Life Happens: Get Your Budget Back on Track
Despite your best intentions to save money and stick to your budget, life can sometimes throw a wrench into your plans: the dishwasher goes out, your car's transmission dies, or your kid hits a home run…through the living room window.
Don't let a financial setback throw you into a debt spiral. There are many tried and true ways to save and budget your money that can get you through a rough patch.
The most obvious yet often missed method is to spend less than you make. There are common misunderstandings about the goal of budgeting. It isn't only about tracking every penny, though that can help. The idea is to figure out exactly what's coming in and making sure your budget effectively helps you spend less than that amount.
Here are five budgeting tips to get you back on track:
1. Carefully monitor your spending for a month and then reassess your habits. The trick here is accounting for everything. How much it costs to fill your gas tank and how often you have to do it. Tolls and utility fees. The $6 latte on your way to work in the morning. Everything. Then see where you can trim. (Hint: It's the latte! Switch to regular coffee. It's less than half the price and a fraction of the calories to boot.)
2. Avoid interest-only payments that turn into never-ending bills. If all you're paying on credit cards or student loans is the minimum each month, then likely all you're paying is the interest. What that means is you're putting little toward paying off the principal and getting nowhere in terms of your debt. For some people, seeing results helps the most. According to budgeting expert Dave Ramsey, paying off the smallest debt first helps build momentum or a "debt snowball."
3. Adjust your budget month-to-month. Take a good look at what comes up during certain months. For example, you can probably predict a spike in spending during the holidays. Save for that. Or maybe there's an annual trip you take to the beach in the summer. Factor that in and adjust spending during leaner months.
4. Take a hard look at your best and worst financial habits. This is among U.S. News & World Report's top 10 ways to improve your budget. Do you often find yourself buying plane tickets or gifts at the last minute without the time to shop around and find the best deal? Or pay a lot of late fees for bills? These are expenses that can be easily avoided.
5. Finally, take a deep breath and be proactive when it feels like things are piling up financially. It may not be as bad as you think. Hiding your head in the sand will only make it worse, so face it head-on and fix what you can as soon as you can. Set aside money in an emergency fund in the event an unexpected expense comes up. Dave Ramsey expresses that the peace of mind you gain is a great return on your money.
A few simple steps can quickly move you closer to your financial goals. Don't be too discouraged by sudden expenses. Things will happen, but if you stay disciplined you can navigate budgetary challenges. Take control of your budget today for a successful tomorrow. A Credit One Bank® credit card is a great way to start tracking your money and stay on budget.