Budgeting - Most of you are familiar with the name. But, the question is, how many of you religiously follow it? However, it is a basic requirement to manage your finances efficiently. Without a proper budget, you can’t track where your money is going.
Here are some tips to save money in almost every sphere.
Be a frugal person but not cheap or selfish. Check out 11 tips to lead a frugal life and be debt free. Also know how to avoid 5 common mistakes while practicing frugality.
Check out 23 tips to eat healthy on a budget. Know how to live well on one income, what things to buy in bulk to save dollars, advantages to shop online, and what your grocer doesn’t want you to know.
You need to follow certain simple yet important guidelines to save household energy and money. Check out infographics to know how utility bills can reduce your savings every month.
You don’t have to spend a lot on dining out. Here are 14 tips to dine out occasionally on a budget. Also know how to tip within your limit and show your gratitude.
You can buy both a new and used car on a budget. However, you should also know how to stop reducing the value of your car unknowingly. Check out 4 things to consider to save money.
Certain summer and winter expenses add up to your budget unknowingly. Check out 7 ways to avoid sneaky summer expenses and 10 ways to reduce utility bills during the winter season.
Check out 8 tips to look glamorous on a budget. Check out 4 essentials to purchase for a complete wardrobe. Also, find out how to save money when you’re shopping branded attire from outlet stores.
Weddings need not be always a costly affair. Here are 18 tips to arrange a wedding on a budget. Check out an infographic to know how unexpected wedding costs can blow your budget.
4 simple steps to plan a realistic budget
- Calculate your total income
Open an Excel sheet or sit down with a pen and a paper, and calculate how much you earn every month. Make sure you take into account your income from all sources.
- Estimate your overall expenses
Now, it's the time to categorize your expenses. First of all, take into account your fixed expenses (such as, your mortgage and other loan payments) and then your variable expenses (such as, entertainment, shopping, grocery, etc.). To calculate your variable expenses, take an average of the amount you've spent in last few months in that category.
- Calculate your savings
Now, calculate your overall expenditure and check out how much you'll be able to save every month if you follow this plan. If you're happy with the result, start following this budget.
- Repeat the process if required
If you are not happy with the amount you're saving, or your expenses are more than your savings, you need to revisit your budget and cut down expenses from your expenses categories' in order to save more.
These are the steps to plan a monthly budget, if you feel a bit lazy about doing it yourself. Yes...you can follow these same steps to plan an annual budget, too. But, if you're planning budget for the first time, at first plan a suitable realistic budget. Once you're successful in doing that, that is, you're able to follow your budget and save the required amount, you start planning a quarterly or annual budget to plan your financial goals.
Another important thing - It is necessary to revisit your budget from time to time in order to make modifications, if necessary.
4 Types of budgeting strategies
- Simple budgeting strategy
This is the one which has already been discussed. That is, you allocate a definite amount for each of the items you need to spend money on. And, at the end of the month, analyze whether or not you've been able to save the required amount.
- Envelope budgeting
This is one of the best strategies to keep track of your money. Just like classic budgeting, you allocate a certain amount against each of the items you spend money. Then, keep the allocated amount in separate envelopes with specific labels, such as, grocery, utility bills, entertainment, variable expenses, etc. Most importantly, you should pay everything in cash; you take out the required amount from the specific envelope and keep the change in that envelope itself. This will help you know how much amount you have in each category. It will help you control your expenses, since it's easier for you to know what's the remaining amount in that category. In this budgeting, you're allowed to move cash from one envelope to another but you cannot withdraw any amount from your bank. With this budgeting technique, you'll gradually become conscious about your spending and can plan it in a better way.
- Zero-based budgeting
As the name implies, the main idea of this budgeting technique is that your monthly income minus your monthly expenses should be zero. Even if you have saved, say $200, at the end of the month, you're not successful as per this budgeting technique; you need to decide where the amount should go. What you can do is use this extra amount to repay your existing debt or save more in your emergency fund. Studies reveal that people who use zero-budgeting can actually save about 18% more money and they can pay off about 19% more debt as compared to others practicing other budgeting techniques.
- Priority-based budgeting
This is also an useful budgeting technique wherein at first you use your monthly income to satisfy your top priority items, such as, mortgage payment, student loan payment, retirement account, debt payments, etc. Then, you spend the remaining amount on other items till you're out of cash. However, the rule for this budgeting technique is that you cannot withdraw any more from your bank account; therefore, you need to keep a track of your spending so that you're not out of cash till the end of the month.
Are you too lazy to plan a budget?
Many people don’t plan a budget because they think it’s a sheer waste of time or they’re too lazy to plan one.
Here are 4 budgeting tips for lazy people.
- Take help of a budgeting software
Several budgeting software are available online. Some software apps will let you understand your spending patterns by showing you through a graph how you've spent your dollars. It helps you realize whether you've spent more; and if yes, where exactly you've spent more.
Such software can also let you compare your budget vs. community budget.
By comparing you get to know how good you're at planning a suitable budget.
- Automate your savings
To automate your savings, you need to set priority. For example, if building an emergency fund is your primary concern, you should sign for automatically transferring a portion of your income into your emergency fund account. Likewise, if you're trying to clear your credit card debt, then automate transferring a certain amount towards your credit card account every month. This way, you'll attain your financial goals without worrying much.
