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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Personal Finance Tips [2/10]

[2] Budgeting
Budgeting is a critical process which forces you to look at what you're spending, where you're spending it, and thus be able to make informed decision on where changes can be made to meet your financial goals. Using software to track your finances and assets, you will get the added benefit of being able to tie it into budget planning. Chart out all your accounts and determine what online services your bank offers, as this will make it simpler automatically download your regular spending transactions and bill payments, to be integrated with your spending and budget tracking.

Try to switch your purchase habits to not make purchases with cash - cash spending can not be tracked easily with budget software - paying with a bank card or credit card will help keep an accurate record of where your money is going. This one habit will not only allow you to track and trend your purchases, but also provides invaluable visibility to your purchases. For example, you may discover you spend three times as much on groceries, or twice as much eating out at restaurants than you thought.

After you adopt this method, track your finances for several months and then revisit your budget - look at what you are taking in and what you are spending, and compare it to your financial goals. Look for areas where your spending can be reduced and adjust your budget accordingly. At its simplest level, budgeting is easy - you look at what you make, you look at what you're spending, and you look at how much is left over to be put away for the future - if the numbers don't match, it gives you a clearer process to shuffle your income accordingly. For example, some savings you may find are spending less on entertaining, reducing the cost of ownership of a car with a bad maintenance record, or shifting your eating habits to home cooking instead of takeout.

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