Secret to Preparing and Maintaining a Budget

By :- Janette Brin

Lifestyle & Culture

Meade Malone

A recent poll conducted by TransUnion, one of the major credit tracking firms showed that only 32% of Americans prepare a monthly budget to track their expenses. Since it is highly likely that the percentage is similar in our region, this statistic is particularly alarming in light of the  continued slow-down in economic activity and the possibility of workers being laid off or having their work hours reduced.  The benefits of having a budget are clear. (For an outline of some of the benefits, check http://www.budgetingincome.com/10-benefits-of-budgeting-your-money/.)

What then are the secrets to preparing and maintaining a budget?

1.   Start With Your Vision In Mind:  Your vision is your guiding light. It is your mental picture of the future. Having your vision clearly defined and articulated will help you to develop discipline and maintain persistence in the face of obstacles and road blocks. To find your vision, examine closely the things that you are passionate about. Ask yourself these questions and write down your honest responses. You may be amazed at what  you discover.

  • What puts a smile on your face?
  • What sparks your creativity?
  • What would you do for free?
  • What makes you unafraid of failure?
  • What do you find easy ? 

Somewhere in your responses to these questions is your vision for the future. It is found in the things that you are most passionate about and are naturally gifted to accomplish.  

2.   Determine The Major Financial  Goals  To Be  Achieved To Realise Your Vision:  Once you have established your vision for your life, think carefully about the major financial goals that you will need to achieve. Picture those goals as landings on a flight of stairs that leads to the top of a multi-storey building. Once you have listed them, prioritise them so as to avoid frustration and discouragement as you embark on your climb. For example, if you have a vision to become the CEO of a major company, don't set building the dream house in which you will entertain clients as a top priority, when you haven't yet completed your first degree. Remember, patience is critical in reaching your financial goals -- it will take time to accomplish your vision.  

Pay attention to your list of priorities, and ask yourself these hard questions:

  • Is achieving this goal REALLY necessary for accomplishing my vision?
  • Is this goal a luxury or necessity ?
  • Is it achievable in the short, medium, or long term based on my current financial position?  

Your responses to these questions will help you determine if items should be eliminated from your list or given low priority. For example, while having a car may be necessary for achieving your vision, that car need not be a luxury vehicle.

3.   Prepare Your Budget With Your Vision and Financial Goals in Mind: Your budget should be a reflection of where you are heading.  First, take your top three financial goals and establish the time frame over which you would like to accomplish them; then sit down to create your budget.

Track how you are currently spending your money according to "wants" and "needs", and "variable and fixed" expenses. This will help you to clearly identify which areas you can cut back on, if necessary.

After gathering all of your income and expense items, prepare your budget using a personal financial programme such as Quicken, which will guide you through the process.  As you do this, keep your financial goals in mind and use them as the filter for your spending. If the expense is not a necessity and  does not directly contribute to the achievement of your goal, consider cutting it in favor of one that does.

Once your budget is completed, use it as a tool to strengthen your self-discipline. Remember, operating without discipline is like catching water in a bucket with holes - you never get to overflow. Review your budget periodically and plug any holes as soon as they appear so that you can achieve your goals.

The process outlined in this article allows you to develop a budget that is a reflection of your vision, which, in turn, is a reflection of your areas of passion and giftedness. As a result, you are far more likely to join that monirity of wise people who use a budget to help manage their financial affairs and who reap the rewards of doing so.

 

Meade Malone is the author of "The Plan: Unlocking God's Financial Blessing for Your Life", and is Managing Director of MWM Financial Services Group Limited. and founder of the Six Pillars Of Success Academy. He can be reached at http://www.meademalone.com/ or visit http://meademalone.com/sixpillarsofsuccess/personal-financial-planning-program/ for information on his upcoming financial planning seminar.

 

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