Your budget is a tool that you design to help you get the most out of the money you have. Since you are in charge, the money making decisions are up to you. Here are some tips that will help you succeed on a budget.
For beginning budgeters, the envelope method of categorizing expenses can be very effective. Pay bills every time you get a check. Have a separate envelope for each bill: rent, power, car, etc. If your rent is due on the first of the month and you get paid every Friday, or 4 times per month, take 25% of the total bill out of your paycheck and put it in the rent envelope. When the bill is due, the money will be ready to go. If you get paid every two weeks then use 50% and so on.
Next, do the same for your non-recurring expenses. When you create your monthly budget, check your calendar. It’s a good idea to set aside money for big life events in advance like a friend’s wedding or your Mom’s birthday. Other non-recurring expenses you may put money away for are new tires or concert tickets for example. Your budget reflects your life, so include important social events or things you know you’ll need money for in your plan.
Once all of your expenses are accounted for, and you have set aside an amount for savings, your remaining money is your spending money or discretionary funds. Let’s say you have $100 per week. Keeping the $100 as cash in your wallet will give you a visual of what you are spending and how much you have left. Also, it can be an easy way to keep from overspending by just whipping out your debit card for quick purchases. It’s OK to eat out or get that pumpkin spice latte, just know when the $100 is gone, your spending money for the week is too. You may even find you have some money left over when you start paying closer attention.
Sticking to a budget may feel restrictive at first, but it doesn’t take long for your money plan to start saving you cash. Look for additional information on these topics in our upcoming blog series on Budgeting.