couple budgetingRegardless of how much or how little you earn, there is one single thing that may be keeping you from a secure financial future: a budget.

Without following a budget plan, you’re likely spending much more money each month than you would if you reviewed your spending habits and reduced your expenditures.

And when you’re spending that money, you can’t save it.

Any kind of saving is related to budgeting. Learning to handle your money allows you to start putting your money away for yourself — for retirement, for annual vacations, for your children’s college expenses, and for emergencies that inevitably occur.

When we see people struggling from paycheck to paycheck, it’s usually not because they don’t earn enough money — it’s that they don’t handle it properly.

Take the First Step First

At INB, the first step we take when helping someone to create a budget is to circle “payday” on a monthly calendar. Then we write down every bill and when it’s due – from utility payments to car loans to when you buy your groceries. If you don’t have a check register, you’ll need to look at your online bank statements or receipts from the month. Any credit card debts should also be listed, with a plan formulated to pay them off as quickly as possible.

Once your expenditures are all in front of you, you can focus on the areas that you can and may need to reduce – typically areas like eating out at restaurants, going out to the movies, or shopping.

Another big problem people encounter with their finances is erroneously believing that if their debit card works, they have the money in their bank account. This leads to overdraft fees that could have been avoided.

Lifestyle Change Part of the Plan

A budget is something that needs commitment, just like a healthy diet or any other lifestyle change.

We encourage people to get into a routine of paying their bills as soon as they get paid, as well as paying themselves first – in the form of savings – before they even consider hitting the mall or trying a new restaurant. (Paying your bills immediately not only will help you manage your money properly for the rest of the pay period, it will also improve your credit score!)

Setting up an automatic payment to your savings account is a fantastic means of “forced savings,” which means you ultimately treat your savings account like a bill that has to be paid.

Just like seeing your weight drop once you make healthy living choices, you’ll be able see progress in your financial life once your budget is in place and you commit to following it. When you stick to a budget, you’ll be able to avoid overdrawing your account, you’ll pay your bills on time, and you’ll begin to save for the future.

To learn more about managing your money, check out our Budgeting resource page and watch a video about reducing debt from our Dave Ramsey-endorsed local provider Chris Parks.