Take Charge in 2018: Writing Down Your Spending Habits Is the First Step
The holidays came sweeping in and before you knew it, the feasting and celebrating ended, and the New Year started. With the new year comes change, and maybe you decided to make some for yourself. If you wrote “spend my money responsibly” or “manage my finances better” on your New Year’s resolutions list, keep reading.
New Year’s resolutions are often forgotten soon after they're made, but planning, learning how and actually spending responsibly doesn’t have to start on January 1st—you can start any day, including today.
In order to become a financially responsible person, the first step is completely laying out your finances. It may seem like a daunting and arduous task to write down everything that goes into and comes out of your bank account—especially if you’re a big family. But, if you can follow these three simple steps, taking hold of your finances in 2018 will be a slice of cake—maybe a gluten-free, sugar-free slice of cake if you’re eating healthier in the New Year.
Calculate Your Salary After Taxes
The first step to having complete control over your finances is to calculate your disposable income, or your salary after your taxes and contributions are deducted. After you know your disposable income, you should also subtract any extra 401(k) contributions or taxed deductions taken out of your paychecks. If you’re unsure how much is deducted from your paychecks, take a look at your pay stubs or bank statements to see how much your work deposits in your account.
All of this subtracting will peel back the raw numbers so you can see how much bacon you actually bring home.
If you’re paid on a bimonthly basis, double this amount to calculate your monthly salary. Once you have your monthly salary, you can create your budget.
Create Your Monthly Budget
Your monthly budget doesn’t have to be exact numbers to the penny—it can be averages or estimates. Hard numbers, like your rent, phone bill or car insurance are easy to factor into your budget. Discretionary expenses, like food, drinks or household goods, aren’t so easy.
If you’re unsure how much you spend on discretionary expenses monthly, look back at your bank statements and create a ballpark number. After you have all your numbers pulled together, you can officially create your monthly budget.
There are apps you can download
that do all the hard work for you, but it’s good to roll up your sleeves and write down your budget or type it out in on a spreadsheet, so you can truly get a feel for where your money is going.
Write down how much money you earn each month, how much you spend and what you spend it on. You may be surprised to see how much you spend on certain items, so get ready to set some goals whether it’s saving money or paying down any debt you carry
Set Your Personal Finance Goals
Wherever you see an inflated number on your chart or spreadsheet, make a plan to cut back. Highlight the items you want to cut back on and create a separate column with goals.
Let’s say you spend $300 each month on eating out, and you want to bring that number down to $200 the following month. Create another column next to restaurants row, fill in $200, highlight it, and try to stick to that number. Budgeting isn’t a walk in the park, but with a little dedication and determination, you can reach your goals.
After you start following your monthly savings goals and become consistent, you can calculate your average monthly savings. With this number, you can set up automatic transfers to a savings account. With a savings you can start planning that trip to Europe you’ve always wanted to take or invest in the latest and great laptop.
Responsible spending that leads to financial freedom doesn’t have to start on January 1st or on a rainy day. Start saving today.