It’s Labor Day Monday and it’s the first of September! Wherever you are, I hope that you are safe and enjoying a well-deserved day off from work!
If you’re like me, you probably have a checklist of things to do today.
Hmmm, does your checklist include completing a written budget for the month of September? Statistics say that it probably doesn’t!
From a recent Personal Finances Gallup poll:
No wonder our finances veer off the road and leave us in a mess each month! Failure to plan is a plan to fail. I always say that statistics don’t lie, opinions vary, but stats don’t.
If you are in the 2/3 of American’s who do not use a written plan to manage your money, today is a perfect day to get started!
Here are 4 quick-and-easy-steps you can take today to jump-start your budget for the month.
1. Decide what tool you will use to create and manage your budget. Which is the easiest for you?
- A computer
- An online financial program
- A notebook or journal
You should use whatever is the easiest and most convenient way for you to plan, manage and execute your budget. Personally I am an Excel type of gal! I love spreadsheets because they allow me to quickly make updates and import transactions from our online accounts. I encourage you though to use what makes sense to you!
2. Know all due dates for the IMPORTANT MUST-DO items.
Those important items are pay dates, the paying of the tithes, the giving of the offering, and the household expenses. WHY?! I must know when all income is due and payable. I tithe and give out of obedience and gratitude to keep my spiritual house in order and then I address my basic needs (shelter, food, utilities and transportation) to keep me and my physical house in order.
3. Now it’s time to list and prioritize other expenses that are important and even necessary, but can vary.
This includes health, life and car insurance premiums, daycare costs, gas, credit card payments, student loans, other loans, car payments, cell phone bills, cable, etc. This category can grow substantially and can be overwhelming which is why I recommend listing and prioritizing these expenses. If you are in a financial crunch and not able to cover all expenses based on your current income, this is the first category to address.
What can be done to minimize these expenses?
- Is carpool or public transportation an option to reduce cost?
- Can you call the credit card company to explain your current finances and ask for a lower rate or a new pay date?
- Does a forbearance make sense for your student loans?
- Should you sell your car if the payments are too high?
- Can you cut the cable for a few months?
4. What is left for disposable spending?
Oh oh be careful here because remember the statistic from above–only 1 of 3 Americans (68% do not) budget each month but when was the last time you got a premium parking spot at the mall, the movies, or your favorite restaurant? I rarely do and I suspect that because most people do not regularly budget, disposable spending gets the best of us and then competes with the IMPORTANT MUST-DO expenses.
A little retail therapy, a great movie and a meal-out helps to make the heart glad (temporarily) BUT if these things are the reason that a bill is late or why we compromise on the tithe, then we are cheating ourselves. And while it’s not fun, it is mature to own up to it and control or eliminate disposable spending until we are actively managing all expenses and in better control of our finances.
As I grow and become stronger and wiser financially, I have discovered that a little discipline now is better than a lot of grief later. Smile. That is the ultimate goal, for things to get better and I can promise that they do!
Enjoy this wonderful holiday and labor to make the BEST out of it!