It's a common problem for many individuals — wondering exactly where your paycheck goes each month. After paying expenses, such as your mortgage, utilities, and credit card bills, you may find little left to put toward anything else.
Creating a budget is the first key to successfully manage your finances. Knowing exactly how you are spending your money each month can set you on a more clear path to pursue your financial goals. If you become sidetracked when it comes to your finances, consider these tips for creating a budget and staying on the right path.
Examine your financial goals. Start out by making a list of your short-term goals (e.g., new car, vacation) and long-term goals (e.g, your child's college education, retirement) and prioritize them. Consider how much you will need to save and how long it will take to reach each goal.
Identify your current monthly income and expenses. Add up all of your income. In addition to your regular salary and wages, be sure to include other types of income, such as dividends, interest, and child support. Next, add up all of your expenses. Sometimes it helps to divide expenses into two categories: fixed (e.g., housing, food, transportation) and discretionary (e.g., entertainment, vacations). Don't forget to factor in any financial goals you would like to pursue.
Evaluate your budget. Once you've added your income and expenses, compare the two totals. Ideally, you should be spending less than you earn. If this is the case, you're on the right track, and you'll need to look at how well you use your extra income toward achieving your financial goals. On the other hand, if you are spending more than you earn, you should make some adjustments to your budget. Look for ways to increase your income or reduce your expenses, or both.
Monitor your budget. Finally, you should monitor your budget periodically and make changes when necessary. Keep in mind that any budget that is too rigid is likely to fail. Keep your budget flexible as your changing circumstances demand.