Ah, budgeting. Perhaps the concept is new to you or maybe you’ve tried in the past but weren’t as successful as you’d hoped you’d be. In any case, budgeting is not easy — but it is extremely important. It is best to think about budgeting as a marathon, not a sprint. And doing it successfully requires perseverance, determination, and a good foundation.
Creating goals and rewards is a great way to increase your chances of successful budgeting. For example, you can set a goal to save a certain amount by spending less on extraneous expenses like unnecessary shopping or dining out. When you meet a savings goal, reward yourself — within reason — with a small purchase or a dinner out.
Here are some additional tips for creating a budget that will work for you and that you can live with:
Decide who needs to give input
You may not be the only one that needs to be involved in your budgeting. You may need to consult with a spouse. You may also want to solicit the advice or a financial planner, or someone else whose opinion you value and trust. In any case, those who will have influence need to be involved from the beginning.
Start big, then get specific
When formulating your budget, start by taking stock of your annual expected revenue. If you have long-term investments, you may not want to take these into account, since they will likely not be a part of your spending resources in the near future.
Ultimately, you want to end up with a monthly budget that spells out your income and expenses so that you know what you can spend — and save — each month. Once you know how much you expect to make and spend annually, you can move to the next step of creating your monthly budget.
Define needs vs. wants
When you start planning out your monthly budget, you’ll want to start by taking into account how much you have coming in vs. how much is going out every month. Start with the needs. These include your household bills, mortgage payment, school loans, etc. Keep in mind certain bills will change month to month. For instance, if you live in a seasonal climate, your gas bill may be much more expensive winter months than more mild months. Make sure to cushion your expected expenses to allot for these types of fluctuations.
You’ll also need to account for monthly necessities including groceries and gas. Reviewing a few months worth of bank and credit card statements is a great way to get an idea of what you are spending and determine a reasonable average to plug into your budget.
After you have nailed down the needs, any income that’s left over can be split among the wants and savings. The wants include entertainment expenses such as dining out, going to movies, and shopping, for example. The rule most financial advisors recommend following is the 50/30/20 model. This rule suggests that 50 percent of your take-home pay should go to needs, 30 percent to the wants, and 20 percent to savings.
While creating a budget can seem daunting, it can be done with some basic common sense and planning. If you are still having trouble making your monthly payments even after creating a budget and you find yourself overextended, it may be time to take a closer look at your finances. And if your credit has already been negatively impacted, working with a professional credit repair company can help.
If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.