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Back to Basics: Budgeting Tips

In my final ‘Back to Basics’ blog, I’m going to cover another one of my favorite topics — budgeting. To recap, you can check out my banking tips post here; my cost-cutting post here; and my savings post here. Let’s dive into this week’s topic:

Assign Every Dollar

One of the biggest pitfalls of budgeting is failing to assign every dollar. Once all expenses are covered, where do excess funds go? Even if the answer to that is savings or retirement, make that determination so there’s a plan for every dollar coming in. Otherwise it’s way too easy to go overbudget in a given category. Just be sure to continue adjusting your budget over time. If incomes change or bills shift, your budget should reflect it. With a home for every dollar, it becomes easier to see where your financial goals are headed.  

Plan for the Fun Stuff

Being too conservative on entertainment expenses can often result in overspending. That’s why I strongly encourage people to plan for the fun the things they love once all bills and expenses are covered. Life is too short not to. If you love makeup and have a monthly subscription, add it to the budget. If you’ve got the travel itch, add some funds to a travel account every month. If you’re short on entertainment expenses, evaluate what you most love and make sacrifices from there. But don’t discount it entirely or you will invite overspending down the line.

There are so many benefits to this approach. You will have something to look forward to each month and you’ll be encouraged to view your budget as contributing to your life enjoyment instead of preventing it.

Explore Digital Settings

I remember a day when my ‘top tip’ for budgeting was to consider budgeting right from your smartphone. Now, luckily, most people know there’s an app for almost everything. But not all budgeting apps are created equal. Take a look at some of the top-rated apps and investigate which settings work best for you. For example, some link directly to your account while others have you enter and validate each expense. Some send you alerts for account changes, which you can turn on or off. There are many preference-based options, it’s just a matter of finding the perfect fit to keep the entire family on track. Children now have tablets and smartphones at a younger age and can track their allowance or holiday/birthday funds money as part of the exercise.

Whether you’re starting a budget for the first time or picking it back up, try to stay disciplined about budgeting. Look at is as just another part of your daily routine, and it will come second nature. It continues to be the most tried and true method for achieving financial well-being. If you’re struggling with the concept, find a support network of like-minded people equally committed to bettering their financial lives. You know I’ll always be your biggest fan!

Kat’s Money Corner is posted in the Kansas City Star every week. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, follow us on Twitter @CommunityAmerCU.

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