As an accountant, you probably recognize how important it is to have a budget and save money for unexpected expenses. Unfortunately, most of our clients don’t understand how easy it can be to create and manage a budget with the tools we have available at our disposal. It’s not only important to know how much money you spend, but where the money goes. Once you have a grasp on your finances, it’s easy to plug the leaks and start saving towards a goal.
Let’s take a look a some simple budgeting habits that both you and your clients can start practicing today.
Keep Track of Spending
One important budgeting habit is to keep track of what you spend and where you spend it. There are several budgeting tools available online that you can at no cost use to keep track of finances. If you own a smartphone or tablet, services like Mint and Toshl have mobile apps you can take with you on the go. This makes it easy to enter what you spend in real time. Some services even connect directly with your financial accounts to keep track of spending automatically.
One easy way to rein in spending is to use cash. Withdraw cash once a week, or twice a month, and don’t spend any more than what you take out on unnecessary expenses. Using cash makes it easy to see where you’re spending your money and how much you have left in your weekly or monthly budget.
You can still use debit and credit cards to pay your monthly bills and other recurring expenses, but use cash for the rest. It’ll make it that much easier to cut your spending when you know exactly how much you have left.
Use cash whenever possible so you can keep track of what you’ve spent and how much you have left.
If your employer offers the option, set up your paycheck to automatically deposit a portion into your checking and savings account each time you get paid. If you have a budget set up, you’ll know exactly what percentage of your paycheck you need in your checking account, while the rest can be deposited directly into savings without even having to think about it. Don’t touch the savings account unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you have an unexpected expense or lose your job, you’ll have some money put away to help you get back on your feet.
Pay Your Bills
If you have the option, always pay your bills online. Set up automatic payments and direct debits to avoid late fees on your credit cards and car payments. If you already have a budget set up, you should know exactly what you spend on monthly recurring bills, and automatic payments will come in handy so you don’t have to remember to pay when they’re due.
If you send payments through the mail, you risk that they’ll be received past the due date or get lost in the mail. If you absolutely have to pay a bill through the mail, ensure you leave plenty of time between when you send the check and when the bill is due.
Put a percentage of each paycheck into your savings account automatically.
Don’t Spend More Than You Earn
Don’t use credit or loans to make big purchases unless it is absolutely necessary. If there is something you’d like to buy, or a vacation you want to take, start putting money away. If you start spending more than you earn, it’s easy to get carried away and you’ll end up with more debt than you’ll know what to do with. The point of having a budget is to pay down your debt and save money for the future. Create long- and short-term goals for major expenses, and save up until you have the cash needed.
Following these five simple budgeting habits can help you control your spending, allow you to see where your money is going, and let you start saving for the future. Set both short- and long-term goals for your finances, and stick to your budget as often as possible.
Brian Flax is a freelance writer based out of the Washington, D.C., area. He is experienced in a variety of topics including finance, education, and Internet technology.
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