Times are hard right now for millions of Americans. Although inflation fell to 7.7% in October, that is still more than 5% higher than at the start of 2020. Energy costs have increased by almost 18%, food costs are 11% higher, and many employers are seeing their operating costs soar, resulting in employees having their working hours reduced and some facing redundancy. There is never a wrong time to look at your finances and get them in order, but it is especially important right now.
Paying off debts or saving for the future is not easy and requires some sacrifices somewhere along the line. You can’t grab the best sportsbook bonus online and hope it will set you on the road to riches; sorting your financial situation takes careful planning and discipline to stick to the rules you set. Thankfully, creating a budget is a relatively easy task. You start by calculating your household’s net income.
Calculate Your Net Income
A common area where budget planners fall down is calculating their net income. Many people try setting a budget based on their salary rather than the amount of money they physically bring home. When working out your household’s net income, use the figures that land in your bank account and not what you earn before taxes, health insurance, etc. You will find a significant disparity between those two numbers, and it is essential to make your budget as accurate as humanely possible.
It is time to track all of your spending now you know your net income. Some expenses are fixed each month, and you must pay them to keep a roof over your head. Items such as rent or a mortgage, power, water, and various insurances should be tracked. As should any subscriptions you have, including your cell phone, things like Netflix need to be included, too. Don’t forget to list any takeouts, travel costs, grocery costs, and other repayments you have each week or month.
Track Every Single Expense
Now you need to consider the on-off or rare costs you incur during a typical year; this is an area most budget planners forget. Say you have a haircut twice per year at the expense of $50 each time; that is $100 over a year, so $8.33 per month. Log your typical car maintenance costs, clothing, and birthday and holiday gifts. In addition, when calculating your grocery costs, ensure you include cleaning the average price of cleaning products and similar that you may only purchase sometimes you shop.
The 50/30/20 rule is a common technique budgeters employ. It breaks down your spending so that you spend 50% of your income on needs (the things you must have to live), 30% on wants (such as vacations, streaming services, takeout, etc.), and 20% on savings or debts. You may find that your spending is way off these simple benchmarks when you create a budget.
You should now be able to calculate your disposable income by subtracting your total outgoings from your net income. Hopefully, it is a positive figure because that means you have more money coming in than goes out. If it is negative, you are operating at a loss, and significant changes are needed immediately because you will fall into debt, exacerbating the situation.
Set Realistic Goals
You now have a wealth of information about your finances, so it is time to set some goals. It is essential to set realistic and achievable goals. For example, if you have $200 of disposable income at the end of each month, there is no point in setting a goal of paying for a $5,000 holiday in the next 12 months. Your short-term goals should be achievable in one to three years, with longer-term goals, such as retirement or a college fund, spanning several years, even decades.
Having your budget in front of you will help you set those goals because you can easily see where your money is going. Do you want a family vacation, but your disposable income does not allow one? How about cutting down on your “wants” section of your budget, such as subscriptions or regular takeout, and adding the money saved to your vacation budget?
Creating a budget is not the most exciting way to spend your time, but it will help you see where your money goes each month, and you may be surprised at where you are leaking funds at an alarming rate.