Start 2024 With a Budget Plan

Start 2024 With a Budget Plan

With January 1 right around the corner, the end of the year is a prime time for many people to start thinking about change. New Year’s resolutions often focus on doing something better, so establishing good financial habits and a reliable budget is a great place to start. graphic of hands working with a calculator, checkbook, and budget

Pablo Oliva, a wealth advisor with Northsight Wealth Management, LLC, says if you aren’t happy with the way your finances are going, the new year is a good time to take stock of your spending habits, and also to set some new habits in motion. “Budgeting is just a way to visualize how much money you have coming in and how much you have going out,” he says.

If the holidays drained your bank account and your budget more than you anticipated, start the new year with a different plan. “Cut out some unnecessary expenses,” Oliva advises while also using different techniques for savings. If you spent too much over the holidays, open up a separate account in January that’s devoted solely to holiday expenses. “Put in 50 or 100 dollars a month to start to save,” he says. “And then you aren’t scrambling.”

And to give your overall budget efforts a boost, use one of many budgeting tools or apps. Some tools can link to all your credit accounts and deliver a spending report that will show you where you have been spending your money. Is most of your available cash going to expenses you need to live or is it going to invisible costs like eating out?

As a professional, Oliva says he revisits his personal budget every six months or so. Without that check in, it’s easy to lose track of how you’re spending. To get started, find a budgeting tool, use a spreadsheet, or even grab a pad of paper and enter in all of your income from full-time work, side jobs, cash you receive after taxes, health care or insurances, and 401k or retirement savings have been deducted.

With that final amount, Oliva recommends dividing your available money using a 50/30/20 rule. Fifty percent is for your needs such as rent or mortgage, utilities, gas, or cell phone. The 30 percent is for wants such as a gym membership or subscriptions for streaming or music. Budget the final 20 percent is for debt and savings such as credit card debt, student loans, or an auto loan. “In general, for every one thousand after taxes, if you follow the 50/30/20 rule, no more than $300 of that amount goes to wants,” he says. If your needs amounts total more than 50 percent, you are living over your means and should look to reduce your expenses.

And as you look at the different percentages, remember that you should meet your mortgage payment before tackling something like a high credit card balance.

And before you really focus on your debt, you want to protect yourself from unexpected financial hiccups. Ideally, you want to have four to six months of basic needs costs in a savings account.

“It’s scary opening up about finances,” says Oliva, “particularly if your family or culture discourages it. But if your financial picture isn’t in a good spot and you don’t know how to fix it, it’s time to get some help.”

Taking control of your budget process takes work, but the benefits are worth it. Educate yourself or hire a professional–just start.

 

A legal disclosure from Northsight for this interview: Investment advisory services are offered through Northsight Wealth Management, LLC (NSMW), a Registered Investment Advisor. Northsight Wealth Management, LLC will only provide investment advisory services in jurisdictions where it is registered as an investment adviser or exempt from registration. Insurance products and services are offered and sold through individually licensed and appointed insurance agents. NSWM does not provide legal or tax advice.

4 Quick Tips to Stop Budget Leaks

4 Quick Tips to Stop Budget Leaks

Are you looking to overhaul your budget, but don’t have lots of wiggle room for savings? Even if your employment is solid right now, it doesn’t mean you’re not nervous about your cash flow. Your costs might have gone up or your hours might have been reduced (or both). Or maybe you’re just trying to build a savings safety net or to fortify one you had to dip into.

Whatever the reason, there are some easy tweaks you can make in your daily spending habits to boost your bank accounts without too much effort. These steps are easy and can add up to significant cash savings with little change to your daily life.

1. Take a Look at Your Fees

If you own a home, now is an excellent time to refinance. Rates are low and you can save a bundle of cash over the course of your loan period. You might be able to shave years off your mortgage—who can’t use that kind of extra money? And take a look at your car insurance or home insurance. Do some comparison shopping and see if you can find better rates for the same coverage. Don’t forget to check if your employer has any kind of discount program for insurance coverage.

