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Four Steps to a Reliable Budget

You just realized you need a budget. Whether it's because you'd like to be saving more money, you plan on investing in a retirement plan, or you want to straighten out your current finances, you know that having a reliable budget would make your life easier.

Creating a budget for the first time can be one of the most overwhelming experiences, especially when you're just starting to look critically at your financial situation.

Take a deep breath and don't stress out! There are just a few simple steps that you can take to reach a reliable, stable budget. I have some excellent pieces of advice that I give to all my clients, family members, friends, and even neighbors. Let me guide you on this financial journey.

Ready to get started?

Step One: Track all of your expenses

The first step to getting figuring out your finances is to figure out what you have been spending. Print your bank statements for the last three months and categorize each item in your statement on to a new spreadsheet. The Federal Trade Commission has a convenient website www.consumer.gov suggests categorizing every expense, including:

  • Car Expenses
  • Food
  • Clothing Expenses
  • Insurance
  • Credit Card Payments
  • Misc. Expenses
  • Entertainment/Going Out
  • School/Business Expense

Once you have your spending history, review your daily, weekly, and monthly expenses. Looking at the big picture and the tiny details all in one place can help you make small changes that have significant impacts on your finances. Reviewing all of this information lets you easily formulate your budget for next month without the hassle of digging through your bank statements.

Step Two: Set realistic goals

Start with a small, short-term goal. Set one finance goal to obtain over three months and use smaller milestones to meet the finish line you set for yourself. Use each week to reassess your goal and make adjustments as needed. When the goal is achieved, make another, and another, and another. Goals may require modifications, but it's an excellent way to set yourself up for financial success. You'll have something to be proud of every time you pass a milestone. And when the goal is reached? Reward yourself with something—that's still in your budget, of course.

Step Three: Make adjustments

I can't stress this enough—once the budget is set, don't be afraid to readjust as needed. There is no shame in making necessary changes to your budget. Situations change all the time, and nothing has to be concrete. Flexibility is key. Being rigid can make things harder for you and your family if something unexpected comes up and you need to spend more in one category than previously thought. Adjust smartly, not just because you want to splurge on a new gadget or pair of shoes.

Step Four: Never stop reviewing your budget

As I said in step three, adjustments are necessary. While you should remain flexible, if you notice that month after month, week after week, your budget seems to need changes, it's time to review. Reviewing your budget monthly will put your mind at ease if everything is going according to plan or allow you to see what hiccups caused you to veer off-course. Remember, no budget is perfect, and we all have to work towards a happy, balanced budget.

 This is just a beginner's toolkit that can help you keep your budget in good health. These are my starting points that seeks to help you get to your financial happy place. There's no need to stress anymore. You don’t have to be perfect. I’ve seen too many people give up on budgeting because they made one mistake and got mad at themselves.  Give yourself the grace to be human.  As long as you are making more good decisions than bad ones over a long period of time, you can work towards getting to where get to where you want to be. You have a roadmap, and you can make your finances a priority quickly with just four simple steps. 

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