Budgeting doesn't have to be a painful activity. In fact, everyone should have a budget no matter what shape their finances are in. The purpose of a budget is to help with managing finances so you are able to pay for things you need and want, now and in the future.
Build Your Budget
- Figure out your monthly after-‐tax net income.
- Make a list of your current bills and expenses. Include those that occur at various times of the year
- Estimate these expenses and break down your obligation into monthly increments.
- Subtract your monthly expenses from your monthly net income.
- If your budget is on the positive side, add that amount to savings.
- If it's on the negative side, go over your expenses and cut until it balances.
- Stick with it and adjust when necessary.
Pay Yourself First
You would never dream of not paying your electricity bill or rent. But many people do not pay themselves. The key is to treat your own personal savings as a legitimate top-‐line expense in your budget. So pay yourself first and you'll have money for your retirement years.
Set Short—and Long—Term Goals
Prioritize your financial goals into two categories—short term (iPod) and long term (travel) and include them in your budget. For help with goal setting, budgeting or retirement planning, contact UNIFY or another reputable financial institution.
Determine Wants vs. Needs
Know the difference between a want (laptop, jewelry, cable TV) and a need (shelter, basic food and clothing) and you'll master a powerful budgeting tool. Ask yourself: "Do I need this?" or "Do I want this?"
Stretch Your Budget
Seek out money savers—eliminate your landline, cut coupons, bring your lunch to work, catch the cheaper movie matinee, refinance your car, use AAA discounts, check out library books, consolidate debt, plan meals and cook at home—just to name a few. There are hundreds of more tips online. Try freecycle.org or craigslist.org for free or less costly items you need.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Losing your job doesn't mean you stop getting bills. If you have a "rainy day" savings fund with money to cover at least six months' worth of your monthly expenses, it should lessen your chance of getting into financial trouble. Accumulate money for that fund first. Remember, you're in control, so protect yourself.
Always budget a bit of padding and don't be too concerned with counting every penny. Be positive, results will happen.
Avoid the Credit Card Temptation
Don't turn to your credit card when you run out of money or an unexpected expense arises. It's easy to get into debt that way, so use credit cards wisely and always pay the balance off monthly.
Only you can take charge of your financial situation—plan, save and reach your goals—by budgeting.
A budget can help you:
- Save for your future.
- Show you where you spend discretionary income.
- Avoid impulse purchases.
- Be accountable to your family.
- Pay zero credit card interest.
- Have money for "rainy days."
- Relieve stress.
- Gain a new perspective on what your time and money are worth.
- Acquire financial knowledge.