(Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at Freedigitalphotos.net)
It’s that time of the year. You’re off work today because it’s a holiday. It’s way too cold and gray to go outside. So you pop onto your computer, check your e-mail and Facebook, then your bank account. Hmmm, the checking account balance is dangerously low. Next you take a look at the credit card bills that you didn’t want to open the other day. Wow, you say, did I really spend that much money last month? You start thinking about the bills you know are ahead, like that root canal next week, and the repair work your car needs after hitting a patch of black ice on the road. How did my money situation get so bad, you ask yourself.
You are not alone. There are so many people who go through this crisis every January, or maybe even every month. But don’t give in to despair and depression. It’s time to do something about that hideous problem that keeps plaguing you. It’s time for… a budget.
Yeah, I know. “Budget” is a dirty word for a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to be. A budget is simply a way to help you track down where all your money is going, so that you can plan your strategy for making your income cover your bills, and maybe even save some of your money.
If you’ve never had a budget, today is a great day to start. You’ll need a chart or a spreadsheet to track where every penny is going. You can download budget software to your computer, buy an actual ledger book from an office supply store, or make your own chart with a pencil and ruler. (Or you can print up my basic budget sheet at the bottom of this post). The main thing is: write down everything you’ve spent, even if it embarrasses you. After a few months you should see a pattern. After a year, you’ll have a really complete picture of your expenses, including the once-a-year bills, the quarterly ones, and those annoying unexpected surprise bills.
Take the budget challenge! You’ll find yourself less stressed as you can analyze your spending and come up with a plan that works for you. Make this the year that you control your finances, instead of your finances controlling and terrorizing you.
(Please feel free to click on the image below and make as many copies as you need to record your expenses)