Some really valuable tips on your budget...
With Fall just around the corner, it’s a great time to assess your finances, which means assessing your budget. Like it or not, budgeting is an essential part of money management. After all, now that your summer vacation(s) are coming to an end, you want to build up your bank account(s) again. To help you out, we spoke to some finance experts for ways to revamp your budget now that Autumn is almost here.
1. Track Your Spending
“Begin by tracking all your spending for one week — every nickel, dime, and penny. Use your smartphone, a handy app, or a small notebook. Record every bill you pay and every expenditure you make with cash, check, and credit card(s). This exercise helps you know what you’re spending. As you monitor, ask yourself how important each purchase is and what is driving your decision. Some programs that make this process easy and manageable are Mint.com, BillGuard, GoodBudget, and Mvelopes, to name a few.” – Michael F. Kay, author of The Feel Rich Project and founder of Financial Life Focus, a fee-only multi-advisor financial life planning firm
2. Use The 50-20-30 Rule
“The 50-20-30 rule helps you build a budget by using three specific spending categories: 50 percent of your income should go toward your everyday needs, including rent, utilities, and other items like groceries and transportation; 20 percent of your income goes to your financial goals, such as saving and reducing debt; and 30 percent of your income is typically used for items you want versus need, which may include travel expenses or money for outings with friends.” – Stacey Black, a financial educator at BECU, Washington state’s largest credit union
3. Automate… Into Multiple Accounts
“The best way to save is to set up automatic deposits into your savings accounts. Even if you only have $5 a month to spare, make sure that it is regularly deposited into a savings account. We have very busy lives, and it hard to remember to save every month (especially when dealing with small amounts — it doesn’t seem worth it!). But when you have the money regularly going into an account (or several), it really adds up. And if you set up automatic payments and withdrawals, you won’t even miss the money!” – Robyn Goldfarb, author of A Dime Saved, a personal finance blog for the newly graduated, newly employed, and other financial newbies
4. Spend Less On Meals And Entertainment
“When the weather is nice, such as in the Fall, it’s tempting to spend more time outside and around town. Grabbing a quick lunch out can be a great way to spend part of an afternoon, but one-off lunches can add up. To keep your budget in line, be sure to keep a close eye on entertainment and meal expenses — sprinkling in brown-bag picnic lunches in a park can be a good way to enjoy the nice weather without the expense.” – Senior Financial Analyst Dock David Treece, FitSmallBusiness.com (NYC-based)
5. Reallocate Discretionary Spending
“Turnover of the seasons is the perfect time to take a look at your discretionary spending, see what areas you can cut, and where that money can be better used. For example, if you spend more time traveling or outside in the Summer, then, come Fall, you may consider pausing your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions or downgrading your cable package. Those extra funds can go toward other expenses, like lawn maintenance. Reallocating your discretionary spending helps you save money by prioritizing seasonal expenses.” – Megan Robinson, personal finance expert and writer, DollarSprout.com
6. Check Your Credit Report
“Now is a great time to check in on your credit. This can help you with your budget because if you find a credit mistake on your credit report, it could be costing you money without you even knowing it. Get your free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com and highlight any accounts that have wrong balances, payment history errors, or accounts that might not belong to you. If you pull your credit report, it does not hurt your credit score.” – Jeanne Kelly, credit coach
7. Set Earning Goals & Start A Side Hustle
“At the end of the day, you can only save so much. This Fall, focus on new earning goals. The gig economy is growing and there are many opportunities to switch careers and/or explore freelancing or side hustles. You can also check in with your local community center for free counseling and career options.” – Ellie Thompson, CEO, Money Therapy
8. Create An Emergency Fund
“Many people in their 20s and 30s overlook setting up an emergency fund. While no one wants to focus on the things that could go wrong in life, it’s essential to prepare for those unexpected, but inevitable, times. Having an emergency fund on hand ensures you won’t have to throw a huge cost on credit or borrow money from friends or family.” – Valarie Hamm Carlson, VP of brand at Simple.com, a technology company changing the way people bank and think about their money
9. Do A Self-Audit Of Your Finances
“I recommend doing a self-audit of your finances, which includes several steps. 1) Make sure you are not carrying any large credit card balances that you’re being charged interest on that you have the ability to pay off. If you can pay it off, then go ahead and pay it off. If you can’t, and you’re paying interest, look into a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers credit card. 2) See if you’re paying too much for a monthly service like cell phone service, TV, or Internet. For instance, Wirefly.com offers a comparison engine for cell phone plans, TV, Internet, insurance, and more. 3) Take a look at your monthly subscriptions on your credit and debit cards. Many people sign up for some monthly delivery service like vitamins, or razors, or an online news website, and then they stop using the product but forget to cancel. You can do this yourself by spending 15 minutes scanning your credit card bill and bank statement. Then, the money saved from the above steps can be put directly towards retirement or whatever else you need to save for.” – Logan Abbott, personal finance expert,and president of Wirefly.com, an online comparison engine that helps people save money on the most important monthly services
What about you? What are some easy ways you’ll revamp your budget this Fall? We’d love to hear them! Comment below!