Make Budgeting Your New Year's Resolution in 2020
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, make budgeting your New Year’s resolution in 2020. Budgeting isn’t a skill we’re born with. It’s something we’re taught, or we learn on our own. But with money being one of those things you aren’t supposed to talk about around the dinner table, it can be scary to ask for basic advice.
Here are some steps you can take to get started with a budget that will help you get on top of your finances. Have a calculator and scratch paper handy.
Calculate your income
When you calculate your income, start with the take-home pay from your main job and include any extra income you get through bonuses, tips, your side gig, etc.
Make a list of every single monthly expense you have—the ones you're REQUIRED to pay
Think rent, electric, internet, phone, transportation, household supplies (toilet paper, toothpaste, dish soap, etc.), groceries, student loans, and any other debts you're paying off.
Determine what’s left over and pay yourself
Subtract your expenses from your income to find out what you have left over. But before you calculate how much you can use as “fun money,” feed your savings. Go to your credit union or bank and set up a bi-weekly automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account. The amount? This number will depend on how much you have left over after expenses and what your savings goals are. Or, you can set a standard to pay yourself for one hour of work every day (take-home amount). So, say your weekly paycheck was $120 for 40 hours of work. You're making $3/hour. Every week, you want to save $15 ($3 X five days). Biweekly that's $30. So, if you’re paid biweekly, you're transferring $30 to your savings account. Pay yourself before you buy anything extra for yourself. You’ll appreciate the savings later, when you need it.
A GOOD BUDGET INCLUDES SAVING
Find the right savings account for your current needs.
Keep track of how you spend your “fun money”
The money you have left after expenses and savings is all yours! Make a list of the things you're using this fun money for each month (coffee, clothes, haircuts, going out to eat, online subscriptions like Netflix or Hulu Plus, online purchases). Be honest with yourself about the amount of money you're spending on each and add it up. Is it cutting into your expenses? If yes, then you have to cut some fun stuff out.
Control your credit card use
Don’t use your credit card for anything you wouldn't normally buy during the month (the list you made in #2). Pay your credit cards off in full every month. Credit cards are a great way to build credit, which you'll need for lots of things in your life. They are NOT for fun purchases that exceed your budget.
Keep your check register up to date
If you write checks, keep in mind that they can take a while to clear, so your online banking account balance could make you think you have that money to spend when you really don’t. To make sure you always know how much you have, keep your check register updated by writing down every single cent you spend—whether by check or debit card. This will tell you exactly how much money you have available, and you'll be less likely to bounce a check.
Don't be afraid to ask for advice
Money management is something that takes time to learn; we aren't born with it! So when you have a question, ask family or friends, or reach out to your local branch manager. There’s no shame in getting help, asking for help, or using online resources. In the new year, resolve to see your own worth—literally through your budget, and figuratively through the pride you’ll have knowing you’re in control of your financial future.
About Rachel Feldman
Rachel is VSECU's communications specialist, which has her doing everything from working with the press to researching cannabis-related legislation to building internal team spirit. She has a background in print and broadcast journalism and state government and serves on a number of nonprofit boards and state commissions. When not at work, Rachel spends much of her time reading, gardening, or cooking with her partner and their two dogs.