Budgeting Tips: Stay on Track Financially with These Helpful Suggestions

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By Jacob Maslow

Creating a monthly budget allows you to track your income and spending accurately. However, the difficult part of budgeting is to stick to your plan. Keeping up regularly and consistently makes it easier.

Looking for budgeting tips? Here’s how to stay on track financially with these helpful suggestions:

1. Top Budgeting Tips

If you are unsure where your money is going, it’s time to track your spending regularly. The best way to do this is with a budget to help you accurately account for your expenses.

Here are some top budgeting tips to help you track your monthly expenses:

Take an Expenses Inventory

Where are you spending money? Pinpoint your spending by taking inventory. Use all your accounts, including checking and credit cards, to identify your monthly expenses.

Fixed expenses are the ones that are less likely to change since they come monthly. They include rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, and debt repayment. The expenses that are easier to adjust are the variable expenses. These change monthly and include clothing, eating out, travel, etc.

Group Your Expenses

Next, categorize your expenses to help you track where you spend your money. Some budgeting apps will automatically categorize your spending, making it easier for you to see where you spend unnecessarily. For example, impulse buys or unused subscriptions.

You can also break down your expenses by creating a needs, wants, and savings/debt list.

Remember that needs include housing, transportation, utilities, insurance, groceries and toiletries, and childcare. These are necessities that you cannot do without. Examples of wants include entertainment, special meals and dining out, clothing, home décor, memberships, and subscriptions. These expenses are usually harder to budget for. Finally, account for your savings and debt repayments. These include the following: an emergency fund, savings accounts, retirement accounts, investments, credit card payments, and any loan repayments.

Create a Budget

Once you have a better idea of your expense groups, you can create a budget with actionable steps to help you cut back where necessary and increase your debt repayment or savings. The most popular way to do this is by using the 50/30/20 budget.

The plan helps you divide your net income into three spending categories: 50% used for needs, 30% used for wants, and 20% used for savings/debt repayment.

Read more on NerdWallet about properly sorting your expenses into needs, wants, and savings/debt repayment.

Extra Tips:

  • If you keep going way over your income, you may need to reconsider where to downgrade your needs and wants. Small changes can make a huge difference.
  • If you pay your credit cards in full monthly, classify the expenses according to their categories. However, if you maintain a balance that accrues interest and fees, list any payments beyond the minimum under debt repayment.
  • Revisit your budget and adjust as necessary every few months.

Use a Budgeting App

Budgeting and expense-tracking apps can help you with your money management. They allow you to allocate your monthly spendable income into categories that are easier to manage. If you aren’t a fan of apps, a spreadsheet can prove invaluable for tracking your income, spending, and savings.

The above are the top budgeting tips to help you identify your expenses and make adjustments to lower your expenses and increase your savings.

2. Stay Financially on Track

Do you know where you are spending your money every month? One of the most important ways to stay financially on track is to track your spending habits. Doing this can help you identify areas where you are overspending, help you prioritize your spending, and help you stay on track with your financial goals. Here’s how to do it effectively:

Collect All Receipts – Collect all your receipts for at least one month to help you track your spending. These include receipts from cash payments, credit cards, and bank statements. These will give you an accurate picture of what you are spending money on.

Categorize Your Expenses – Categorize your expenses by grouping them. Some categories include housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, entertainment, and savings. Additionally, create categories that are specific to your spending habits.

Record Expenses – Next, manually or on your favorite budgeting app, record all your expenses into their defined categories.

Analyze Your Spending – After you’ve recorded your spending for at least one month, it’s easier to analyze each category and see your spending patterns.

Adjust Your Budget – Now, you can adjust your budget according to your analysis. Try to find ways to cut back where you are overspending and to allocate money where you have shortfalls.

Continue the Process – Staying financially on track is an ongoing process. Repeat the above process regularly to ensure you remain up-to-date with your financial planning.

3. Expert Budgeting Strategies

Most people know more about budgeting than they think since we use it daily to make decisions. For example, a child will count their pocket change to decide if it’s enough to buy candy, and runners often plan how to conserve their energy to complete a marathon. These are tiny examples of how we all know some budgeting strategies.

