Establish a budget for the New Year

Published 9:27 pm Saturday, January 5, 2013

Resolutions abound come the dawn of a new year. Fitness and finances tend to dominate many people’s resolutions, with the goals of shedding a few pounds and saving more money both being popular resolutions.
For those whose focus will be on finances in the coming year, establishing a budget for the new year is a good place to start. The following are a few tips for men and women that should help them plan budgets for the new year and reach their financial goals over the next 12 months.
• Start with your income. How much money is being brought into the household will go a long way toward determining your budget. The first month of the year, when people will receive their earnings statements from the previous year, should provide a clear-cut picture of just how much income the household is generating. Once you have that information, you can begin to establish a budget.
• Make a list of your bills. Knowing what’s coming in is important when establishing a budget, but so is having a firm grasp of what’s going out. Make a list of all of your monthly expenses, from the big ones like a mortgage payment to the smaller ones like how much you spend on a cup of coffee each day. When making a list of these expenses, make note of the day bills are due each month. This can help you determine which weeks of each month you’ll be able to save more money and which weeks you will need to tighten your belt and pay existing bills. Such knowledge will help you establish a budget.
• Don’t forget about debts. Many people plan a budget more to get out of debt than to save for a rainy day. When establishing a budget for the year ahead, calculate how much debt you’re currently carrying. Though you can do so if you prefer, it’s best to exclude existing installment loans like a mortgage or a car note from your list of debts. Though those can be considered money you owe, they are more in line with the monthly expenses you need to live than credit card debts you simply need to get rid of. If your debt is considerable or even small, see if there is anything you can remove from your list of monthly expenses (i.e., cable television or streaming video subscription) so you can devote that money to eliminating your debt. In addition, those with considerable debt should prioritize ending that debt over projects you want to tackle that aren’t exactly necessities. For example, if your kitchen is outdated but still safe and functional, postpone the kitchen remodel until you have eliminated your debt.
• Decide where you can cut costs. Chances are you’re establishing a budget because you have a specific financial goal in mind or because you examined last year’s financial statements and realized you fell short of your savings goals. So you likely know you need to cut some costs, and part of establishing a budget is deciding which costs you can cut. Some of the more common ways people cut costs at the dawn of a new year includes deciding to dine out less, canceling a cable television subscription or removing premium channels from their package, driving less to save money on fuel and forgoing store-bought coffee for java they make at home. Each of these budget cuts can lead to substantial savings over a full year, and none of them are life-altering to the point of lowering a person’s quality of life.
• Include savings into your budget. Living on a budget is not always easy, especially for those people who are not used to doing so. When establishing your budget, include weekly, bi-weekly and monthly savings goals into the budget. If you stick to this plan, you will have something to show for your financial discipline at the end of each month, and light at the end of the tunnel can be a motivating factor as you adapt to living on a budget.
The new year is a great time to turn over a new financial leaf, and establishing a budget is a great way to get started on a path to a brighter financial future.