Living the Budget Balancing Act and Coming Out Ahead

by Steven on November 1, 2011

These days, most of us are doing a funny dance. It’s called the budget balancing act and it can make many of us feel crazy at times. However, keeping a budget and balancing it with the rest of our lives is a responsible and worthwhile enterprise. Budget balancing means taking responsibility for your finances, living within (or better yet, below) your means and coming out of it with our sanity intact. Here are some tips for living the budget balancing act and coming out ahead.

Make your budget real by putting it into real numbers

Many people make the mistake of thinking of their budget in abstract terms. “I’m on a budget,” you might tell a friend who asks you to accompany her on vacation, or to an expensive dinner. Most of us are on such a “budget.” But what does it really mean? Take your budget out of abstract terms and make it real. Sit down and do the math, as hard as it can be. Many of us avoid taking a good long look at our finances because it can be too hard, especially if we suspect we are deep in the red. It’s time to take control, and taking control means having the courage to sit down and take a good look at your finances. Take out your bills. Are you in debt, and if so, how much? Be honest and don’t overlook any accounts. Lying to yourself about debt is not helpful or necessary. If you are not in debt, but perilously close, figure out why. Most numbers don’t lie. Are you spending too much on housing? Is that extra car payment eating away at your budget? Are your child care costs soaring? Know your budget inside out—what you can and can’t afford, how you pay for things, your debt and credit score, and savings.

Keep a log book

If a log book sounds too technical for you, just think of it as a notebook where you keep your records. Make a note of your earnings, saving, debt and purchases. Think of your log book as a place where you can do your math. Your log book should be private and a place where you feel free to jot down notes, calculate interest rates and keep financial notes to yourself.

If you haven’t already, set up your bank account online

Almost every bank in the world now allows its customers to keep an online account. If you haven’t already, set up your account. This is an easy way to manage your accounts, check balances and make payments. Set up an automatic bill payment. This is an easy way to make sure that your payments are always made on time. Many credit card companies and banks will even send you email reminders and payment confirmations if you so choose.

Avoid debit cards if you’re on a strict budget

Debit cards are a convenient and safe way to pay for everyday purchases. They can also be very dangerous if you are on a strict budget and you are trying to save. If you are serious about saving money, forgo your debit card for a while. Once you have constructed a good solid budget, on pay day, head to your local bank or ATM machine. Withdraw enough cash to make necessary purchases and then tuck your debit card away somewhere safe. This is a surefire way to stick to your budget.

Check your interest rates

If you have credit card debt, do you know how much you are paying in interest? Especially if you are juggling several accounts, it can be easy to forget or overlook interest rates. How much exactly are you paying on purchases and balances? Check with your credit card for this information. If you have long-standing accounts in good standing, try to lower your interest rate.

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