Learn How to Set Up (and Live on) a Budget

posted by Melissa Cappleman
November 8, 2011

So many individuals and families find this to be a daunting task and just can’t seem to keep a budget intact for very long. It feels like a cage and you built it for yourself. The keys to not feeling trapped and to managing a successful, healthy budget are to consider it a ‘spending plan’ and acknowledge that it is as alive as you are and it needs to change and adapt with you.

This task is slightly easier for fixed income households. You know your salary coming in each month so you can plan accordingly and not much fluctuation is needed. But what if you are self employed, a contractor, or a commissioned sales person and your income is always changing? The secret to managing both situations is making every single dollar that enters your bank account accountable for something.

You know what your fixed monthly expenses are. You make the same rent or mortgage payment every month. You make car payments and/or you buy your monthly commuter pass. You have your phone, cable, internet, gas, electric, water and any other bills you may pay every single month or every other month. It’s easiest to set up automatic payments for these expenses so it takes the worry and work out of ensuring payments are sent in on time.

Now, of course you and your family need to eat, you need to replenish toiletries and household supplies, and you need to ensure your wardrobe is suitable for your profession. Budget management becomes more tricky in this area as these are not fixed expenses. This is where accountability to your spouse or partner becomes paramount. If you are single, consider working simultaneous budget plans with a trusted friend, co-worker or coach so you can be accountable.

For these expenses, it is often a good idea to withdraw your allotted amount in cash, so you have a material understanding of just how much money you have left to spend this month. Plus, if you are faced with the decision of splurging on an unnecessary purchase, physically handing the cash across the register is much more real than swiping your debit card and it will make you think critically about your decision.

Next plan out all of your debt payments. You should be making minimum payments on all debts and focusing every extra available dollar you can afford to aggressively pay off one debt at a time. As a Certified Dave Ramsey Financial Coach, I teach this method as “The Debt Snowball.”

Now we all deserve a little fun each month and most budgets go bad when you don’t allot a minimal amount toward recreation and entertainment. Of course, you must decide your limit and what you can afford, but if you don’t work in this “expense,” you’re bound to go rogue eventually and destroy everything you’ve worked for thus far.

Rather than sitting down and managing your budget once, then trying to stick to those parameters, consider reanalyzing and reevaluating your budget every single week or with each paycheck. This way you can easily adjust for those unexpected expenses that always arise and you make it so that you and your budget work together. Ensure every single dollar is assigned to a certain task so you eliminate wasteful spending. Log in to your bank account several times a week, if not daily, so that you and your family are always held accountable to the money that goes out.

Couples and families will realize that these weekly actions actually bring them closer together and strengthen their relationships. Individuals will feel more empowered and confident in their choices, and small business owners will start to see the reality of running their business on a cash basis. You can do it and I can help! Call me for your free 30-minute initial consultation (877-477-6450).

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