The cornerstone to your financial plan is a budget. Having a budget ensures you don’t spend more than you make and can help you determine a realistic amount of money for you to save, put towards debt, and spend on necessities every month. If you’ve never created a budget before, don’t worry! It’s not as complicated as you might think. American Consumer Credit Counseling explains the budgeting basics you need to know:
How to Create a Budget
As far as budgeting basics go, the first step is learning how to create a budget. The first step in creating a budget is understanding what percentage of your income should go towards which expense categories. There are different ways finance experts may break these percentages down. A popular breakdown is the 50/30/20 rule. This means 50% of your income should go towards necessities like rent, groceries, and utilities; 30% goes towards wants, like dining out or entertainment; and 20% goes towards saving and investing. Another possible percentage breakdown is even more specific. Most experts recommend no more than 35% of your income should go towards housing, a maximum of 20% of your income goes towards transportation, 5% towards debt repayment, 20% towards savings, and 20% for all other expenses. While you don’t have to follow these percentages exactly in your own spending, it’s important to get idea of what financial experts recommend in order to learn the budgeting basics.
Track Your Spending
Track your spending for a week or a month to get an idea of how you’re spending your money now. How does your current spending compare to the budget percentage recommendations? Are there areas where you can cut back? Could you be saving more or putting more money towards paying off debt? You might be surprised to see where your money is going. Some people underestimate how much they spend on things like takeout. It may not be easy to confront your financial faults, but in order to create a budget and get on track to achieving your financial goals, you have to be honest with yourself about your spending. Diligent budgeting will help your debt management efforts.
Determine Your Financial Priorities
What is the most important financial goal you want to achieve? If you don’t have an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of expenses in it, that should be one of your priorities. Alternatively, if you have a sufficient amount in savings, but you haven’t really started putting money towards a retirement account like a 401(k) or IRA, that should be next on the priority list. Other priorities you might have could be paying off student loans, credit card debt, or saving up for a new car. Think about what goals make the most sense to you to prioritize.
If you struggle to pay off debt, ACCC may be able to help. Schedule a free credit counseling session today!