2. Ditch the Extras

Like a leaky faucet, small cash drains can lead to financial problems. Where are the possible leaks in your budget plan? The monthly charge for Spotify. The magazine subscription that renews automatically. The phone plan that is out of step with what you need. The bank fee every month. The three streaming subscriptions you haven’t had time to watch lately. The gym membership that you aren’t using. The monthly fee for a service plan you meant to cancel last year. All those small leaks can add up to a big cash drain. Check your monthly expenses for at least one or two things you can cancel.

3. Find Your Perks

You’ve heard your friend talk about her credit card extras. How’s your credit card matching up? You don’t need (and really shouldn’t hang onto) a handful of credit cards, but you should make sure the ones you have are working for you. Perks like extra mileage, money back, or discounts on things you use frequently come with certain credit cards. If your credit is good and your credit card isn’t offering you some real benefits (and a low interest rate), ask for them to give you an upgrade or look for a new card.

4. Sell Your Stuff

Do you have clothes you don’t wear or lamps just taking up space in your closet? Why not sell them and make some cash? Online resale retailers like Poshmark or your local consignment shop are a boon to people who want to sell their gently used (but in good shape) clothes, jewelry, bags, shoes, and sometimes even household items. You’ll earn a percentage of the sale price and will probably never miss what you got rid of. And springtime inspires lots of people to clean out and have a big yard sale. Join forces with people in your neighborhood and make some extra money for things you no longer want.

Look for the leaks in your daily spending and you might be able to save hundreds of dollars over the course of the year.

A Post-College Budget Plan Starts in School

A Post-College Budget Plan Starts in School

If you’re a nursing student, now is a good time to start thinking about your post-college budget. Believe it or not, finding a budget plan that works for you now will help you stay on track financially after graduation.

What can you do now that will make a difference when you are out of school? Educating yourself and trying out different methods of saving (and, yes, even spending) money is the first step in a successful post-college budget. There are many approaches to budgeting and what works for your parents, your best friends, or your classmates might now work for you.

Here are a few things you can do now to help get you ready.

1. Know Your Student Loan Amounts

This means more than knowing you have a certain dollar amount that you will owe once you are done with this round of school. You’ll need to take a look at your loans to understand when you need to start paying them back and what kind of interest you’re committed to. Some loans are fixed, meaning the interest rate you pay will remain the same for the life of the loan. Others are variable, meaning the interest rate can fluctuate over the course of the loan, and that means your monthly payments aren’t always going to be the same. Know the total amount you owe, when your payment begin, and how many months your loan is expected to take to pay back. Even more importantly, understand how much money it is going to cost you every month to pay your loans.

2. Think About Cost of Living

Once you know how much you’ll owe every month, start planning for other costs for your post-college budget plan. Think about what you spend money on every month now and if that will change. How much will it cost to find a place to live (including utilities and parking)? Figure out how much you will need for necessities like groceries and transportation (public or a car). There’s also the less fixed costs of entertainment, travel, clothing, and toiletries and household supplies to consider.

3. Plan for an Emergency

Unexpected costs happen. Cars break down, Living situations change. Health issues crop up. It’s a good idea to have the equivalent of three to six months of living expenses in a fund you can access. It’s probably hard to think of getting that amount now, but starting to build up that emergency fund now is good. Even five dollars a week will add up.

4. Consider Job Options

What’s the job market like in the area you plan to live? If you’re in an area where there are few options, consider looking at other locations. Decide how much of a commute you’re willing to have or if you want to move to an area where you can have more choices at jobs and salaries.

5. Estimate Your Salary

Now that you have a target amount of your costs, that helps you decide on how much of a salary you’ll need to live without going into debt. You should be able to make enough money to cover your expenses, have some savings, and (hopefully) have some left for fun. If you’ve got sticker shock from the first amount, this gives you some time to think of alternative ways you can still have the life you want. If you live in a high-rent area, getting a place with roommates can drastically reduce your living costs. With rent and utilities divided among many people, the savings is likely significant. Is there a way you would get a second job to make up the slack if you need to? What would work for you?

6. Look at Budget Styles

Get online and poke around to see what kinds of post-college budget plans are out there. From Pinterest to Debt.org to Money Under 30, you will find plenty of options to try out.

Budgeting isn’t the most fun task, but it makes an enormous impact on your life. The more you know before you graduate, the more control you’ll have over your choices.

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