“Where did all of my money go?”
Wouldn’t you like to know?
Well…let’s learn how to keep track of it. It isn’t all that difficult.
Budgeting is a critical process in life. It is simply keeping track of how much you spend and where you spend it. You need to know in order to make informed purchasing decisions, plan for your future, and make changes to your financial goals. You can create a tight budget, keeping track of every penny, or a loose budget. Knowledge is power and control.
With such tools as Excel, Quickbooks and Quicken, it becomes quite easy to keep track of your spending. A real technophile will also transition from cash to debit card spending, and take advantage of the bank’s online download services. Switching to electronic spending will give you a greater visibility of your spending habits and reduces the possibility of forgetting a purchase. It eliminates the need to hang onto receipts.
Quicken has many reports to help you see your spending and can help in tax planning as well. Excel will add up your figures for you, if you can make a formula (YouTube is a great resource for learning Excel).
If you are not technically oriented, a legal pad drawn into rows and columns will do just fine. Just be sure to make your entries in pencil, not pen, as erasing is guaranteed.
The most important part of this process is to set some financial goals. Goals are like a road map. Budgeting is the vehicle used to get to your goals. What kind of goals you set depends on where you are in life and what your life needs are. Perhaps you want to save for a car down payment and need to also make room for the monthly payment. Perhaps you want to save for a house. Maybe you want to set aside monthly for your retirement. Maybe you are getting married, or need to send a child to college. Whatever the goals are, they should be written down and boldly displayed at the top of your budget, so you can be reminded of them each and every day. Then, when you achieve a goal, it is time to set another goal. When you get really good at controlling your budget, you may want to set more than one goal at a time. Keep track of your figures for several months. You are looking for trends in spending, and want a history so you can calculate averages. Figure out the places where you can make changes to your spending habits. Maybe you see that you spend more on eating out than you thought. Maybe your grocery bill is too high and you need to reexamine your buying. Can you cut down on Starbucks and go to fewer movies? Can you do without that new (fill in the blank)?
Through careful vigilance and adjustment, you are sure to reach your goals.
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