costs. The goal of doing this is to help you understand how much it would cost if you were to
move out of home and pay for these things yourself.
You should assume that you are renting your room from your parents (either AU$200 per week or
1% of the market value of the house per year if you want to be more exact). This is an “accrued”
cost of “renting” your share of the house from your parents who either own the home themselves
or pay rent for it on your behalf. If, like most parents, they are very nice and don’t actually charge
you this rent, then you should put an offsetting ‘income’ of the same amount each month so that it
does not affect your ‘net savings’ (income less expenses). You should classify this income as
‘Personal income … Gift received’.
You should also find out all the bills that your parents pay from which you derive a benefit including
groceries, contents insurance, electricity, water, telephone, internet, Foxtel and any other applicable
bills. You don’t need to worry about strata fees, mortgage payments or any other fee that would
usually be paid by a landlord and would be reflected in your rent (landlords do not pay for water,
electricity etc!). If there are four people in the house then allocate 25% of the bill to yourself or
whatever you believe is a “fair” proportion that you would pay with “flatmates”. Again, if your parents
do not actually charge you for these things then you should also put an offsetting ‘income’ of the
total amount each month so that they do not affect your ‘net savings’ (income less expenses). You
should classify this income as ‘Personal income … Gifts received’.
Remember that for quarterly bills it is usually best to record it as applying to the following three
months rather than the previous three months to which it actually applies. See the note on this
If you regularly use the family car then you should also do some research to find out the costs of
running the car (eg registration fees, maintenance costs, insurance etc) and accrue an appropriate
percentage to you based on your usage.
All of these extra ‘bills’ will make your savings position look really bad. So you should offset the total
amount of these bills with a corresponding ‘Income … Gifts received’ amount. So if you have total
expenses of $400 for a month that are paid on your behalf by your parents, then it will be offset by
an income amount of $400 for that same month and so the total effect on your savings will be zero.
For students living by themselves or with flatmates
You should make sure that you record accrued expenses for all household bills whether or not you
received a bill during the recording period. For more instructions, see the above section on
‘Spreading transactions to smooth them out’.
It is okay to divide the bills equally between you and your flatmates. If you have three other
flatmates, then it is okay to only attribute 25% of a particular household bill as your own expense.
If your parents pay for your rent and some other expenses then you should record the amount they
pay as an “Personal income – Gifts received”. This income will offset your living expenses so you
will end up saving zero from the combined transactions. If your parents provide you with a fixed
amount at the start of each session then just enter that as an income and spread it over the length
of the session (4 or 6 months).
For students who live in College, a Boarding House or other Student Accommodation
Students who live in College, a Boarding House and some other Student Accommodation often find
that their rent, food, electricity, internet, telephone and other bills are bundled together into one fee.
It is acceptable for these students to enter one expense (Boarding fees) that covers all of these
If your parents pay for these fees then you should record the amount they pay as an “Income –
Gifts received”. This income will offset your boarding fee expenses so you will end up saving zero
from the combined transactions. If your parents provide you with a fixed amount at the start of each
session then just enter that as an income and spread it over the length of the session (4 or 6
You should make sure that you have reasonable expectations for your marks for this assessment.
You may have received high marks of between 80% and 100% in your other studies. However, high
marks like these are rarely awarded for this assessment. An extremely thorough Money Assignment
that closely follows the above instructions is usually awarded a distinction (75% to 84%). A high
distinction mark of 85% or above is rarely awarded due to the relatively straight-forward nature of
Marks will be awarded for the following attributes:
1. Correctness – The Money correctly implements the above instructions as appropriate for your
situation (such as spreading out-of-period expenses).
2. Completeness – There are no obvious omissions from your expenses based on your situation
(such as missing an “Electricity” expense if you live at home).
3. Timeliness – You have entered transactions frequently as they have been incurred. It is
expected that you enter expenses at least a few times a week and not all at one time at the end
of the month (or right before the assignment is due). You should note that when I mark this
assignment I will be able to see the dates that transactions are recorded (and not just the date
you manually select for them).
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