I have found myself telling many people lately that I have a pretty eclectic music library. Music has been a huge part of my life, and I listen to everything spanning the genres from Gregorian chant to Rock. So it isn’t surprising to me that when I’m in conversation (either with myself or others), that song lyrics often pop into my head as phrases come up. Let’s take the title of today’s blog post for example. In thinking of topics to write about on the blog it occurred to me that maybe I need to start at the beginning, the basics, if you will.
Immediately Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson pop into my head singing “Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love…Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas…” oh sorry, got off track there! Waylon and Willie may have been talking about the basics of love but if you listen to the rest of the lyrics in the song they can be applied to the basics of money as well. Right before that line, (that is currently playing on repeat in my mind) they sing “We’ve been so busy keepin’ up with the Jones, four car garage and we’re still building on.” Have you been busy keeping up with the Jones? Do you spend without thought and wonder where you are going to possibly get this money I’ve been telling you to put away? Let’s get back to the basics and find out.
Start with a spending plan.
Like I have said before, the word budget sounds so restrictive! With a spending plan you are going to decide on who, what, where and when to spend your hard earned money. There are many worksheets or programs out there you can use to create this and they can range from simple to complex. Let’s keep this as simple as possible.
Start with your net take home pay and break it down into
these four categories:
(Emergency Fund, Retirement, Large purchases)
(What you need to live ie: Housing, Utilities, Insurance, Food, Clothing, Auto)
(Entertainment, Eating Out, Vacations, Hobbies)
(Gifts, Donations, Fundraisers)
Here is a downloadable pdf of a Spending Plan Worksheet that I created for you.
2. Track your spending.
Gather your bills, bank statements and credit card statements for the last month. Add up your spending in each of the four categories. I would also suggest tracking your spending for a month going forward so that you are also aware of the type of cash purchases you are making.
Here is a downloadable pdf of a Spending Tracker that I created for you.
3. Review results and make adjustments.
Does your spending fit into your categories? If not you are living beyond your means “keepin’ up with the Jones”, and may need to scale back. If the answer is yes or at least for the most part, you are already on a great track!
Scroll back up to step 1 though and take a look at the order I put those categories in.
Save is number one. That’s because you need to pay yourself first!
You need to treat your savings and retirement accounts as a bill like any other. If you need to set up an automatic transfer to those accounts do so. If you need to pre-fill a deposit or investment slip and stick it on top of your stack of bills then by all means click that pen. Do whatever you need to train your brain to make saving for the future a priority!
One thing I did not mention is debt. If you have debt such as credit cards or student loans one of your other budget categories is going to have to suffer for a while. When looking at the steps to figure out where to cut to make debt payments start from the bottom. Giving may have to take a back seat to that debt right now. You may have to scale back on eating out, or do a stay-cation this year until that debt is paid down. Please do not cut your saving category unless absolutely necessary. You can’t finance your retirement.
I will be expanding upon ways to adjust in future blog posts. For now, you have some homework to do so that we can get you on the right path to retirement and financial success! Contact me when you are ready for the next step!