If you’re operating without a normal monthly budget, that’s a huge financial mistake.
In fact, the lack of a budget is a big part of the reason that the average American household now has more than $10,000 in credit card debt. (To get rid of your credit card bills, read the free online version of my book, Zero Debt).
But it’s possible that you can have tons of bills and still exist in a state of denial about your finances. I know, because I did it for a very long time before waking up and deciding to fix my debt problem once and for all.
For a lot of people, “budget” is a four-letter word because they often picture a budget as something that restricts them—something that says: you can’t have this, you can’t buy that, or you can’t do this.
Well, that is the wrong way to look at a budget.
A budget is really a part of your personal prosperity plan. It’s the financial blueprint you’ll use to help you get where you want to go in life.
Without a budget—without a clear sense of exactly how many dollars are coming in the door and how many dollars are really going out each month—you’re doomed to constantly live paycheck to paycheck.
A budget helps you manage your cash flow so that you can more readily achieve your personal and financial goals, including paying off those student loans.
Unfortunately, statistics show that about 70% of all Americans don’t operate with a basic monthly budget.
That’s a real shame because a lack of a budget explains, in part, why so many people don’t know where their money goes.
Have you ever been in a situation where you thought “Gosh! I just got paid last week and now I’m broke” or “I don’t know what happened to my money; it seems to have vanished just as quickly as I got it”?
The simplest way to identify and fix the problem is to come up with a realistic budget to operate from on a regular basis.
Believe it or not, even millionaires have budgets. In my book, The Money Coach’s Guide to Your First Million, I talk about my own transformation, and how I went from debt to wealth. I also highlight tips from many other people—including other financial experts and millionaires.
And all of them agree that having a budget as the basis for your spending plan is a smart way to exercise control over your dollars—instead of letting your money control you.
No matter how you configure your budget, to have a proper, successful budget, you need to conform to two rules:
1. Your spending cannot exceed your income.
Sounds basic, I know, but most people don’t stick to this one little rule. In fact, the average household in the U.S. spends $1.22 for every dollar that it earns, according to a study from Northwestern Mutual. Even though Americans have began saving more cash amid the Great Recession, people still generally spend more than they make.
2. Your budget must include a savings component.
Without some level of savings worked into your budget, you’ll always be behind the proverbial eight ball. I don’t care how much or how little you earn, you absolutely must “pay yourself first” and save money (for emergencies, the long-term, etc.) if you want to successfully budget.
If you’ve tried and failed in the past when it comes to budgeting, it’s probably because you didn’t create a realistic budget—one you can live with and one that isn’t overly restrictive. Or perhaps you’ve let certain budgeting mistakes get in the way. To fix either of these problems, and to learn more about budget, read these tips on how to create a proper budget.
Trust me, when you get your finances in order, you’ll find that budgeting is not only the smart thing to do – it’s also a healthy financial habit that can help propel you to millionaire status.
“Ask The Money Coach” is a syndicated column written by personal finance expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, co-founder of the free financial advice blog, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter at @themoneycoach.