This article is the third in a series on how to get out of debt. If you haven’t already, you should check out the previous articles:
Step 3 – Create a Budget & Stick to It
I’ve said it a million times (OK, at least five times on here for sure) – you need to have and use a budget to achieve personal finance success! This is true whether we’re talking about paying off debt, saving for the future, planning for retirement, or becoming a generous giver. The budget is an essential tool for personal finance.
But it’s especially true if you want to pay off your debt as quickly as possible! Knowing how much you spend will help you see where you can cut back and save the most money. Aiming for a specific amount in your budget will enable you make sure you have enough money left over every month to put extra payments toward your debt. If you don’t take the time to create a budget and stick to it, you’re putting a major hurdle in your path toward paying off your debt.
It Doesn’t Need to Be Complicated
Now I want you to understand that budgeting is not complicated. It simply means writing down your income and expenses. It doesn’t matter how you do it – as long as it works for you. In fact, there are many ways to create a budget and track your spending. My favorite way right now is to use Mint. It’s easy, intuitive, and nearly automatic. You can have alerts sent to your email or phone when you approach certain thresholds in your budget (even for individual categories).
How to Get Started
If you want to get started creating a budget but aren’t sure how (and you’re not going to use Mint or other software), then you’ll need to start tracking your expenses for three months. It’s not fun or exciting, but it will help you see exactly where your money is going every month. From there, you can build your budget and begin to set goals for how much you spend in each category every month.
Remember – It’s Only Temporary
Finally, for those of you who hate the idea of a budget, I want you to remember that this isn’t forever. There will come a time when you won’t need to track every penny you spend. You will eventually gain control of your spending, have an emergency fund, and be paying all your bills on time. But to live without a budget, you must first live within one. Even after you’ve gained control of your situation, I think you’ll find that you’ll continue to keep updating your budget because it’s such a useful tool. If the idea of creating a budget and sticking to it drains all the joy out of your life, remember that it is only a temporary situation.
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Let me know how you’re going to create a budget & stick to it in the comments below!