10 Tips for Budgeting in the New Year

You know you should do it and you know why, but making a budget and sticking to it has not been easy right? Well if you’ve tried and failed in the past to stick to your budget, that is no reason to stop trying, it is simply a information you need to take with you to your next budget planning session – that’s right now. Following are 10 tips to get your budget on track and keep it there, and these tips even include saving for your future and enjoying the present.

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How Slim is Your Budget?

1: Everyone needs a budget

One of the things which can hamper your budgeting is thinking that ‘no one else has to budget, they can buy whatever they like’. Well that’s not true everyone needs a budget and if your friends or family appear to be carefree spenders, they have either budgeted for these indulgences, or they’re going to be struggling in other areas.

2: Know why you’re budgeting

Motivation is the most important factor in anything you do, and if you are attempting to cut back your spending you need to be clear – and remain clear – about why. Perhaps you find you can’t pay your bills on time, or at all, or maybe you can’t afford to buy the things you want for your family, or there’s just never enough money to go out to dinner once in a while. Whatever you are trying to achieve in being more financially responsible, it is important to keep this goal clear in your mind, to keep your saving and budgeting on track.

3: Make a realistic budget

This means knowing what you spend week to week, and being realistic about where you’re willing to cut back. Just because you need to find an extra $100 a month, doesn’t mean you should cut out lunches from the food court and coffees on the way to work if you don’t think you can stick to it.

4: Budget for your costs

One third of your wages should go towards paying your bills. This includes your mortgage or rent, your car payments or personal loans and all the bills which keep your life running like the power, the water, the phone and the groceries. If your bills consume more than one third of your wages, or the combined wages of you and your partner, first decide whether you’re willing to cut back on tip number 5 below. If not, look at where you can cut back your expenses – can you buy home brand groceries, put in more energy efficient light bulbs or take shorter showers?

Budget
Creative Commons License photo credit: inked78

5: Budget for your life

One third of your wages can go towards your everyday personal expenses. This means you can go out to dinner, you can get coffee on the way to work and buy a new pair of shoes on the way home, as long as you can cover the first third of your budget in tip number 4 above. It is important to budget for yourself because budgeting is just like being on a diet – if there is something you’re not allowed to have AT ALL you want it more, but if you can have a little chocolate, or a little retail therapy, you’re less likely to fall off the wagon, because it’s not taboo.

6: Budget for your future

One third of your wages should go towards your savings account. It is important to budget to save because you’re not always going to have the same wage to live from and you need to be planning for your future, as well as budgeting for larger life expenses which don’t fit into the third of your wages reserved for your personal spending. Therefore, when your wages come in, make an automatic transfer to your savings account and pay yourself first. This means you won’t notice the funds being transferred and you’re more likely to make regular contributions if you don’t have to remember, or physically make them.

7: Focus on your savings

When you are budgeting you also want to be rewarded which is why your savings accounts are important. It is a good idea to have more than one savings account for each of your savings goals as this allows you to focus on short term goals, longer term goals and an emergency fund. With an automatic transfer set up to each of these high interest savings accounts, you can be budgeting, saving and still be able to buy some luxuries in the future – which you’ve saved for.

8: Budget for fewer luxuries

While you are allowed to spend money on yourself, and save up for things you really want or need, part of making a budget is cutting back on things you don’t really need. Therefore, look at the luxuries you do indulge in and decide where you can cut back. Is it possible to go to the hairdresser every eight weeks instead of every six weeks? Perhaps you can clean your car yourself each week and indulge in professional detailing just once a year?

9: Budget for less splurging

Being on a budget means that retail therapy is not an accepted form of treatment unless it’s in the budget. It might make you feel better to buy a new dress and shoes, or a new set of tyres for the car and tickets to the big game, but you can only splurge if you have enough in the third of your wages which is set aside for your lifestyle. There is no point in making a budget and following these tips if you don’t intend to stick to the plan.

10: Monitor your actual expenses

If you’ve followed all of these tips and are still finding you can’t pay your bills or afford to make contributions to your savings, it’s time to carefully analyze your spending. The most common cause of a budget failing in this way is the fact that you have underestimate your expenses, but instead of going back to your calculator or your spreadsheet – hit the streets and make a tally of EVERYTHING you spend in a month and keep all of your receipts to help you remember.

This means make note of when you give to a charity on the street corner, when you go out for coffee and buy a muffin and a bottle of water at the same time, keep the receipts from your car parking and from when you fuel up the car so you know exactly what you’re spending. Then go back to your budget and see if you really have underestimated your spending – did you only budget for the coffee, not the extras, did you put in your average fuel costs rather than taking into account the fluctuating fuel prices on different days?

Fred Schebesta writes for Savings Account Finder, where he helps people to save money and choose the best savings account.

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Comments | 1 Response

  1. Bruce says

    This was an interesting list of suggestions. I particularly liked that you gave a thoughtful opinion on credit cards; I think too many assume that they are dangerous and cannot be used effectively.

    I do have a question about one of your budgeting tips:
    “One third of your wages should go towards your savings account. ”
    I assume this refers to net income (i.e. after taxes and deductions)? In my own saving, I save in two main ways: long term (e.g. RRSPs (Registered Retirement Saving Plans – the Canadian equivalent to the 401k, I believe, or TFSAs [Tax Free Savings Account]) and short term [e.g. basic savings account]. The short term savings are likely to be used within a year.

    I’m also working on building up an emergency fund (in a savings account with a 3% interest rate).

    So, here’s the question, of the 33% of one’s income that is going to savings, what’s the breakdown of that 33% into short term vs long term, savings account vs investments?

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