- Sign up for alerts to pay your bills
Advancement of technology has made it easier for lazy people to manage their finances. You can sign up for alerts to pay your bills. The banks and the service-based companies are offering such services to help their customers pay monthly bills. When you sign up for such services, you'll get mobile and email alerts to remind you to pay your bills.
- Prepare a shopping list in your mobile
If you're like me, then you'll realize how difficult it is to remember to carry the list with you when you go shopping. It might also be the case that you're too lazy to prepare one. A simple solution for you - make a list on your mobile and save it. Thus, you have a basic list which can guide you when you go grocery shopping every week. Mobile also offers you the flexibility to add on items whenever you want to.
So, it's not difficult for you to plan a budget and follow it even if you're too lazy to do it. Just follow these simple strategies and you'll have control over your money.
Why your personal budget is not working and what to do about it
Your budget may not work for various reasons. You need to check and re-check your budget to ensure that budget doesn't contain any errors. You have to reanalyze your budgeting skills.
Check out the 5 reasons why your personal budget is not helping you progress in your financial life.
- Your budget is too strict: You are determined to save money. As such you've prepared a very strict personal budget plan. You have decided to lead a frugal life and bring your expenses to the bare minimum level. However, in reality, you find it extremely hard to live as per your personal budget plan. You're not able to meet your spending limit even after your best efforts. You cross the limit frequently and therefore your budget fails to bring any positive change in your life.
- Your spouse is not in the scene: You may have promised yourself to lead a disciplined financial life. However, you would not be able to fulfill your promise unless you've discussed your financial plan with your spouse. If your spouse happens to spend a huge amount of money, then your budget won't be of any use to you.
Sit with your spouse and have a frank discussion about your financial goals and budget plans. Show the monthly income and expense figures to your spouse. Explain why it is important to create a budget. Inform your spouse that a budget doesn't mean your life will become distressful. It only means that you'll lead life little carefully. When your spouse comes to know that his/her life wouldn't change drastically after following a budget plan, he/she will cooperate with you.
- You don't have an aim in life: A practical and achievable goal can help you stay motivated and stick to your budget. Set up short-term goals such as repaying your credit card debts, saving for purchasing your first house, buying your first car, etc. Be focused on your goals and try hard to meet them. Once you're determined to meet your goals, you'll find that saving money will become the top most priority in your life. You'll get extra enthusiasm to follow your budget plan.
- You didn't modify your budget: Practical life is very different from theory. A well-drafted plan may be suitable in theory, but it doesn't mean that it'll suit you in reality. For instance: when you've created a budget plan for the first time, you took into account your prevalent financial situation in mind. However, an individual's financial situation doesn't remain the same all the time. It changes from time to time. Likewise, you need to keep on modifying your budget accordingly. A static budget won't help to bring desirable changes in your life.
- You just loathe budget: You've prepared a budget plan for the sake of your financial health. However, in your heart, you just hate the budget. You loathe and despise the budget. You just can't stand budget spreadsheets. If you really hate something very much, then it won't be possible for you to follow it in real life.
If you just dislike the idea of creating a budget and following it, then watch out for the ways to manage your finances minus the spreadsheets and complex calculations.
Budget can help you make wise financial decisions. It gives you the power to move the direction of your life in the right path. However, it is not easy to live life according to a budget. You've to modify it as and when it is required.
Budget mistakes: How loopholes cost you dearly
You must try and avoid 4 common mistakes while formulating a budget.
Mistake 1: Underestimating your expenses
Sometimes knowing exactly how much you spend becomes very difficult. You may underestimate the amount of money that you spend. You may not even realize it and spend more.
The best way you can make a proper budget is by keeping track of every single penny you spend. Try to get a notebook that you can carry along with you everywhere you go, and keep a note of everything you spend. Even if the amount is insignificant, it should be noted down in your notebook.
You must also make sure that all the members of your family do this. They must all record very minute details of their expenses. This is to be done so that you can estimate precisely what your expenses are.
Mistake 2: Not having a plan
You must ask yourself why you want to make the budget. There could be many reasons why you want to make a budget. It could be because you are living beyond your means and want to control your expenses before you get into serious money troubles. It could also be because you want to plan for your future and save enough to have your future secured.
Asking yourself this question is important because once you have a strong reason to make the budget, the reason will motivate you to stick to it.
Mistake 3: Only sticking to the basics
Some items appear on all budgets; they are called the basics. They include mortgage or rent payments, grocery bills and utility bills. One very common mistake that you may tend to make is ignoring the basics.
There are many other categories that you should try and include. Some categories that are commonly forgotten and must be included are entertainment, allowances, medications, kids, gifts, etc. Skipping these categories may cause your budget to become very ineffective as it will not have many necessary details.
Mistake 4: Making a very restrictive budget
If your budget is very restrictive, you will not be able to follow it for very long. Try to make a realistic budget which you can stick to. If you want to spend less, then make a budget that makes you cut back gradually from your expenses.Apart from the above points, you may implement some realistic methods while creating a budget. Remember, a small amount of money with careful budgeting can help you lead a stress free financial life.