Create a budget and live by it.
A very important component of being able to thrive financially is to create and live by a budget. By utilizing this important tool you will be able to manage your money by knowing where it is going, and where you are overspending.
Budgets are the only practical way to know where and how you are spending your money. Budgets also indicate how much money you have coming in as well as going out. With this knowledge you can make sure your important bills are paid, savings goals are met and can plan for big expenses. Budgets are also helpful when dealing with family finances because the couple and family can work together in planning, prioritizing and spending.
How to live on a budget:
Step 1: Create a budget.
- List your financial goals. These should be short-term and long-term. Short-term goals include not spending more than a certain amount of money every month or saving a few hundred dollars every month. Long-term goals include being able to put down a mortgage payment on a home or a car. Make sure you have something to be working towards to help stay on track with your budget.
- Set your budget and make a list of what you need to pay for. These include essentials like rent, electricity and heat. You can utilize the Monthly Budget Cash Flow Tracker sheet or personal finance software programs like Quicken or Mint.com. They have built-in budget making tools that can help customize your budget. Download this cash flow tracking form by clicking here.
Step 2: Maintain your budget.
- Don’t go over budget. It sounds fairly obvious, but it’s easy to go over budget even when you have one in place. Be mindful of your spending habits and what your money is going towards.
- Keep track of your spending. In the early stages of keeping a budget, it might be helpful to keep track of your daily spending habits. Utilize the Where is your money going? worksheet in this guide along with the Where your Money Went sheet to see how you are spending your money.
- Don’t count on windfalls. Don’t factor in potential sources of revenue such as year-end bonuses or tax refunds. You only want to include guaranteed money in your budget.
- Leave your credit card at home. Whether it is out for dinner or a day of shopping, leave the credit card at home so you won’t be tempted to over-spend or go off your budget.
Begin by understanding how you currently spend your money and see where it goes. The Budget Worksheets and Resources (above) have sheets and ideas for tracking your spending.