Your budget doesn’t have to be a chore when you help it work for you.
There’s always room for improvement, even if your budget seems just fine. If your finances are getting the best of you, there’s more reason to consider a few tweaks.
Budgets aren’t meant to be carved in stone as a strict set of immovable rules. Almost everyone can benefit from adjustments now and again. Here are 3 tips for making the best of a good budget or snapping a mediocre one into tip-top shape.
Step Back from the Budget
Your budget shouldn’t rule your life, whether you enjoy managing finances or are worrying yourself sick about getting out of debt. A budget is only a tool, and that tool is under your control — not the other way around.
Stepping back lets you evaluate your priorities and make adjustments. It also gives you the chance to enjoy some of the results of good discipline. Priorities can change, especially as financial goals are met. And what good is a sound financial plan if it doesn’t allow allow you to relax and think about money less often?
Don’t Let History Repeat Itself
Budgets not only keep you moving forward on the right track, but also provide the historical data you need to improve over time. The “moving forward” part is easy to see, especially when you use budget software. You can spot problems before they happen, and take steps to correct them. Each step of the way, your carefully laid plans show exactly what you need to do, such as which bills are due when and how much is available for discretionary spending.
Knowing where you’ve been is just as important as seeing the road ahead. Historical data shows how your budget has performed for the past month or year and reveals areas where you can make better choices. You can spot trends, good or bad, and take steps to correct or improve on them in the future. With budget software such as Mint.com, you can convert that information into charts that bring everything into focus.
Track spending, whether it’s a large or small purchase.
Write Down Everything
Track discretionary spending, even though you’ve allocated money for just that purpose. When there’s $100 in the budget each week to use as you please, you might be inclined to spend unwisely. Discretionary spending adds up, but tracking it can show areas where you can cut back and add more money into savings.
Writing down everything doesn’t necessarily mean carrying a note pad everywhere you go. With Mint.com’s mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, you can enter a purchase on the spot, even if you pay in cash. Money Crashers explains that at the end of a week, month, or year, you might be surprised by how much was spent on a daily newspaper and cup of coffee on the way to work. Switching to a newspaper subscription and making coffee at home could put hundreds of dollars into savings by year’s end.
A personal budget is a living thing. It’s a tool, but one that is designed to evolve and improve as your needs change. If your budget already works exactly as you like, a tweak here and there could yield rewards that you didn’t know were possible. If your budget leaves something to be desired, these tips can help you find improvements that get the results you want.
Mint.com has something for all of your budgeting needs. From automatic updates and information at a glance to predictive data and helpful tips, this budget software works whether your budget is tight or comfortable.
Sign up for your free account today, and lean how Mint.com can help.