TITLE: Financial CPR: Making a Budget
PUBLICATION: Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine
DESCRIPTION: How families can create and stick to a budget
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As you pay off the bills for your holiday shopping sprees, you may find your bank account is running on empty. With a fresh new year upon us, now is the time to get your family back on financial track. What’s the fastest way to do that? Create a budget.
While most folks avoid the “b” word like the plague, it’s extremely important to stick to a budget—especially when you have little ones relying on you. And in today’s tough economy when wallets are already tight, budgeting is more important than ever.
If you’re ready to reign in your family’s expenses, you can create a budget in three simple steps:
1. Evaluate your current spending. Figure out exactly where all your money goes each month and determine which expenses you can slash.
2. Set a fixed monthly budget. Decide precisely how much your family should spend each month. Don’t forget to keep long-term financial objectives in mind, such as your children’s college expenses and retirement.
3. Stay on track. Keep a close eye on spending to ensure you don’t surpass the monthly budget.
Easy, right? Well, not always. As parents know, life often gets in the way of best intentions. Thanks to unexpected expenses that pop up along the way, many families have a difficult time adhering to these seemingly simple budget guidelines.
Here are a few helpful tips to keep your budget from derailing:
· Build an emergency fund. Life is filled with “surprises,” some better than others—and if you’re not prepared, these bumps in the road can lead to financial turmoil. That’s why your budget should include an emergency fund that could cover at least three to six months of your family’s living expenses. Of course, it will take time to fill up this fund. Build it into your budget, set realistic goals and start small. Even if you put aside just $10 to $30 each week, your emergency fund will slowly grow.
· Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t worry about how other families are spending. Okay, so living on a shoestring budget isn’t nearly as fun as spending a bundle in that designer baby boutique or taking the family on a luxurious cruise. But look at it this way: if you stick to your budget, you are more likely to reach your long-term financial goals—whether that may be a bigger home in the best school district, a college education for the kiddos or a comfortable beachfront retirement.
· Tap into handy budgeting tools. Now that most financial institutions offer free budgeting tools, managing your money is easier than ever.