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Budget is not a 4 Letter Word
Businesses and non-profit organizations make budgets every year and they track every penny and plan each expenditure.
As an individual or family it is also important to budget yet most of us fail to do so. We make plans for the weekend or vacations, but we don’t make plans for our money. A budget helps you see exactly how you spend your cash. Then you can make informed decisions about what you can afford right now, start saving for future purchases and build in room for longer-term investments that can help you achieve objectives such as retirement income.
The first step is to record all your income and expenses for a month. You will soon learn how to analyze your spending habits and find ways to improve.
Under income, include your after-tax salary as well as any other sources of money such as investments. Under expenses, consider everything from your rent or mortgage payments to the coffee and muffin you buy on your way to work. Common categories of expenses include housing, utilities, communications, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment and insurance. To make sure your list is as complete as possible, carry around a notepad with you for one complete month and jot down every purchase.
Eventually you will see if your expenses are exceeding your income or vice versa. If they are then it’s time to cut back, if not you will know how much you can save each month for retirement, a holiday or that new fridge.
Once you know where you are spending your money it’s easy to prioritize and find ways to reduce your expenses. You would be surprised to know how much money you can save without changing your lifestyle. Sometimes just a quick call to your cell phone provider can get you a better plan for less money.
What you’ll discover is that small amounts add up quickly over time, so making minor changes that don’t have a big impact on your lifestyle can help you set aside significantly more money. Need some incentive to save? Write down your short-term and long-term goals and post the list in a place where you’ll see them all the time – for example, your fridge door. A daily reminder that you’re working towards a trip to Europe and a down payment on a new home will go a long way towards curbing the urge to splurge.
There is another way to create more from less by transferring some of your savings from your chequing account earning no interest to a high interest savings account. Even better open up a tax free savings account where the interest grows tax free.
A more sophisticated solution is an all-in-one account that combines your chequing, deposit and borrowing activities to reduce the interest you pay on your debt. An all-in-one account is designed for people who have a mortgage and perhaps other debts such as car loans and credit card balances. By consolidating this debt, you can lower the total amount of interest you’re paying each month, immediately increasing your budget surplus. Then add in your savings. An all-in-one account puts your money to work right away to reduce your debt – but you can still access it (up to your borrowing limit) whenever you want. Finally, you can deposit your income directly into your all-in-one account so it reduces your debt until you need the money to cover your monthly expenses.
There are ideas to reduce the amount of income tax you pay each year as well, especially if you are self-employed.
Talk to your accountant or advisor to analyze your budget and see if there are expenses that are tax deductible.
Your advisor can help you design a plan with a streamlined package of solutions that make your budget work more efficiently, boost your savings in the short and long term and improve your overall financial plan.
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