WHICH DO YOU AVOID MORE: DIRTY LAUNDRY OR BUDGETING?
I know, that’s a tough one. Putting our income and expenses on paper can be overwhelming, stressful, and anxiety-ridden, but I’ve learned that the more financial planning I do, the less financial stress I have. Don’t get me wrong, budgeting does NOT come easy to me. It’s an ongoing process, but Kendall and I are just over 3 years into our marital budgeting journey and we feel like we’ve learned A LOT along the way. While there’s still so much left to learn, I wanted to share 5 budgeting tips and tricks we utilize in our financial planning PLUS a downloadable tracker for you to use to get started! Before we jump in, I wanted to share some preliminary thoughts/reminders:
- Expect every month to be different.
- If you’re married, this is a two person job. Talk about it regularly. If you’re single, find an accountability partner.
- PAY OFF YOUR DEBT.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. We are all in our own stage of our financial journey, and the beauty in life is that no one gets to decide how YOU spend YOUR money except for YOU.
1) SPREAD OUT YOUR MONEY
We’re all taught at an early age to have both a checking and savings account, but what I’d recommend doing is opening those two accounts at separate banks. For example, Kendall and I use a national bank for our checking account so we have access to it no matter where we are, but our savings account is housed at a local credit union. This helps restrict us from easily transferring money from savings to checking. The key here is to setup an automatic withdrawal directly from your paycheck to your savings account. Funneling all your money to your checking and expecting yourself to manually transfer it to savings is unrealistic. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! Early on in our marriage, Kendall and I decided to have personal accounts in addition to our joint checking/savings. We allocate a small percentage of our paychecks to those personal accounts for our “fun money” and use those accounts for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Last but not least, we started what we call a “cup fund“. This is what we use for out-of-budget expenses, and it’s a fun way to reach a goal and reap the reward. For example, Kendall and I knew we wanted to purchase a treadmill, but we also knew it wasn’t in our budget. We started a “treadmill cup fund” with a goal of $1,000. Slowly over time, we would pull cash from birthday/Christmas money, our personal checking accounts, and we’d even grab a $20 here and there at the grocery store when our bill was on the lighter side. We put all the cash in a cup, and before we knew it we had met our goal!
2) ACCOUNT FOR THE UNACCOUNTABLE
When I created my first ever budget, I built in all of my fixed expenses (rent, cable, insurance, etc.) and variable expenses (groceries, gas, entertainment, etc.) and I would leave myself with minimal wiggle room for any irregular expenses. I quickly realized that every month brings with it a laundry list of unexpected costs. So my advice to you is to be sure to build in a buffer to your monthly budget for things such as gifts, outfits for events, holidays, anniversaries, etc. For example, most people reading this probably attend AT LEAST one wedding per year. Think about and account for the costs associated with weddings: a dress to wear to showers, a gift for the newlyweds, travel, etc. Also, make your budget as detailed as possible. Netflix may only cost $15, but if you leave out several subscriptions like Netflix, you’ll quickly find yourself $100 over-budget.
3) SET ATTAINABLE GOALS
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When you create your budget, you also need to set goals based on what you’re trying to achieve. The most common goal that people set is how much money to put in savings. Kendall and I have always had a portion of our income allotted to savings, but our goal for each year is to increase the monthly allotment so that we are better able to prepare for our future. We also give ourselves a threshold in our checking account that we don’t allow ourselves to go under. We choose to do this so that we know we will ALWAYS have enough money in our checking account to pay for life essentials in case of an emergency without dipping into our savings account. Set realistic goals – don’t make them too difficult but don’t make them too easy either!
4) LONG-TERM VALUE INVESTMENTS
I’m a girl who LOVES short-term value spending – clothes, makeup, nail appointments, hair, the list goes on! I have to rely on Kendall to ground me and ensure our money is working as hard as we are. If you’re not already at this point, there will come a day when you’re ready to purchase a home, buy a car, or pay off college expenses. Because of this, I encourage you to limit your short-term investments and apply the bulk of your income to those investments that have long-term value. This is purely a conversation about essentials vs. non-essentials, and it’s always important to implement balance.
5) GIVE EVERY DOLLAR A NAME
Every dollar of your income should have a place in your budget so that your income – expenses = $0. Now this does NOT mean that your bank account should hit $0 every month. This just means to give an assignment to every dollar you make and leave no dollar unaccounted for. If you’ve completed your budget, and you find yourself with excess dollars, make a home for them. I promise you’ll make smarter decisions because if you leave that money available, you’ll always find somewhere to spend it.
I mentioned on my Instagram a few weeks back that I use an Excel spreadsheet to track our monthly budget. This has worked wonders for me, and it helps me to see it visually. You can download it for yourself through the link below!