Whether you're single by choice or circumstance, having a budget in place can take the guess-work and stress out of planning for your financial future. With the right tools, it can even be fun. With today’s technology, many programs and applications can be accessed right from your laptop or mobile device. It can give you the freedom to confidently manage your money even if you’ve never done it before.
Apps and Templates
Before setting any goals, get a big picture snapshot of where you’re at now. Identify two things: what’s coming in and what’s going out. Several free applications are available at websites such as adaptu.com and mint.com to help create an income statement, complete with expense tracking templates. You can also do it the old-fashioned way with paper and a pen. If you’re self-employed, calculate a monthly average income using your taxes. Include fixed items such as rent, phone bill, and car insurance. Add up your receipts from grocery shopping, restaurants, and other stores to come up with an amount for variable expenses.
You won't find envelope and tool in the same sentence too often, but it can fit when it comes to a budgeting plan. Fixed expenses such as rent can't be changed, whereas variable expenses, such as the amount you spend going out with friends, can be changed by you. You'll need to look for areas where you can save a little every month, and this is where envelope budgeting can help. The concept is simple: use paper envelopes or virtual ones to store a fixed amount to cover those variable expenses. Once the money is gone, it’s gone until the next pay cycle.
Being young and single is no excuse to not think about your future income. Most 401k’s allow you to make automatic, pre-tax contributions to your retirement plan, and IRA’s can be set up as automatic withdrawals from your checking account. This could be an effective budgeting tool too since it's tough to be tempted to spend money you never see.
Money Market Accounts
According to a 2007 report by the Institute for Woman’s Policy Research, women experience greater levels of anxiety than men when it comes to money. Single mothers face potential for greater hardship. A good goal is to have at least three months of expenses in reserve, and you want this money to be easy to access for emergencies such as car repairs. A budget with room for a savings account -- especially high yield money market accounts -- can give you peace of mind and the gift of earned interest.
For more than 10 years, Carol Butler has run a small, off-grid furniture business with her husband and is a regular contributor to the Edible community of magazines. As staff writer for RichLife Advisors, she covers financial planning and other industry-related topics. She holds a B.F.A. in theater arts.