Budgeting can either make or break your financial stability. Financial mistakes occur from time-to-time, so it is important to know how to reduce your chances of making them and having a solid budget will help you maintain your financial freedom. Let’s take a look at five critical tips to follow to stay on the right course when it comes to budgeting:
Tip #1: Be Flexible. Life happens, which can throw off your budget. For example, you get sick and have to pay medical bills you didn’t anticipate, or your car needs new tires or maintenance work. You just have to keep your head up high and learn how to move things around in order to meet your overall budgeting goals.
Tip #2: Plan for Yearly Expenses. Many people plan for reoccurring monthly expenses and bills, including groceries, utilities, gas, etc. However, many people forget to budget yearly expenses, such as property taxes, insurance, etc. It’s easy to forget about bills that don’t show up at your door every month, but you’re probably better off paying the total bill at once, since most companies charge an extra fee for monthly payments. You also need to remember things like birthday gifts, medical care, dental care, school supplies, and pet care, among others.
Tip #3: Write Down Your Expenses. If you don’t know where your money is going, it’s impossible to stick to your budget. Keep track of every purchase you make by either saving your receipts or using an automated money management program, such as Quicken or other online programs through your financial institution. Update your expenses daily so you can manage them regularly. Don’t procrastinate – it will all add up quickly!
Tip #4: Don’t Be Too Frugal. Think of budgeting like going on a diet. If you are too careful and only do the minimum, you’ll binge at some point, throwing all your hard work down the drain. It’s okay to treat yourself occasionally – in fact, you should budget to do so!
Tip #5: Avoid Impulse Buying. If you buy a pack of gum in the checkout lane every time you go to the grocery store, and you go to the grocery store twice a week, that seemingly inconsequential purchase is costing you about $8 a month (or almost $100 a year). No matter how inexpensive these impulse buys are, they will add up eventually. There’s nothing wrong with buying gum, but if you notice by reviewing your budget that you’re buying it at a rate of 52 packs a year, you can plan to buy your gum in bulk at a big box store for a third of the price and save money. Make sure to write down even these small purchases to help you spend your money wisely.