In a season known for indulging and overspending, the holidays can be the last time you want to think about a budget.
However, the start of a new year is the perfect time to revamp the way you think about your money. It’s a way to set yourself up for 2018 to make your budget work for you, instead of working for your budget.
With that attitude in mind, take these three steps as you begin budgeting for 2018:
1. Start with the BasicsYou might feel tempted to go way into detail when you first set out to budget, but that’s not necessary. Divide your budget into simple categories in a program such as Microsoft Excel so you’ll easily be able to make edits and be realistic with the amounts you set for each category. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Think about how much you’re already spending in each area and visualize what you could cut back on. Draw your budget as such.
Be honest about the best way to keep your budget. If you like math, it could be pen and paper. If you’d like to be more hands-off, try a budgeting program such as Mint, which categorizes your purchases as you make them.
2. Save for the WorstBuild an emergency fund into your budget. This type of savings account will give you a financial buffer in the case that illness or injury, hospital bills, or other times of need make money tight. Putting money into the fund can be as easy as the change from your lunch, cutting unnecessary expenses, or saving your tax return.
Build the fund with the requirement that it be used strictly for emergencies, and not as general savings. Don’t use the fund for holidays or planned expenses. This way, when the unexpected happens, your money will be ready.
3. Don’t be Afraid to Make ChangesYour budget shouldn’t be set in stone. As you start spending in 2018, see where your estimates and actual spending don’t match up and take a look at why that is.
If money is tight, it’s tempting to underestimate costs as you set your budget. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Allow room for fun and an occasional splurge. Get too restrictive too soon, and it will be harder to follow the budget as the year goes on.
If things still don’t add up, think about adding to your income instead of cutting from your expenses. An extra part-time job, some freelance work or selling something you’re not using can free up some space in the budget.
No matter your budgeting goal for 2018, Financial One Credit Union is here to help.