Let’s be realistic: If you want to see someone’s eyes glaze over, just mention the word “budget.”
But reaching long-term financial goals requires saving and investing—and you can’t do either of those without spending less than you bring home. A budget is simply a tool that helps you understand your spending while staying cash-flow positive.
A good budget, like a good diet, helps maintain the healthy habits that can provide for a lifetime of responsible spending and retirement saving. But, like trying to live off nothing but kale and grapefruit juice, extreme, restrictive budgets often prove unsustainable.
Not everyone needs a budget. But you may find one helpful if you:
- Often have less money in your account at the end of the month than anticipated
- Are using credit cards or other forms of debt to finance expenses
- Have income and expenses that vary a lot month to month
- Want to save towards a clearly defined financial goal
Think of a budget as a tool, not a burden. In another parallel with dieting, while some people like to count every calorie and track every step to make sure they’re always on track, others find that such close monitoring of their habits can lead to unhealthy, obsessive behaviors.
If you want to be more relaxed with your budgeting, here are some tips to achieve success without totting up every penny:
- Pay yourself first—have your employer or a service automatically direct a portion of your paycheck to savings and investing accounts before it hits your checking account
- Pay off credit cards in full each month
- Use a program like Quicken or Mint to track your spending automatically
Whether or not you use a detailed budget, we recommend tracking spending over a period of one or two months to get a good understanding of where your money is going. With that knowledge, it’s easy to create a more complete financial plan. If you need help getting started, our team can lend a hand. Just call us at (800) 492-6868.