“Budget – telling your money where to go before your feelings do.” ~Anonymous
- Sticking to a budget can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Comparing planned vs. actual and making necessary adjustments is key.
- It takes time, but remember a budget is personal, and a work in progress.
- Follow these 4 steps to be successful:
- Plan, Track, Compare and Adjust
IT cAN BE difficult
We will admit that trying to live on budget can be a struggle. In fact, even started one is a daunting task for some. However, living within your budget doesn’t always have to be so tough. As we always do at 360FinanceED, we try to simply financial principals so they can be easily applied.
Starting a budget is actually easy, and living by the guidelines can be simplified if you use a budget as tool to build instead of one that confines. An important step is to consistently compare your performance and adjust both your expectations and your behaviors on a regular basis.
SO how do you do it
Comparing what you planned to do and what you actually did and making the necessary adjustments is all part of the what we call the Success Sequence. Starting a budget from scratch takes time to perfect and over time can go from a straightforward list of income minus expenses to a working budget that fits you and your lifestyle.
The Success Sequence includes four main steps:
This sequence works for both your big goals, your smaller goals, as well as your daily and weekly efforts. Within a month , you can go through this many times before you ever sit down to look through your budget and see what you can change for the next month.
STEP 1. Plan
You have so many different financial needs. A lot goes on with your money and if you don’t sit down and plan ahead of time, you’ll see that your money is managing you more than you’re managing it.
To create a plan, include your income, expenses (both monthly and periodic), saving goals and debt payments. It is important you give every dollar plan of action. This is the most important part of planning. Some people call this zero-dollar budgeting, but again, all it means is giving each dollar a specific assignment in your plan. This helps to bring an end to emotional based spending.
STEP 2. Track
Now that you actually wrote a plan, you just need to make sure you’re following it. Each day you’re making a difference in your financial life by knowing how much you have to spend that day and reviewing what you actually spent. There are great apps that help you to do this will minimal effort once set up. The Mvelopes app is a great tool we use here at 360FinancED.
Tracking your purchases (and income) keeps you updated on how much money you have and whether you have overspent or not. You will have what amounts to a “warning light” when you’re about to spend more than you planned.
Tracking provides a way for you to make changes on the fly. If you don’t know you’re in trouble you can’t make any changes.
STEP 3. Compare
Congratulations! You are half way through to SUCCESS! This step is important because here is where you evaluate your progress. You will take a closer look at what you’ve been tracking to compare what you planned on spending vs. what you actually spent.
Did you go over budget? How much debt did you pay off compared to your plan? Did you meet your savings?
These are some of the “compare” questions to ask yourself. Now this is not a time to get too down if you missed. Short term setbacks don’t negate the overall plan. Remember, this is a lifestyle you’re developing, so you’re in it for the long haul.
STEP 4. Adjust
After you have compared, either in the moment (during tracking) or at the end of the month, the next step is to adjust your plans for the next time. Some adjustments will occur daily, as using a zero budget, some money may not make it to the end of the month. For the bigger picture comparisons, you’ll adjust your plan going forward.
Ultimately, the biggest adjustment will be to behavior. It’s called personal finance for a reason, because your adjustments will be personal.
YOU CAN DO THIS!
Once you have finished the Success Sequence, that means it’s time to start it all over again. You have your adjusted plan and are ready to start once again. Again, this is an ongoing process…you’re modifying an old and shaping a new lifestyle.
Your financial life is about to change for the good. If you find your self needing a little push, or coaching, we are always here for you.