Let’s be honest – no one likes to talk about money and even more than that no one likes to talk about a budget. It makes money, spending and our habits pretty real and hard to ignore. That being said, both Thriving Individuals and Practitioners really do benefit from knowing where the cash is going and how much is needed to get through to the next month. The joy of a budget is that it also allows you to really see how long it will take to get to your goals.
Since this is your budget you can decide on a system that works best for you; do you prefer to keep track weekly or would it best for you to do the tracking once a quarter or monthly? If you’re in Practice you might need to get numbers together once a quarter for your accountant (See Hiring a CPA from December 2013). If you know that looking weekly will make you either anxious or feel reassured then use that information about yourself to your advantage!
Next step is to find a system, which works best for you. Paper and pencil, a software program or an app? It completely depends on both what you’re comfortable with and either know how to use or are ready to learn how to use. At the very least you’ll want to:
Track your fixed expenses such as rent or a mortgage, or yearly dues to professional organizations.
Track your variable expenses such as supplies, food expenses and clothing.
Track your income.
Once you get a handle on how and where your income is coming from and going to, you can begin to put together that budget. Put another way a budget is a tracking system for your cash. In turn this will allow you to make informed choices about your spending. While you may wish very much for that newest and best, if its not in the budget or your history shows no reason for you actually needing it, then in all likelihood its best to resist the urge to get it. Sorry about that! On the other hand if your history shows you’re likely to get great use out of such an expense then perhaps it’s a good decision to go for it!
There are a number of programs and assistance out there if you’re struggling with how to make or keep track of your budget. There is an excellent program called Mint (www.mint.com) and while it is backed by a software program, many pieces of it are free. There’s also an excellent financial literacy program put together by both Kahn Academy and Bank of America (https://www.bettermoneyhabits.com/index.html). If you don’t know the story of Kahn Academy I’d highly recommend reading more about them since it’s very inspiring (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxJgPHM5NYI).
Still need help? OK, this is one time I’m going to say don’t call me! Do call a trusted family member or friend so you can get a referral to a Certified Public Accountant. Why a CPA? Because they are seriously good at what they do and like you, strive to get you the assistance you require. This is one time where spending a bit of money – and please don’t get the CPA to the stars unless you can afford that! – will pay off for you. Good luck!