The word “Budget” used to leave a sour taste in my mouth. At first, I thought of how fabulous it would be to form a habit to budget. I even took a class at college to motivate and teach me great budgeting tools. It was the most boring class and I struggled to keep my eyes open. Growing up, my parents did a great job at teaching my siblings and me how to save our money. However, I did not know how to budget.
Budgeting became a large part of my life when I got married to my sweetheart. His father encouraged us to create an excel spreadsheet of our budget so that we could really track our cashflow. We aren’t always the best at sticking to this budget because life does happen but having it brings us security. We know where our money is going and where it is coming from. Knowledge gives us security and awareness so that we can be in control to a certain extent.
How Do You Get Started With a Budget?
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do when it comes to forming a good habit or creating a new way of life is just getting started. Once you’ve begun, things will start to move forward and you’ll figure out this whole budgeting thing. To get started with a budget I’ve made a small list. Understand that this list will require you to record things on paper or electronically. You have to be able to track your cashflow when it comes to budgeting and you can’t do that if you’re not writing things down.
- Check your account statements
- Categorize your expenses
- Use a budgeting app
- Explore other expense trackers
- Identify room for change
Do You Need a Budget App?
Maybe. It really just depends on you! Budgeting apps like ‘You Need a Budget’ and ‘Mint’ are designed for the on-the-go money management. It lets you allocate a certain amount of spendable income each month depending on what you’re taking in and what you’re paying out. Budgeting can be really beneficial, but again, it really does depend on you.
I’ll be completely transparent with you. I have had the app ‘Mint’ on my phone for months. So after almost a whole year I’ve maybe pulled that app up once or twice. I even get emails to my phone and I just delete them. This app is completely ineffective for me because I do not take the time to record my purchases in this app. I track my expenses a different way. Now is there an app to track expenses? Yes, there most certainly is. I’ll refer you to a blog post from one of my colleagues so you can receive more insight on that question. It will also explain other apps that are similar to ‘Mint’ so you’ll get a great overview and hopefully be able to make some decisions as a result. Here is the link to the blog post: 7 Best Apps for Managing Your Money
What Happens If You Don’t Budget?
Maybe something and possibly nothing. Some people will get by fine just tracking their expenses monthly or annually. There are certain people that most definitely need to budget. If you fall into one of these categories below then PLEASE learn more about budgeting and begin implementing it:
- If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck and are not prepared with an emergency fund if an emergency arrived
- Have debt with high APR (5%+)
- Have saving goals and you’re not currently happy with your spending levels
- Laid off or some other kind of huge roadblock in your income
- Needs to be held accountable
- Individual you live with needs to be held accountable
- You’ve not tracked your spending in a few years so certain things have gotten lost along the way
It is time for you to self-evaluate and just look at the signs! If you fall into 1 of these 7 categories then it is time to take better care of your finances through budgeting! Please do not even hesitate and understand that you need to get started right now.
Signs That You NEED A Budget
“By the time you get to your final destination, you’re tense and exhausted. But you haven’t really done anything yet. That’s what life without a budget can feel like.” Here are 5 reasons why you need a budget:
- Income is coming in regularly, but you’re not sure exactly where your income is going
- Stressing about emergencies and unexpected expenses is becoming exhausting
- You would like your grocery bill to be less
- Fun activities and vacations sounds great, but you want more money to be able to enjoy it
- Retirement savings has always been the goal, but you can’t find the extra money to fulfill it
How Do I Stay Accountable Of My Spending?
Well, before I dive into this question, let me please start by saying that you can’t stay accountable to your spending if you don’t know what you are spending. So you need to be tracking your spending. The way that you track your spending is 100% up to you. You have to discover what works for you. I already went over budgeting apps which is one good way to track your money. My husband and I track our money through an excel spreadsheet. Others I know have a budgeting journal that they track it in each month. Every person is different so find what works for you and then do it religiously.
Now that you know that tracking your money is the first step, accountability can really go different ways. Budgeting apps can be a good way to hold yourself accountable. Another way is just by tracking your expenses weekly and holding yourself accountable. Hiring a professional (as long as you can afford it) to hold you accountable could also be beneficial.
Here at Molen & Associates we have put into place Family Finance appointments this year. It has been really exciting for a lot of our clients who do their taxes through us. If it is something that you can afford, then we encourage you to take advantage of this service because sometimes you need someone outside of your circle to hold you accountable!
In conclusion, budgeting really is an important habit or lifestyle improvement. It will bring unity in your family and financial security and peace in your home. It’s not going to make the emergencies or unexpected expenses go away and sometimes you might wonder if it is doing any good at all. Persevere through those times. In the long run it is going to make a difference even if it is difficult to see at first.