Sticking to your monthly budget is probably easier said than done, especially in the beginning. Following your budget, however, can help you pay off your debts, save for your future and lead a less stressed life in the long run. Keeping a budget is necessary whether you combine your finances or keep them separate, to ensure you are living within your means and planning for your future, including preparing for unexpected emergencies.
Track outgoing money, whether it's checks you write for bills, automatic withdrawals, credit card purchases, ATM withdrawals or cash you spend eating out. Save receipts for cash purchases and tally them up later.
Compare your budget allotment with what you actually spent over the course of the last month. Include more than one month in your comparison if you have the data available.
Adjust your budget or spending habits if necessary. For example, if you've specified $125 will go toward your power bill, but have consistently spent more than $175 on that bill over the past three months, adjust the allotted amount. If you burn through cash and don't know where it's going, use your debit card or a credit card for all purchases for 30 to 60 days. Pay off the credit card in full if you go that route. Alternatively, use cash only for 30 to 60 days if you don't view debit card spending the same way you do cash purchases.
Review your budget every few months to make sure it's still working for you. Your budget must be realistic for you to keep it.
- Tracking your spending will force you to honestly look at where your money goes, which will likely open your eyes and make you more conscious of spending money.
- Allow yourself a certain amount of money each month for an occasional lunch out, manicure or whatever your private indulgences are.
Janece Bass is a freelance writer specializing in weddings, family, health, parenting, relationships, dating, decorating, travel, music and sports. She has been writing for more than 15 years and has numerous published pieces on various websites and blogs. Bass has also ghostwritten various fiction-based novels.