Everyone knows they can benefit from maintaining a personal budget, but actually doing it can be a real challenge. Starting is easy, begin by simply writing down your monthly income. The next step is just as easy: write down all of your constant expenses such as rent, utilities and food. The next step is to write down all of your “fun” expenses like restaurants, movie theaters and concerts.
The final step is to subtract all known expenses from your monthly income. This is the basics of making a budget, nice and simple. The problem is, there are always expenses you cannot foresee like car repairs or doctor visits. Then there are other expenses that are only semi-constant such as car insurance and health insurance. How do you account for these expenses? How do you keep your books straight, so to speak?
The answer is by taking advantage of some really valuable budgeting tools:
In today’s world, it seems like everyone has a mobile device that can do everything short of the laundry! There is literally an app for just about anything you can think of, so why not your personal budget? There are many options including the very popular Mint, which is available for the computer as well as your mobile device. The fact is having an app on your mobile device is really handy since many people spend their day away from their home computer.
There are many software programs on the market that can help you keep a handle on your budget. The value of these software programs is that they can make itemizing and calculating so much easier on you. Some programs even allow you to scan your receipts and important financial documents into the program and then it will keep track of them for you! If you own a business, these programs can help you keep your personal finances separate from your business finances too. One of the budgeting software programs that has been around the longest and is trusted by many people is Quicken, another is Ace Money. Of course, it is best to check out several different programs and find the one that has the most to offer you, personally.
Keep every single receipt you get! This might sound like a lot of paper and a messy hassle, but you will thank yourself in the long run. How many times have you bought some small item like a coffee or hotdog and not bothered with the receipt? Later on, that $3.00 here and $5.00 there, adds up to a missing $50 and you have no idea where it went. Receipts are such helpful budgeting tools that they should be mandatory to keep in a shoe box or envelope in each household! Your receipts literally tell you exactly where your money is going every time you open your wallet.
Keep a copy of your bank statements. To eliminate paper from piling up, try having your bank send your statements electronically through email. Each month when you get your e statement, save it to a special file on your computer. The reason you want to keep a close eye on your bank statements is that way you know about every transaction that goes through your account. For example you may have a bill that comes out automatically each month and end up forgetting about it because you do not have to do anything in order for it to be paid.
Yes, this is a vital budgeting tool because it helps you stay within your monthly income. If you find yourself struggling to pay the bills each month, then take a look at where your money is going, after all, that is what a budget is for! Once you have your base budget written down, figure out what you can eliminate or at least cut back on each day/week/month. An example is stop buying coffee at the coffee shop and start brewing it at home. You might be surprised how much money you can save by cutting back on the little things.
A personal budget is so very important these days with the economy going through ups and downs. People are watching their spending and keeping track of their money more now than ever before. Since there are so many budgeting tools available to people, it only makes sense to take advantage of them.