Budgeting Isn’t a Bad Word

Budgeting Isn’t a Bad Word

Do you ever think you need to get better at budgeting? Learning how to budget well takes time and practice, but being in control of your finances brings benefits that extend past your wallet.

Harrison Hinz, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) with First Pacific Financial and a Spark Financial Advisor, says nurses can take some steps to begin the budgeting process, and one of the first is shifting the way you see and prioritize budgeting.

“The term ‘budget’ is often looked at with a negative connotation, mostly because you are limiting yourself to spend less money,” he says. Nurses who plan effective budgets are taking control of their financial lives in a way that can help fix past mistakes, make a current plan less stressful, and even give a path toward a future where money will help you get what you want and need. In fact, he says, budgeting isn’t always about how you save money–it’s how you spend it, too.

“The skill to control how much you spend is one of the greatest skills to have,” says Hinz, “because you use it now when saving for the future, but you will also use it when you retire and are spending down your savings.”

Where can you begin? Hinz says to first take a look at your income and your spending history. At the very least, begin with looking at the last three months, but looking back over a longer time will give you a better picture of where your money is going.

This stage is, of course, one of the biggest barriers to planning a good budget. It takes time to go through all your bills, find the information you need, and record it. And, says Hinz, nurses who typically work long and demanding shifts, end up with little desire or energy to get down to the nitty gritty of their spending habits.

Setting aside blocks of time, even 30 minutes a week to help get you going will make a difference. Like with other habits, chipping away at budgeting tasks with a friend can also help. You don’t have to share or discuss each other’s information, but you can help nudge each other (for instance, one week find all the credit card and household bills, the next gather all the bank statements, the next begin categorizing, etc.).

To figure out your patterns, Hinz recommends sorting your spending into categories. If you have steady expenses, use broad categories:

  • Bills
  • Food
  • Entertainment

If you want to really map your spending closely, make the categories even more specific:

  • Groceries
  • Dining out (including work snacks or meals, coffees)
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Household bills (electric, gas, oil, etc)
  • Insurance
  • Pets
  • Clothing

And there’s no right way to plan your budget–if you use the method that you like, you’ll be much more inclined to use it and stay with it. Hinz says nurses should use whichever tool makes it easier for them to approach the budgeting tasks. “Some people like the hard numbers and using spreadsheets could help sort and set limits,” he says. “Others like touch and writing it out.” And that old-fashioned method of putting money into envelopes for specific expenses? Don’t give it up if it works for you. “The envelope system can work for people who like to have a visual on the money they have to spend,” he says.

Many people delay budgeting or don’t even start because they feel overwhelmed with the task or that they should have more money than they do. “It all doesn’t have to happen at once,” he says. “Start small with understanding where your money is going and build an emergency savings account.”

Finding someone to help you can make a difference. You can hire a financial advisor or see if your employee benefits or a professional organization will offer any financial planning assistance. “Life happens and adjustments will need to happen,” he says. “Having an advisor to help you navigate the changes will allow you to focus on your goals.”

Remember that your budget reflects your own unique life and circumstances. “Don’t compare yourself to others,” says Hinz. “There will always be someone in a better situation and someone who has more challenges. Take the time to enjoy where you are at and look at what you accomplished.”


Reach Your Goals with a Financial Strategy

Reach Your Goals with a Financial Strategy

If you want to reach a financial goal, having a financial strategy is essential to keeping on track. No matter what your age or where you are in your career, developing strategies to keep yourself emotionally, physically, and financially healthy will help you achieve your goals.

And while nurses are familiar with the emotional and physical requirements of staying healthy, a financial strategy often drops down the to-do list. Sometimes that’s due to lack of time or interest and other times it’s because nurses aren’t sure how to start making a financial plan for their lives.

Harrison Hinz, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) with First Pacific Financial and a Spark Financial Advisor, says nurses can start with thinking about their goals in life and understanding that they may need to change patterns. Do you want to buy a home, travel, pay off school loans or pursue an advanced degree, or reduce your credit card debt? What about getting a will or planning for unexpected life events? “Think about what is most important to you,” he says. “Saving money is not fun for most people. Goals help give meaning to the sacrifices made to save the money now.”

It also helps to look at a financial strategy as something you’re doing for the long haul. “Write out the goals that you have in buckets of short-term, mid-term, and long-term categories,” says Hinz. You don’t need to reach all your goals in the next year or two. A financial strategy helps guide you so you can get the most from your money. “Financial success doesn’t happen overnight,” he says. “By listing out the goals, you can track progress that you are making through time.”

A successful financial plan includes much more than budgeting your money. “Most people have the thought that financial strategy is all about saving and investing,” says Hinz. “While those are important, other priorities should be discussing tax savings with your tax preparer, establishing basic estate documents (will, power of attorney, and medical directives), and insuring you have appropriate insurance coverages (property, life, and disability).”

And because each person has different circumstances, expenses, and income streams, doing what family members or friends do can be almost as detrimental as doing nothing. There are lots of paths and options you can take, so getting good advice is important to your financial success. “One of the easiest ways would be finding a financial advisor who can help you establish a plan and stay on top of it,” says Hinz. “If you prefer to do things on your own, use your resources. Whether that’s your employer benefits, co-workers, or professional networks, it’s a great start. In the end, everyone’s situation is unique and outside information isn’t always the answer for you.”

If you don’t want to start on your own, a professional can help you get started, and you don’t have to be wealthy to reap the benefits. The important thing is to find someone who will meet your needs, your budget, and with whom you can talk freely. “A financial advisor will get to know you, your goals, your current situation, and then develop a plan to help you move forward,” says Hinz. “How they help and what exactly they help with is important to know, so ask them! You should look for someone who is more focused on you than on your account balances. Find someone you feel comfortable have open and tough conversations with. Finding an advisor with a CFP® designation let’s you know they’ve been through a qualification process and are help to a higher level of standards to act in your best interests.”

Your financial strategy will help you weather good and bad times. “Financial success doesn’t happen overnight,” says Hinz. “Ten years is a long time, but it will happen. It allows you to take those big steps and break them down to more reachable check points. If you don’t have a plan for money earned, it is likely to be spent on something other than your goals.”