Mention the word budgeting to most people and you see their faces drop. It’s not a comfortable subject but it’s vital for your peace of mind. This post is the precursor or trailer if you will, to a series of blogposts I have written that focuses on budgeting for Boomers and retirees. They will be shared over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes open for the next installment.
Most of the content that is available has been written for families in general, but budgeting is as important for Boomers and mid-lifers as at anytime else in your life. In actual fact, as I have come to realize over the last few years with a decrease in income, your need to budget for your expenses becomes even more critical. Every last cent you can save is important and having the reassurance that you know you can cover your needs, is priceless.
Even though I am a single/solo retiree, I still need to make very sure that I can cover all my expenses with the money available and the only way I can do that, is by having a monthly budget to guide me. So let’s dive right in…
The importance of a budget
Unlike the quote provided below, seemingly reflective of general opinion on family budgets today, I will attempt to take a much more positive approach to budgeting, as a family oriented, user-friendly, financial management and planning tool and life-enabler.
However, when reflecting on family/personal budgeting and inquiring as to why more families are not actually using this valuable tool; it becomes self-evident that skepticism runs rampant and deep in reality and society.
“The average family exists only on paper and its average budget is a fiction, invented by statisticians for the convenience of statisticians.”
Once you start probing family or any budgets, expending time and energy researching the subject in-depth, it becomes quite clear, that most families (and Boomers) are caught in a vicious, almost never-ending cycle of “What comes in must go out.” and this applies worldwide.
Most families might feel that budgeting is a futile effort, unnecessarily burdening them with thoughts and ways to go broke methodically and slowly, without the creature comforts and indulgences of our human modern-day society.
Reality actually is the exact opposite. Done correctly it can turn your financial situation around completely to your benefit.
The media and society in general seem to have fostered this need to have all these creature comforts over the last few years, never mind the continuous drive to match up with the “Joneses”.
Others might voice that they feel as if they are merely throwing money away, in a never-ending and dizzying spiral of spend, spend, spend. People are getting deeper and deeper into debt, no matter how hard they try to get out of it.
Questions are then raised :
How do we stop these self-sabotaging courses of action?
What steps can we take to change the thinking around family fiscal discipline?
How best can you implement a budget that is tailored for your specific needs?
Why budget anyway?
Why budget? Families (and others), as mentioned before, have diverse reasons and motivations for budgeting. Briefly summarized, people budget for a couple of reasons:
- To gain control of their financial life, monthly bills and spending
- Being prepared and to avoid surprises
- Save for a major purchase
- Set up an emergency fund
- Getting out of a vicious circle of ever-spiraling debt or the “spend-now-pay-later” thinking
- Expand their lifestyle(s)
- Retire in comfort and prosperity
- Eliminate money as a source of tension and topic for argument
- Rediscover that some of the best things in life are FREE!
- Becoming self-reliant and empowered to know that debt does not rule their lives anymore!
11 Practical Tips how to make your budget work
Here are eleven practical suggestions and tips from surveyed online users on family/personal budgeting:
Keep a record book as well as your bankbook
It takes time and requires a lot of self-discipline. Start each month with the balance and enter every payment, etc in advance, in the form of a calendar. Why it works well for most people is due to the fact that they always have their actual working balance handy. Having your financial information at your fingertips makes great sense.
Nowadays with smart phones and apps, it becomes even easier. Many banks even have this included on your banking app, so that you can access it at any time.
Putting regular bills on a calendar (can be digital) based on due dates and when salaries are received, proves helpful to some. This helps specifically to get everything paid on time and keep in perspective where the money actually goes, since all miscellaneous expenses are also recorded.
Getting bills paid
Working out all the major and large bills (i.e., rent, car payment, insurance, etc.), dividing it up so every week, that amount is removed from the family ‘paycheck’. Therefore, at the end of the month, there is no need or risk to lose an entire paycheck to rent or car registration.
Divide all bills weekly. A set amount goes to a savings account each week. When there is a 5th Friday in a month, you have a “free paycheck” to save.
Open a household account
In a second checking account, deposit a sum that covers your monthly expenses. Have all of your bills automatically withdrawn. This account acts as a hub for household obligations – the primary account is for day-to-day operations and seems to work for many people.
A timely budget
Get a notebook or create a digital file. List expenses and their due dates. Divide payments into small amounts and use labeled envelopes for payments and money storage. Reduce duplicate credit usage to 1 or 2 credit cards. Use the net for bill paying and to check your accounts.
Making a list of all annual or once-a-year type bills (car registration, shots for pets, school pictures, etc.) and divide them by 12. Save this amount each month and, when one of these items come up, you have the money to pay it. No more surprises.
Save credit card receipts
Keep an envelope in the car for the credit cards you use. When you buy anything using a card, put the receipt in the envelope as soon as you enter the car. Make sure to change the envelope every month. This will save you time and hassle when looking for receipts.
