Budgeting must be in my blood, or at the very least has been on my mind since I started tracking my income at 12 years old in my little black ledger. The nerd in me liked to monitor money earned and spent daily. I’ve always shopped like it was a game, always looking for where I could shop to get more bang for my buck or save a dollar here or there to beat my monthly budget.
Whether you use an Excel spreadsheet or Mint.com to track your finances, seeing what you spend your money on is key to financial freedom. Have a budget? Now is the perfect time to review your budget or rework it to meet your current goals before the holidays and new calendar year.
Dare to Compare.
Do a side-by-side monthly comparison of your budget/actual expenses. Did you meet your saving goals? Did you overspend in certain areas? Where can you adjust your spending?
Make Budget Cuts.
Ask yourself if there are expenses that you could cut back on or do without. Determine what is needed (i.e. clothing, food, gas shelter, etc.) and what is wanted (i.e. designer clothing/accessories, cable, dining out, etc.). Be mindful of your goals and stay disciplined—keep your budget as part of your daily routine. Keep goals realistic; give yourself weekly petty cash for daily expenses so not to use your credit card for small purchases.
For me, cutting back on going out to eat, getting rid of cable, reducing our cellular data plans, combining errands and staying out of retail stores has greatly reduced impulse buys thus saving a considerable amount of money off my bottom-line.
Use Bonuses to Boost Savings.
Life changes and so does finances. Extra cash like raises and bonuses should not be absorbed into your spending but should be applied to debt and saving goals. If you are fortunate enough to have a financial windfall land in your lap, use this money to pay down debt or save for retirement. In the event of a financial setback be sure you have a three-month emergency fund set aside so you don’t risk debt. Reevaluate your budget when life changes, like another child, change in career status or home improvement.
Stay the Course.
Make 2017 intentional. Set savings goals and a budget you can live with. Each month reevaluate where you can shave off a dollar or two and put that money into savings. It’s truly amazing to think that cutting out one large latte a week can save you $200 a year. When all is said and done, the best way to keep your budget in check is to live within your means.
Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom teaching her two young sons financial responsibility with the less is more mindset.