What are your goals? Maybe you dream about cruising off the lot in a new vehicle, or living completely free of credit card debt.
Whatever your goals are, careful and conscious budgeting can help you get there. Budgeting is a great way to manage your money and uncover spending patterns that empower smarter decision-making. Below, get to know some tricks that can help you achieve what you need in order to live the life you want.
Know your why
Know why you decided to start a budget, and keep yourself accountable by writing your reasons in a notes app or on a slip of paper to keep in your wallet. Then, when you’re tempted to blow your budget on a funky hat, you will see your reasons and remember why your goals are important.
How much do you really spend each month? What about those days when you didn’t have time to pack a lunch, or the impulse decisions to pick up coffee on your way to work? Unexpected purchases can add up and wreck your budget. Track your spending habits carefully and honestly to create a budget that works for your lifestyle and your goals.
Pay yourself first
Before you put money toward necessities, move money into a savings account each time you get paid. Your bank may be able to automate the process. Paying yourself first will help you see saving as a priority and ensure you’re working toward your goal. Some experts recommend saving 20% of your take-home pay.
In addition to savings, put money into an emergency fund. Try to keep six to eight months of living expenses on hand. This fund can help you afford urgent, unavoidable expenses such as medical issues or job loss, without going into debt.
Learn when to say no
Have you ever jetted off on vacation without glancing at your bank account? Or decided to get pizza and cheesy breadsticks and lava cake? Instant gratification can feel awesome – until it starts to hurt. Learn to say “no” or “not right now.” Putting off big expenses or splurges until you’ve had time to consider and save money will help you make smarter, more satisfying decisions.
And when to say yes
As you build your budget, make room for things you enjoy, like an occasional meal out or that funky hat. You’re far more likely to stick to a budget that fits your lifestyle and doesn’t make you feel deprived.
Make it a team effort
Budgeting is easier when everyone is on the same page. Sit down with your partner or family to determine your goals and how you plan to get there. You can even download a finance management app that syncs across devices to keep everyone accountable and on the same page.
Keep at it
Life happens. Sales happen! You will probably mess up on your budget here and there, but don’t quit or be too hard on yourself. Be prepared for unexpected expenses, stay consistent and keep tweaking your budget to find what works best for you. You’ll get there!
Ready to build your budget and make your goals happen? Download our budget worksheet to get started.
By Brooke Howell, GM Financial
GM Financial’s Brooke Howell is a writer specializing in financial literacy and a lifetime Chevrolet driver. She is red-haired, well-read and her fuel tank is always more than half full.