Developing and Sticking to a Budget
Establishing a household budget helps build wealth and reduce debts. Budgets allow individuals to meet financial goals and establish savings. Budgets are essential for keeping track of all money going in and out of the household. They often require habit changes that require self-discipline which will lead to less spending. To maintain a budget, it is important to have proper record keeping and be realistic about incomes and expenses. For more ways on how to establish a budget and stick to it, read the following sections:
- Track Spending and Income
- Setting Goals and Planning
- Monitoring and Self-Accountability
Track Spending and Income
For at least a month track all spending on all accounts no matter how small they may seem. This will show you exactly where your money is going every month and your highest spending categories. This can be done using pen and paper or a budgeting program found online. Keep track of net income in the household once taxes, insurance, savings, social security and 401K have been deducted. Individuals often make the mistake of using his or her gross income which would suggest higher income. Track variable and fixed expenses separately. Fixed expenses are monthly bills which can typically not be changed or lowered as opposed to variable expenses like groceries and entertainment which can be cut back and changed from month to month.
Setting Goals and Planning
The next step is establishing a goal, both long-term and short-term. Long-term goals are those that you want to accomplish that may take several years to accomplish and for some include college education for children or a retirement plan. Short term goals like paying off a credit card may take no longer than a year to accomplish.
After establishing goals and tracking income and expenses, the next thing to do is build a plan. This can include cutting back on variable items like eating out every night or buying designer shoes when you don’t need them. This does not mean cutting out all the fun in life as there should be an established entertainment and spending budget but try to cut back on excessive entertainment or replace activities for something more feasible with your budget.
Monitoring and Self-Accountability
A budget will not be successful unless you continue to monitor it consistently and are sure to hold yourself accountable. Use monitoring tools like an expense tracker. After reaching a short-term goal, try and establish a new one. If the goal was to pay off a credit card and this goal has been met, try to start a new goal like saving for a trip. Sometimes adjustments must be made to the budget due to life changes and having a good monitoring system will make setting a new budget easier. Once you have gotten into a new financial routine it will become easier to say no to that new pair of shoes. Savings will increase and debts will decrease which leads to more wealth in for the household.