How are those new year's resolutions coming? If you're doing well, great for you. If you need a jump start on getting spending under control, the Better Business Bureau can help.
The first step is to write down what funds you have coming in: salary, child support, interest income, rental income or stock dividends, for example.
You’ll also need to keep track of your spending for a few weeks to find out where the money is going. Some costs, such as rent, car payments or utilities can’t be trimmed. However, most people will find ways to cut back, such as packing your lunch rather than eating out, for example. Are there things you’re paying for that you don’t need, such as an extra cell phone, computer or car? What expenses are “needs” and what are “wants”?
You also may consider finding ways to increase your income, such as taking a part-time job, turning a hobby into a business or holding a yard sale to get rid of unwanted household goods.
The BBB has tips and charts you can use to develop a budget on its website. If you find that you’re seriously in debt, you may consider working with a nonprofit credit counseling agency, such as Clearpoint Financial, which partners with the BBB on consumer spending issues.
Once you achieve a balance between spending and income, consider socking some money away in a savings account or emergency fund. Smart saving strategies include:
- Pay yourself first, putting a small amount aside every week. Even $10 a week will grow to more than $500 by the end of the year.
- Build up an emergency fund equal to at least three months’ worth of income.
- Take advantage of employee benefit plans, such as 401(k) retirement savings plans. These plans allow you to save money before taxes, and many employers match at least part of your contributions.
- Be smart when you choose a savings account. Shop around for the best rates, consider fees and other features.
Don’t just set up a budget and forget it. Review it regularly to see if you’re still on track. If you’re finding it hard to meet your goals, you may need to revise the budget to accommodate your needs.