Many people know that they should create a budget—a system to monitor cash flow and minimize debt—but they don’t do it. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, two-thirds of Americans have no budget and just let their money take control.
Regardless of how much you want to ignore the obvious, budgeting is the key to achieving all of your financial goals. Think of money like your employee. It should be working hard for you instead of you working hard for it. If you want a productive and efficient employee who grows in your company, you have to do things like give them clear guidelines and rules, create opportunities for growth, and treat them with respect. The same is true for your money.
Ready to boss up on your cash flow? Here are a few mandates you need to follow to get your financial business in check.
1. Start by tallying where you really stand.
You can do this by gathering all of your financial documents, from pay stubs and saving account statements, to monthly bills and credit card statements. Write down your monthly expenses and income on either a blank piece of paper or in a a budget spreadsheet in Excel. Next, create a column to tally the ideal amount you want to spend on needs (rent/mortgage, groceries, daily travel) and wants (entertainment, vacations, dining out). This is your stated budget.
Track your spending.
Make sure that you understand what you’re spending on a micro level (small daily spending you “forget” about). Record your daily spending for one month with anything that’s convenient, whether it’s with a pen and paper or an app on your mobile phone. Mint is a good option. This is your actual budget.
3. Plug any money leaks that are draining your pockets.
Once you are able to identify the difference between your stated budget and actual budget, it’s time to plug money leaks. Understand the difference between your needs and your wants. Upgrade your miscellaneous spending allotment if you have extra cash in your overall budget. If you’re using credit cards to buffer a cash shortage, it’s time to make some cuts to ensure you’re not trapped in a debt cycle.
4. Now it’s time to set next level goals.
Take your monthly income and allocate 10% to savings, 10% to retirement and 10% to paying off debt. Use technology to make staying on budget a bit easier. Open three bank accounts (set up direct deposit into each or keep the mandated minimal balance to avoid a monthly free): a savings account, a bill account and a spending account. Allocate the 10% that’s going to savings and retirement to the saving account. The 10% that is allocated for paying off debt as well as your regular expenses should go into your bill account. Last, the money that you have budgeted for daily spending should go into your spending account. The only account that should have a debit card attached to it is your spending account. You can connect each account online for transfers and other activity when necessary.
Ash Cash is a financial expert who’s passionate about helping the masses get a handle on those dollars. Find out more at IAmAshCash.com.
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