What’s one of the best ways to get financially fit? Start a budget. It’s easy to do with the right educational tips and tools.
Budgeting isn’t about reducing yourself to a ramen noodle diet or spending every weekend boarded-up in the house reading by candlelight. Instead, it’s a way to maximize your income and help prevent any unexpected financial pitfalls.
So if words like “frugal” and “financially responsible” make you break into hives, have no fear, just use our top 10 crucial steps for creating a real-world, month-to-month budget.
1. Forget Your Salary
Go ahead and take your salary out of the equation (literally). Your month-to-month budget should revolve around your take home pay (your paycheck after taxes, health insurance deductions, etc.) Anything pre-tax you’ll never see, so don’t include it.
2. Write It Down
Each month you’re going to track every dollar that comes in and out of your household and write it down in a personal expense report. There are many tools to help you with this task: premade Excel spreadsheets, printable expense reports, smartphone apps, or just a good old-fashioned notepad.
Remember, if using a smartphone app, refrain from linking it with your bank account and do not provide too much personal information. Such an app could be hacked and can provide cyber criminals with the information they need to commit fraud or identity theft.
3. Categorize and Prioritize
Take your first month’s expense report and categorize your transactions. Get an idea of some standard budget spending categories and what they include, and adjust yours to best meet your family’s needs.
Sort your, fixed expenses first: mortgage or rent, cable, insurance, etc. Doing so will allow you to see how much money will automatically unavailable from your take home pay. Then make estimated amounts for your varying bills, such as electric.
4. The Two, Separate, Funds You Need
Savings and emergency funds should be kept separately. Emergencies are bound to happen so budget for them wisely and don’t let them ruin your future plans by pulling money out of your savings account.
5. Don’t Overestimate Expenses
A common budgeting tactic is to knowingly overestimate monthly expenses to give yourself wiggle room — don’t. Be honest about your finances. When you knowingly overestimate, you might feel that it’s ok to spend a little more here and pull from your over-budgeted amounts. But typically we wind up spending more than what we actually overestimated, which can have disastrous effects on our newly-created budget.
6. Review Financial Accounts Daily
In order to effectively track expenses, you should check your financial accounts daily. This is also a vital way to detect fraud or identity theft. Contact your financial institution and fraud protection provider if you notice any unusual transactions — you can be held liable for fraud if it’s not detected within a reasonable time.
7. Get Organized
Keeping financial documents in place is a surprisingly difficult task — there are so many of them! When budgeting, make sure you keep a thorough record of transactions and expense reports by storing them in a fireproof safe.
Do not keep sensitive personal or financial information stored on your computer. Non-sensitive information can be safely stored on a password-protected computer as long as the information is backed up on an external hard drive.
8. Enroll in Automatic Bill Pay
Nothing will derail your budget more than late fees. Enroll in automatic bill pay for your fixed expenses to avoid any costly mistakes. Learn what to consider before enrolling in automatic bill pay.
9. Pull Your Credit Report
Checking your credit report is a quick and easy aspect of your budget. Pull your report once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com to ensure no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name. Remember, if you don’t detect fraud within a reasonable time, you may be on the line for your con-artist’s expenses.
10. Set Goals
Budgeting is about propelling yourself into a financially successful future, so set goals that will help you achieve your dreams. Decide what you hope to save for, how long it will take and what your biggest obstacles are. With these goals, you’ll have the motivation to say no to impulse buys and yes to your thrifty new ways.
For more on creating a successful financial future, please visit FinancialLiteracyMonth.com.
For more on identity theft and fraud news, please visit FightingIdentityCrimes.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.