Economists and experts have spent decades studying the effectiveness of various budgeting techniques for families and businesses, resulting in several approaches. Since people’s financial situations vary, one person may prefer one approach, whereas another may find another better.

These are some of the budgeting strategies that experts advocate, helping you find the best approach to putting your finances in order:

50-20-30 Budget

The 50-20-30 budget is one of the newest budgeting methods. According to Forbes Advisor, the budget got a celebrity boost from a mention from a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren in her 2006 bestseller called All Your Worth.

As we mentioned earlier, it has a simple basic idea. You account for your spending in three categories: needs, wants, and savings/debt repayment. The plan acknowledges the importance of wants, allocating 20% of the budget for these.

Zero-Based Budgeting

Zero-based budgeting is one of the easiest budgeting methods that can prove highly effective. Developed in the 1970s, the then-governor of Georgia and future President Jimmy Carter used it for the state’s budgeting program. It’s efficient because it accounts for every dollar you spend. However, it’s best when done at the start of each month.

You start by finding your net income. Follow this with a list of your expense categories. Include categories for everything you spend on, including rent or mortgage, utilities, entertainment, and savings.

Next, write what you plan to spend on each category during the month, something that’s easier to do in some categories than others. Now, deduct the amount you plan to spend from your net income. If your answer is not zero and shows a negative number, you must decide where to cut back on your spending in the various categories. On the other hand, if you have a positive number, choose how to use the extra wisely. The best way is to use it toward debt repayment or pay more into your savings.

Envelope Budgeting Technique

Named after envelopes, it works with most budget methods but is an old-fashioned approach for people using cash. Instead of allocating expenses in writing, on a spreadsheet, or in an app, you have an envelope where you place money for each spending category. The drawback is that you must convert your income into cash.

However, one app, Goodbudget, has digitalized envelope budgeting, bringing it into the modern age.

4. Money-Saving Budgeting Tips

Saving money is difficult, but here are some budgeting tips:

Record Your Expenses

You cannot save money unless you know how much you spend. Therefore, keep a record of all your expenses by adding them to your categories, including anything you pay cash for, like coffee, tips, unplanned household items, etc. Don’t forget to check your statements for expenses.

Include Savings into Your Budget

You’ll never be able to save if you don’t include savings in your budgeting plan. Once you allocate categories for all your expenses, including those that don’t occur monthly, don’t forget to add one for savings, and aim to place some of your income there monthly, even if it means cutting back from your wants.

Cut Spending

If your savings plan continues to remain stagnant, you must find ways to reduce nonessential expenses like dining out, entertainment, gym memberships, streaming subscriptions, etc. Here are some ways to save:

  • Look for free or low-cost activities in your community and cancel any subscriptions you never use.
  • Plan your meals to ensure you eat more at home, and look for restaurant specials when you want a treat.
  • Don’t get tempted to buy nonessential items as soon as you see them. Wait a few days and consider if you need the item. If you need it, develop a plan to save for it.

However, you should also plan a review of your fixed monthly expenses and see where you can save. Some ideas: check your cell phone plan, insurance payments, and utilities to see if you can get cheaper rates elsewhere.

Plan to Pay Off Debt

Debt like loans and credit cards are expensive because of the interest charges. One of the best money-saving budgeting tips you can adopt is to plan to pay off your debt as soon as possible. If your debt has spiraled, look for ways to consolidate it with a cheaper interest rate, making it more manageable and easier to repay.

Create Savings Goals

You need a goal if you want to save money. Consider what you want to save for and create a list to help you achieve your short-term and long-term savings goals by allocating money toward each. Short-term goals include an emergency fund, vacation,  and a down payment for a car. Long-term goals include a down payment for home buying, retirement, and children’s education.

Finally, saving becomes easier by creating direct payments into your savings account. Once the money is in the savings account, it’s less likely to think of it as spending money.

5. Mastering Your Finances

Mastering your finances involves adopting healthy financial habits, setting goals, and managing your money wisely. Here are some steps to help you take control of your finances:

Set Savings Goals – Start by creating a budget to help you track your income and expenses. Categorize your expenses and set your financial goals based on short-term and long-term plans. Include a way to make some diversified investments. Make your goals actionable by dividing their estimated cost by the time needed to reach the target. Remember that you need realistic deadlines.

