Laura is my dear friend, although she now works in the fitness & health, her former career was in finance. I asked if she could dive back into her finance roots and share her top budgeting tips with us. Here’s what she had to share!
Budgeting, finances, investments, loans, interest… did reading any of these words freak you out a bit? Well, let me tell you, you’re definitely not alone! Have you ever wondered why we were never taught Budgeting or Finance 101 in high school? I often think about this myself. I believe studying budgeting and finance would have been more valuable to me than learning long division or how to use a compass in math class- but that’s just my opinion. Now we are left to our own devices to learn this things as adults.
I know I’m at an extreme advantage when it comes to finances because I actually went to college for four years and have my BBA in Accounting. Along with that, my dad owns his own business and has since I was five years old, so he has taught me quite a bit about budgeting, income statements, etc. And, to top it all off, I’m married to a CPA. So those scary words, “budgeting, finances, investments, loans, interest”, get tossed around our household alllll the time!
Because I’m definitely the odd one out in this situation, as in I realize most people do not have this background, I feel it is important for me to help you all learn a little bit more about finances and budgeting! What I will share with you is a compilation of ideas gained from school, from reading, from practicing myself, or have learned from my wealth management advisor. My biggest piece of advice when it comes to all of this, is to take it slow, be patient with yourself, and don’t get discouraged. If you’ve never done any type of budgeting, or feel unsure about managing your finances, it can be intimidating. However, the only way to get better at something is to do it over and over!
I am going to give you a simple step by step guide that will teach you how to budget/save for whatever your goals are!
Step #1: Write down a Goal (with an end date).
Ask yourself the question “Why do I want to take control of my finances?” Is it that you want to pay of your credit card debt, buy a new car, put a down payment on a home, buy a new pair of shoes, etc.? Small or big, it doesn’t matter, but it does need to be attainable and have an end date. The reason these two things are important is because they will hold you accountable and keep you motivated. As far as the end date goes, set one you think you can hit, but once you start diving into your finances, this may have to be adjusted. This is fine, but make sure you’re aggressive! Another important thing is to actually WRITE it down, on paper, and put it somewhere you will see often. Maybe it’s taped to your refrigerator, in your car, inside your wallet, etc., but make sure it’s recorded. There have been studies to prove that writing down goals gives you a higher chance at achieving them that if you were to just tell yourself you’re going to do something.
Step #2: Calculate what you will have to save per month to achieve your goal.
Let’s say you have $4,000 of credit card debt you want to pay off in 10 months. You would simply take $4,000/10 = $400 per month. It’s important to know this before moving onto the next step.
Step #3: Start tracking your expenses.
This is going to be different for everyone based on how comfortable/experienced you are working with finances/budgeting. I will break this out into separate to-do lists based on experience.
If you’re completely new to this…
If you’re completely new to this and it seems scary, start out by just keeping track of your day to day expenses for two to four weeks. Anytime you purchase something in a given day, write it down on a piece of paper or use notes on your phone. Write down the total amount you spent and what you purchased. At the end of each day add up the total. Then, at the end of each week, add up each daily total to get a weekly amount spent. Whether you get paid weekly or bi-weekly, subtract your income from your expenses and see what you have left or how much you overspent. For example, if you get paid $1,500 every 2 weeks and you spent $600 one week, and $400 the next week, that would be $1,500-$1,000 = $500 income.
*Two important things. First off, when you start doing this, do NOT change your spending habits. Keep purchasing exactly how you would regardless if you were tracking. Secondly, if you have auto payments taken out of your bank account, say rent, utilities, etc. make sure you track these as well!
If you’ve tracked spending before…
If you’ve tracked your spending before and feel pretty comfortable doing so, create a budgeting spreadsheet for yourself, or use this one I created. Linked here!
The spreadsheet is fairly simple to use. In the yellow box on the top, simply input your financial goal, how many months you believe are needed to achieve this goal, and your tax rate. The reason you have to input your tax rate is because the income at the top isn’t net of your state and federal income taxes. To find out what bracket you’re in, just google “2020 tax brackets” and find your % based on your income. Then start filling in your expenses below that and everything will automatically calculate. At the very bottom (row 40) you will see how much money you’re bringing in each month after expenses. Row 42 is that monthly savings goal you calculated in step two, and row 45 shows you how much money you have left over each month after taking out the savings. If it’s red, it means you have negative money left over.
Step #4: Start cutting back on expenses.
When it comes to saving money, you have two options- either make more, or spend less. If you have a salaried or hourly waged job, it’s kind of hard to make more unless you get a raise or start a business on the side, so that leaves you with one option – spending less. I always preach to live below your means, and now I think you probably understand why!
You now have all the tools you need to reach your initial goal created in step one. Come up with a game plan of where to cut expenses and how you will do this. Are you spending $5 a day on Starbucks when you could easily make coffee at home? Instead of going out to eat every day for lunch, maybe take the extra time to pack your lunch the night before! The little things add up, and I think you may realize this once you have a budget.
Before I wrap this up, I want to remind you all that getting comfortable with budgeting/finances takes time. However, I can promise you, once you get the hang of it, you will become addicted and maybe even get excited about it! Anytime I say “no” to purchasing something, mainly because I’m now tracking it, I feel so proud of myself; I think you will too!
Keeping up with the Jones’ isn’t worth it, your financial freedom is more important, don’t forget that.
Please let me know if you ever have any questions!
Peace & Love,