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How to Make a Budget (and Stick to It)

Aug 20, 2008
Responsible budgeting and money management are skills everyone needs to learn as is the discipline required to put these skills into action. Many people find it difficult to stick to a budget; oftentimes, this is because the budget they created is not realistic. Regardless of the economic climate, it is important to know how to manage your finances and keep track of your spending. In order to do this, you need a budget that you can live with. Here are a few simple steps to get you started.

First things first: before you can put together a reasonable, livable budget, you have to know what the greater scope of your financial situation actually looks like. This doesn't just mean knowing how much money you make every month you need to take into account your income, your fixed expenses (like rent, gas, groceries, day care, and insurance) you pre-existing debt, as well as other random spending needs (summer vacation, birthdays, etc.).

Once you have all of this information in front of you, organize it into three categories: Income, Needs, and Wants. Income will obviously be your salary and any other wages you may receive. Needs are your fixed expenses, not including entertainment and other superfluous expenditures (just because you like going out to dinner and a movie once a week, doesn't mean you need to). You should, however, include monthly bill payments in your fixed expenses, as paying off debt is a crucial step in establishing financial stability. Finally, "Wants" are things like entertainment spending, new clothes or jewelry, trips, etc.

Now that you have an accurate picture of your financial situation in front of you, it's time to do the dirty work. What can you afford, and where do you have to make cuts? The first things that need to be taken into account when determining where your money goes each month are your "Needs". Once those are accounted for (including, if at all possible, paying into a savings account), you can start adding some of your "Wants" to the list prioritize these, as it's unlikely you'll be able to accommodate them all. Also, be honest with yourself when identifying "Needs" vs. "Wants". A top-tier cable service with 1,000 channels is not necessary. Neither is a fancy gym membership (especially if you don't use it much). Being honest with yourself and limiting over-the-top expenses is not only the financially responsible thing to do, it will free up more cash for other items (like occasional dinners out, or a movie rental membership).

Once you have a budget worked out for yourself, make sure you keep it on hand a budget is useless if you don't use it. Update it often, and feel free to make changes and alterations if you need to. Think of your budget as a fluid, living document. Your needs may change from month to month or quarter to quarter, and your budget should reflect that. Finally, don't get discouraged if you go over budget one month. Remember, it's a tool, a guideline. If you use it correctly, it will help you achieve long-term financial stability.
About the Author
Escape Austin real estate operates in central Austin. Their site has map based search for Austin homes along with a Austin real estate blog.
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