Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Your Best Defense - A Budget

Many people know they should track their spending and create a budget or spending plan but don’t want to.  The thought of knowing how much money you actually owe, how much money you earn and how much money you actually spend each month is terrifying.  If you create a budget you will quickly see how you spend your money.  You won’t be able to hide it or run from it any longer.  If you know, other people may know too, yes those other people are your creditors who continue to call asking for a payment.

Many people are fearful of creating a budget and have good intentions by creating one but don’t stick to it.  To stick to creating a budget you have to view a budget as a tool to help you.  You are the only one who has to see your budget.  Many people today live paycheck to paycheck and are in mounds of debt, in some cases because they didn’t create a budget or didn’t stick to it.

If you know how much you earn, how much money you owe and how much money you spend you can change the direction of your life.  A budget helps you if you have an unexpected expense.  Since 2008 many people have had unexpected expenses. In 2010 the country experienced several fires, floods and earthquakes some in areas that were not expected.  If you did not have homeowner’s insurance to cover the damages that is example of unexpected expense. 

Create a budget by writing down everything you spend money on each week or during each month and subtract your income.  If the result is less than 10% of your monthly income you need to make some adjustments to your spending.  A balanced budget consists of: 15% transportation, 15% debt, 10% savings, 35% housing and 25% other expenses. 

Create an emergency fund to cover your total monthly expenses for 9-12 months.  Creating a budget will help you to reduce spending and prevent you from using credit cards to pay for purchases.  Use credit cards for emergencies only.

Develop financial goals when creating your budget. Financial goals provide motivation for you to work towards reaching that goal and provides a sense of accomplishment when the goal is met. Some examples of financial goals are: pay off a credit card, buy a home, start a business, take a vacation, etc.  A budget is your best defense against going into debt, living paycheck to paycheck and experiencing financial crises.  Here are 6 ways to create a budget and stick to it.

  1. Take accountability. Take accountability for your actions, don’t blame others for your current situation.  Learn how to be flexible and adjust to changes in your life.
  2. Use pen and paper, use a software tool like Quicken or Microsoft Money or use the envelope method.  Once you visually see where you are spending your money it will make it easier to reduce spending.
  3. Create goals. Write down a list of at least 5 financial goals. If you cannot achieve any or can only achieve 1 or 2 of your financial goals you need to make some changes in your spending habits. Write down a list of all of your debts.  Develop an action plan and beside each debt write down steps on how you can pay the debt off: reduce spending, use coupons, use money savings tips, earn extra income, etc.
  4. Pay off small bills first. Pay down any small bills and debt first.  Once all your small bills have been paid off start tackling the larger bills. Setup payment plans for bills you cannot pay off in full. Be sure the account balances are updated on your credit report.
  5. Support network. Surround yourself with at least three people who are doing better financially and gain financial advice from them.
  6. Seek professional help. Consult a financial coach, financial planner or advisor to help you create a budget or spending plan and provide recommendations to help you stay on track.

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