Build an Emergency Fund – Start your savings by creating and maintaining an emergency fund that can cover your expenses for at least three months in a difficult time. You need an emergency fund because it’s often difficult and expensive to access money quickly from other investments.

Reduce Debt – Create a plan to pay off high-interest debts like credit cards. Prioritize debt repayment by focusing on the highest-interest debt (usually credit cards). Once paid off, credit cards are convenient to use for expenses, but pay their balance off monthly.

Live Below Your Means – The principle is to avoid unnecessary expenses and lifestyle inflation and to differentiate between wants and needs.

Automate Finances – Set up automatic transfers to your savings and investment accounts. Also, automate bill payments to avoid late fees and improve your credit score.

Insurance – Ensure appropriate health, life, and property coverage to protect against unexpected events.

Review and Adjust – Regularly review your budget and financial goals based on your current income, expenses, and life circumstances.

Shop Smart and Negotiate – Shop around and negotiate when buying insurance, utilities, cell phone contracts, etc.

Plan for Retirement with Tax-deferred Investments – Contribute toward plans for your retirement, such as a 401(k) or IRA. Additionally, take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans and make matching contributions.

Remember, mastering your finances is an ongoing process. Consistency and discipline are key to achieving and maintaining financial well-being.

6. Budgeting 101: Key Tips

  • Decide why you’re budgeting.
  • Use empowering language like spending planning instead of budgeting to make it less restrictive.
  • Test out different budgeting methods to find which one works best for you.
  • Prioritize your expenses and goals by understanding your needs, wants, and savings/ loan repayments.
  • Don’t get caught by surprise when something unexpected comes up. Have an emergency fund ready to use.
  • Leave some money aside for an odd impulse buy.
  • Use technology to prevent setbacks and take the tediousness out of budgeting. However, ensure that you don’t automate everything like subscriptions; otherwise, you’ll end up paying for them for ages after you stop using them.
  • Regularly review your budget to keep it current and catch excessive spending.

7. Improve Your Budgeting Skills

You can continually improve your budgeting skills no matter how long you have been budgeting. Here’s how:

Get Someone to Keep You Accountable – Budgeting is not easy if you quickly fall to temptations. An accountability partner is the easiest way to help you stay on track. If you have a life partner, you already have someone to help you stay on track.

Involve Family Members – If you have a family, ensuring they are committed to your financial goals is vital. Keep them on track by involving them in the budgeting process.

Closely Review Your Spending Habits – Track how you spend your hard-earned money, looking for patterns. Make changes if your detailed expense tracking shows your spending doesn’t align with your budgeting goals.

Understand Your Income – Know your exact income, including any irregular or variable sources, to ensure you create and maintain a realistic budget.

Prioritize Essential Expenses –  Identify and prioritize expenses such as rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, and insurance. Ensure these get paid first before allocating money to discretionary spending.

Regularly Review and Adjust – Review your budget regularly, especially when there are changes in your income, expenses, or financial goals. Adjust your budget accordingly, always setting realistic goals.

Avoid Lifestyle Inflation – As your income increases, refrain from increasing your spending immediately. Instead, allocate the extra money to savings or debt repayment.

Use Budgeting Apps – Leverage technology with budgeting apps that can automate expense tracking and help you create categories. These apps make it easier to get insights into your spending habits.

Celebrate Financial Milestones – When you reach significant milestones in your savings goals, celebrate your achievements for extra motivation to continue your successful budgeting.

8. Effective Financial Planning

Effective financial planning helps you create strategies for achieving your short- and long-term goals. It enables you to take the steps required to develop financial goals, understand your cash flow, and reduce stress.

Steps like planning for emergencies, paying off high-interest debt, and developing retirement planning are included in effective financial planning. Furthermore, it entails insurance and tax planning, making investing in your future goals easier.

As you grow your financial well-being, you create a mechanism to protect yourself from financial setbacks. The final step of effective financial planning entails estate planning, ensuring you provide for your loved ones in detail and with clarity.

All the budgeting tips and suggestions above will help you stay on track financially. Budgeting is an essential step in ensuring effective financial planning.

However, remember to adjust your budget to match your major life milestones. Furthermore, if you find that you are struggling to plan your budget alone, seek professional help for adjustments and to reach your goals.


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