Budgeting can be a useful tool to help you reach your financial goals. A budget can help you keep track of your spending, avoid and get out of debt, limit overspending, pay bills on time and build savings habits.
Let’s explore how a budget can benefit you and how to build one:
Start with the basics. A budget helps you figure out how much money to set aside for regular expenses like rent, mortgage, bills, groceries and entertainment. As you’re planning your budget, think back to last year and identify any trends in your expenses and any unexpected costs that surprised or challenged you. Was there a particular expense that pressured your budget? Has your take home pay changed since last year? Are there new recurring bills for medical or education needs? Understanding your past financial habits can help you make the proper adjustments for this year’s budget.
Create your budget. This takes a few simple steps including calculating your take-home pay; gathering credit card and bank statements and receipts for the past few months; organizing expenses into categories, such as rent, groceries, and entertainment; and determining how much you spend in each category per month. Now that you’ve crunched the numbers and can see how much money is coming in and going out, you can start making your budget.
Don’t forget to save. Make a place in your budget for savings. You can set aside money from each take-home pay period and use some funds from holiday bonuses, cash gifts and tax returns toward saving as well.
Pay down debt. Your plan should also include a list of money you owe, including balances and interest rates. Evaluate your debt payoff goals against savings goals and prioritize the most critical ones. Any extra money you may receive can also go toward your debt payoff plan — paying off an additional bill or debt earlier than planned can help ease budget pressures.
Set some limits. Some expenses remain the same each month, like rent or mortgage payments, while others like groceries and entertainment are more flexible. Set spending limits for your flexible expenses, although you may plan for celebrations and treats so your budget doesn’t feel too restrictive.
Use budgeting tools to track spending. This can be as simple as using paper and pen to write down your income and spending categories, entering numbers in a computer spreadsheet or using budgeting apps — like Chase’s Budget feature in the mobile app and on chase.com – that are linked to your accounts.
Adjust as needed. Update your budget when your income or goals change. If you’re using tracking tools, you should know when you’re getting close to spending limits or if you have more money than expected.
Find ways to cut costs. Small recurring expenses go unnoticed, but they can add up. Scan your bank account and credit card statements for recurring charges and evaluate whether they are worth continuing.
Adjusting to a budget can take time, it’s about finding the right balance of spending and saving. You might discover some of your spending limits are too low, while others are higher than they need to be. You can always review your budget against your expenses and rethink how you’ve set it up.
Keep working at it – that’s the best way for your budget to be effective.
For more information, visit chase.com/personal/financial-goals/budget