While money doesn’t buy happiness, financial stress can take a toll on your physical and mental health. A new year is always a good time to take a fresh look at your finances and if you’re curious about where to start, check out these eight budgeting tips to set you off on the right foot.
- Set your goals. Financial goals vary greatly based on your age, profession, lifestyle, and fiscal responsibilities, but setting achievable goals is a great way to hold yourself accountable for your financial progress. Whether it’s saving up to buy a home or paying off student debt, set a tangible financial goal for the year and estimate how much money and time it will take to achieve it.
- Write down your budget. If you don’t already, now is the time to keep a physical record of your budget. This can be a simple spreadsheet or you can use a more sophisticated budgeting tool, but start with your monthly income and then record both fixed expenses, like mortgage payments and health insurance, and flexible expenses that change month to month, like clothing and food. This will give you a clearer picture of your finances from month to month and help you budget money to save or invest.
- Automate your expenses. Once you budget out fixed expenses, setting up automatic payments can make your life simpler. Many websites have easy systems to set up automated payments and you can always change these settings in the future if your financial situation changes. This will also help ensure you never miss a payment.
- Decide which expenses serve you. Some expenses, like rent and food, are inevitable, but we encourage you to take a look at other flexible expenses and think about what brings you purpose and joy. If your Friday night takeout is one of the highlights of your week, then it’s an extra expense that can stay, but is that pricey gym membership really worth it if you only go once a week? Isolating the expenses that add value to your life lets you reallocate the money from those that don’t to more worthy causes like your savings or vacation fund.
- Keep the debt manageable. Having debt is an increasingly common occurrence for many people and for some, unavoidable. However, if you feel your debt is overwhelming, there are some tactics you can take to manage it. Both consolidating and refinancing are feasible ways of taking control of your debt. Ruling out expenses that serve you will also help reallocate extra money towards paying off debt.
- Research investing. Investing doesn’t have to be high risk. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to take chances with your money, you can still find investment accounts, like your 401k or Roth IRA, that offer steady rewards with low risk. If you’re saving extra money, why not have it earn compounded interest?
- Make changes throughout the year. Many people re-examine their finances in January or around tax season but conducting a regular check-in on your finances every couple of months will help you tweak your plan and make the most of your financial planning throughout the whole year.
- Get personalized help. If you’re taking the time to examine your finances and still feeling overwhelmed, it could be time to enlist the help of a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
The pandemic has shifted many people’s financial dynamics, but actively analyzing and planning your budget will help you stay on top of these changes and achieve your financial goals in 2021.