One of the most despised words for some people is the word budget as it offers to them certain negative connotations such as restrictiveness and deferment. True, a budget will put a check on the way that you spend and when you spend, but it can also help you save money in the long run.
There are some budget plans out there which are extremely precise, wanting you to track all of your expenditures including that pack of gum you bought at the convenience store or the newspaper you picked up on the way home from work. But, those kinds of budgets often discourage the reluctant budgeter who may be tempted to simply give up.
Here’s some things you should consider when establishing a budget:
Budgets are a help, not a hindrance – Certainly, there is a measure of restrictiveness and deferral when creating a budget, but a budget should help you learn how you’re spending money, where your money is going and tracking your progress as your reach your financial goals.
Budgeting shouldn’t be a drag – The more precise you are, the better you’ll be when it comes to tracking how the money comes in and where it goes. But don’t go crazy for the sake of hunting down a few missing dollars. Forget the small change, but do keep an eye on those things which tend to add up: the $8 lunches, impulse purchases, scenic Sunday afternoon drives, etc.
Necessities v. luxuries – Basic cable may be all that you need, while having 500 channel access, HBO and movies on demand may strain your budget. Evaluate how and what you’re spending your money on, making a decision to stick with those things you really need.
Pay yourself too – In addition to setting aside money for your church and favorite charities, are you also saving money for yourself? Make a plan outlining where you want to donate money over the next year and stick with that plan. In addition, set money aside for the following funds: home improvement, new car down payment, college and retirement funds, vacation and Christmas accounts, and more.
Stick with limits – One surefire way to get into a financial mess is to spend what you don’t have. While credit cards can be helpful, you may end up spending more than you should for your purchases. Even if you pay off your card every month, you may be buying more than what you need. Evaluate your spending habits!
Bank the pay increase – If possible, bank your pay increases instead of spending the extra money. This can be hard for young, growing families to do but if you are in a position to live on less, then save more. You’ll increase your savings faster and have more for retirement.
Get some help – Use budgeting software to help you get started and to track where you’re going. If your financial problems are severe, meaning a budget isn’t doing the trick, seek professional guidance to help you move forward.
With even a basic budget in place you’ll have a better grasp of your financial picture, which is important these days given the challenges of today’s economy.
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