while the topic is hot, i thought it would be appropriate to address a popular resolution, budgeting!
whether it's living within a limit, trying to get rid of debt or making sure you have enough to save/invest, we all have an imaginary budget that we would like to keep.
here are some simple budgeting techniques that i use and i think anyone can apply no matter their income:.
> > list all your debt from small to big. this includes everything from credit card debt, car loan, student loans, etc. by listing your debt from small to big, it gives you a visual of what you can knock out first (while still paying the minimum on the rest of your bills). after you knock out the first thing, take that amount of money and apply to the next bill and watch it disintegrate twice as fast.
> > credit cards are a fuzzy topic :. some people use them religiously, while others use them only for emergencies and then, there those who wished they wouldn't have used them for 'emergencies' (think impulse emergencies, most likely at a mall). to be honest, i fall somewhere in between the last 2. i decided to open up a credit card about my sophomore/junior year in college when paychecks weren't stretching as far as they needed to and the thought of transferring money from my savings account caused ulcers (slightly dramatized). then there were a few moments after college when i was working REALLY hard full time, but didn't have any extra money for 'fun'. a sense of entitlement due to my hard work created perfect rationalization to check out lululemon's recent colors or buy a new outfit for a special occasion instead of digging deeper in my closet. i'll be honest again, i didn't let this get too out of control, but i have been carrying a balance that i am not comfortable with for too long, so i am focusing my intentions on getting rid of the balance.
> > are your 'emergencies' comparable to the lululemon's latest and greatest merchandise? or you've had your current purse for SO LONG??? when i say this, i am mean it with the utmost respect and sincere concern, wake up you shallow soul! your bank account does not care how great your butt looks! a rule of thumb that i use before buying something is forcing myself to think, "is this item worth the stress that may come in a few days or weeks when i am trying to buy groceries, fill up my car or avoid the $50 late fee on my loan?" (yes, i do seriously think all of that before i make a purchase - i've gotten so quick at it, my eyes don't even glaze over anymore). i will admit, sometimes the answer is yes, but most of the time the answer is no - have you had that feeling of driving home from the store/mall NOT feeling the stress of calculating the damage you've done to your account/credit??? if you haven't, i truly feel bad for you - it's a feeling worth getting used to! if you are having issues deciphering what is an emergency and what isn't, try this - hide your credit card, put it in a place that will force you to think about getting it out. just by making yourself having to consciously grab it may help you think twice about your 'emergency'. still need more discipline??? CANCEL your credit card, report it lost, cut it up! your bank will you send a replacement card, DO NOT ACTIVATE IT! i keep building credit by paying off my card, but without having an active card, i make due with my paychecks, not plastic money. it's sad i had to take it that far, but it is what helped me turn the corner. i continue to get notices about activating my card or 'congratulations, your limit has increased', neither of which has motivated me to use my credit card.
> > there are things that we can control and things that we can't control when it comes to spending. we can't control the gas prices and the fact that our cars need gas to run, we have to buy groceries to live and we have to pay our bills. by controlling the things that we can, we set ourselves up to stay on budget and less stressed. for instance, how much money we spend on groceries. drew and i have started to think ahead before we leave for the grocery store. we make a list (sometimes we create a list as the week goes on) and we think about our schedule for the week. what should we eat this night? how many nights will we need something more quick and easy? do we have plans with friends/family where we won't eat at home? by creating a rough (very rough) meal plan, it helps us plan how much we can expect to pay and also, eliminates waste. i absolutely DESPISE the feeling of tossing how food - all i can think about is that i am literally throwing my $$$ in the garbage. gross. also, going out for dinner or with friends can really add up. i'm not a prude, i enjoy going out, but there are just some times where it is totally ok to say NO! budgeting can be a private, but everyone does it or wishes they did it. your friends and family will understand if you can't do dinner or better yet, offer a cheaper alternative (i.e. make dinner at home, do a potluck style get together). it's amazing how creative people are when they are forced to be!
> > write it down!!! keep a visual of what bills you need to pay and when you need to pay them. have a big event such as a loved one's birthday or Christmas coming up??? write it down - it NEEDS to be included in your budget. when i was really pinching pennies, i planned out about 5 paychecks at a time, i'm not kidding! i wrote down what date i would be getting the paycheck, approximately how much it would be and what bills i have due during that pay period. i kept the list handy and revisited it often, especially if it needed readjusting. every dollar had it's place and most of the time, i paid my bills or put money into my savings the morning i got my paycheck so it was out of my hands and i didn't have a choice but to budget the next 2 weeks. was it stressful??? uhm, yea. to be an open book with you guys, there were some weeks were i had $200 left from my paycheck at NOON on payday. it's amazing what you can make work when you really want to and have to!
> > lastly, start small. don't overwhelm yourself with a big financial push right away - you will only set yourself back, i promise! for instance, try putting $50 away in your savings AS SOON AS YOU GET YOUR PAYCHECK. see what it feels like to go without the extra $50 that paycheck - chances are with discipline, you will adjust and survive. if you are trying to hack away at your credit, add $50 or $75 to your monthly payment. again, you may need adjust in other areas of your life, but you can make it work! give yourself a break - you got yourself in this mess and you will get yourself out of it with time, patience and discipline (if you aren't in a financial mess, congratulations, but you're probably not perfect either).
failing to prepare is preparing to fail - this applies to SO many things in life and budget is one of them. i'll be the first one to admit, living on a budget can be lame, but reaching a sense of financial freedom, whether big or small, is completely worth it!
i wish you all the best of luck on your New Year's resolutions, especially if it includes a budget. change is a personal decision and takes discipline.
a few quotes from the current book i am reading by Rob Ketterling (Change Before You Have To):.
.: the only path to something different includes change. don't be a casualty of the change you refuse to make
.:you can either change before you have to, or change because you have to
this book is a great reference for ANY type of change you are trying to make - i highly recommend it and hope to do a book review once i am done reading it. another great resource for budgeting is Dave Ramsey's, Total Money Makeover. it puts spending into perspective and gives a lot of great and realistic advice for taking control of your finances.
always striving for more,
p.s. by writing this post i am not claiming to be a finance or budgeting expert, i simply wanted to share a few simple tactics that have worked for me - good luck!