Only twice a month
Separate all bills to be paid on either the 1st or 15th of the month. This enables you to pay all bills at once and on time. An added bonus is that you will also immediately know how much money you have left over for entertainment, vacation and other discretionary items.
Split into Savings and Checking
Figure out a budget based on a savings account/checking account split. Savings builds up for things like real estate taxes, vacations, and insurance. Checking is monthly (e.g. phone, groceries, etc.). Split your monthly income into the savings and checking accounts according to the budget. Savings amounts are strictly budgeted. The checking account is controlled by watching the balance until the next payday.
Respect your partner’s need for financial security
Everyone likes to buy their toys, but the overall financial security of the household needs to be considered first. I am not against toys; just save up the money first to buy them versus putting non-essential day-to-day expenses on credit.
An example of friends of mine, was the spouse’s need to have an expensive set of new golf clubs that he hardly ever used. His wife was not against the golf clubs, she was against the debt to purchase the clubs as there was no money in the savings or money built up for college tuition for their children. Be considerate of the overall family financial situation and provide financial security for your family.
14 Useful suggestions to improve personal budgeting
Here are some more insightful suggestions from others that could appeal to the way you do your budgeting.
Stay busy after work
One “easy” way to avoid overspending and thus stay within your budget, is to have something else to do after work. Get a second job that is fun, go to school, volunteer or get into great physical shape. The more you do, the less you will spend!
Watch those miscellaneous categories
Make sure you have enough well-defined categories to capture your true spending. Putting too much into a miscellaneous category makes it harder to track what you have spent and harder to control, especially the splurges!
Keep need in mind when budgeting
Do not buy things just because they are on sale. Beware of those Black Friday “deals”. If you had no use or want for it before you saw it on sale, then you will have no use for it later.
Save money for special occasions on a budget
Add up how much you will spend on Christmas, birthdays, etc. Treat that total like it was a debt and make payments to a savings account for special occasions. Be sure to select a specific day of the month that your payment is due and stick with an amount.
Don’t use a debt to get out of another debt
Do not take out a consolidation loan to pay off your other debts. The point is to get out of it, not to squeeze them together and end up paying interest on the loan while paying off your debts. Try consulting a “free” debt counselor service first.
Remember To Budget Time As Well
We have all heard “time is money.” Well-spent time can be an investment. Take a few minutes to plan ways to save on bills – 15 or 20 min. researching lower rates on electricity or long distance calls can pay off. You will know when time spent is not worth it.
The envelope system
Total yearly/monthly bills, divide each into 12 months. Divide monthly amount into bi-weekly payments. Use envelope for each bill; put in cash every 2 weeks. Use only the cash in envelope till it is gone. Do not touch your account/debt card! Envelopes ONLY!
Don’t Forget to Budget for Special Occasions
When forecasting your expenses, remember to include gift-giving occasions. Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries are good examples. If you plan to spend money on these occasions, remember to include this in your budget.
Good teeth, cheaper way
You can go to a dental school to have your teeth cleaned, filled, or orthodontic work done, etc. The cost is approximately half what you would usually pay. Note: Make sure you have some extra time as this takes a little longer.
This need not only apply to having great teeth but anything where you have a student base that could provide the service at a cheaper rate with qualified oversight, is always a win for all.
Avoid expensive friends when budgeting
Avoid friends who want to go for drinks all the time or suggest an evening at home. The money you spend on drinks and snacks, can buy something better, or go into your savings account. Also avoid friends who want to have supper at your house because you are a “good cook” what that really means is that they are saving money while you are grocery shopping.
Keep Track of Your Expenses on a Daily Basis
Call the bank’s automated line or access your banking app and do your banking every single night before you go to bed. You can see what checks and/or debits are posted from your debit card and what your running balance is. Compare with what you have in your checkbook or with receipts. This only takes about 10 minutes. Often people get into trouble when they try to keep a running total of what they have left in their head and then get into trouble.
How To Live Within Your Budget
Organize, budget, be frugal and beat stress.
Know what you spend
Establishing a budget, and periodically entering all of your purchases into money managing software, should take the guesswork out of your finances. At the beginning, minor changes will most likely need to be made to your budget. Once you have a finalized budget, one person should be responsible for maintaining the budget and tracking finances.
Cut down on interest
With bills happening throughout the month, people can find themselves poor one part of the month, and rich during the other. Some banks offer free online bill pay, so take all of your bills, and divide it by 4. Then pay it weekly, so you always have the same spending cash with each pay check. It also cuts down on the interest that accrues.
So in Closing…
As you can see, the value and importance of having good budgeting skills are priceless. Once money and finances are taken out of the equation so to say, your life seems to become far easier with much less stress. It doesn’t matter if you are starting out, are a growing family or preparing to retire – budgeting and living a frugal life, makes sense.
What sort of budgeting tips have you developed that make your life so much easier?
I would love to hear from you in the comments.
Till next time,