Spending and splurging is fun, but when your credit card bills roll in? Not so much. If you want to fix your finances once and for all, Mary Ann Marriott, a financial counselor, can help you create a budget you can stick to.
Do a financial inventory.
Before you can start pinching pennies, you need to figure out your financial standing. Make a list of your credit accounts and other debts and the amounts owed. Add in your interest rates for each, the date your next payment is due, and the amount payable. If you have any bills that have fallen behind, make a list of those with the amounts and due dates as well. Plan a repayment strategy for the year.
Create a spending plan for the year ahead.
If you do not have a spending plan, you need to take some time to create one. Marriott advises starting with what you think you spend each month and/or review records if you have them to fine tune the amounts. Above all, be realistic. Even if you want to pay down debt, you have to create a livable budget so that you don’t feel choked each month.
Set some goals for the year.
Having a goal can keep you motivated to stick to your budget. It could by anything from paying off your car loan to consolidating some credit cards so that you pay lower interest. “Include debt repayment and a plan to stay on track for the holidays next year,” says Marriott. “Tally up what you have spent on the holidays including gifts, food, entertainment, etc. Divide by twelve and plan to set an amount aside each month to avoid ending up behind financially next year.”
Make budgeting fun.
Being on a budget can feel like you’re on a financial diet. All you can see is what you want—but can’t have. Instead, focus on the positive and potentially fun parts of budget planning. Look at every expense item and ask yourself, “What would it take to reduce this expense each month/year?” By targeting certain aspects of your spending (and then trying to find alternatives), budgeting becomes a game that will eventually have a big financial reward for you in the end.
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