Budgeting Without Tears
Let’s face it, it can feel downright scary to sit down and look at your financial situation face-to-face. And that’s perfectly normal. Actively managing your money, especially if you’ve been avoiding doing so for a while, can stir up a whole range of difficult emotions: anxiety, frustration, anger, confusion, etc.
It’s well proven that finances have a direct link to mental health. If the idea of budgeting practically reduces you to tears, there’s probably something about your financial situation that’s troubling you. Perhaps you’re facing debt or feeling guilty about your spending habits.
It’s important not to judge yourself throughout this process. Budgeting is a habit—not a natural-born skill. Just like any other practice, you can improve at it by putting in the effort. The important thing is that you’re making a new commitment to tracking your spending and using your money wisely.
What to Include in Your Budget
Your budget depends on your lifestyle. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but it is universally important to make sure your budget really reflects where your money is going.
Here are a few categories you may need to include, depending on their relevance to you:
- Household maintenance
- Wardrobe upkeep
- Recurring subscriptions
- Travel expenses
- Pet expenses
- Auto-related expenses
- Gifts (birthday and holiday)
- Insurance premiums
- Miscellaneous spending
Include regular and irregular expenses. You’ll also want to closely track your saving efforts and keep track of your debt balances and due dates. Some people prefer to do so manually using a spreadsheet; others like to outsource the legwork to a mobile app.
You’ve Budgeted… Now What?
Budgeting is an excellent initial step to help you get a comprehensive overview of your financial situation: what’s coming in, what’s going out, what’s going into savings and what’s turning into debt. But it’s not necessarily the end game, especially if you’re among the nearly 80 percent of Americans carrying debt. By creating a budget, you’re helping yourself figure out where you can make positive changes to free up more money. The next step is figuring out how to make the most of this money to meet your goals, whether that’s giving your savings a boost or getting out of debt.
Consumers with serious debt may even go onto consider a solution like debt settlement after budgeting. If you choose to enroll in a program, your budget can help you free up enough money to make consistent monthly payments into a special account. Once you’ve built up enough in this account, professional negotiators contact your creditors on your behalf and try to get them to accept a lower settlement. If they accept, you can use the money you’ve saved—courtesy of savvy budgeting, of course—to zero out your balance, potentially for significantly less. Many consumers capable of committing to a program for months or weeks find success, as evidenced by Freedom Debt Relief reviews and the like. But this program only works if you can come up with the funds to keep up with regular payments—hence why budgeting is crucial.
After you budget, it’s up to you to decide what to do with your optimized income. No matter whether you put it toward paying down debt, saving, or taking that dream vacation, it’s important to set firm goals. Your budget serves as a basic infrastructure, but without goals, you’ll lack a clear vision on how to make the most of your money.
When you’re setting goals, don’t forget to consider the short and long terms. Build an emergency fund. Think about retirement. Prioritize high-interest debts to avoid compounding interest. Set aside some money for recreation and fun. Whatever you choose to do with your money, write it down as a goal before you make it a reality.
Budgeting without tears is a matter of being honest with yourself, doing your research and applying your money toward the most financially health causes for you. Doing so will empower you to eliminate the negative feelings associated with money management.