By Joy Ehonwa
Who would have thought that budgeting skills learnt in Home Economics class could prove as useful in domestic engineering as in personal finance? This has turned out to be true for many. If you’ve made the decision to take control of your finances and stop living from salary to salary, then you already know that a budget is indispensable. However, it is not enough for you to draw up a budget; you have to stick to it. Here are a few tips to help you do this.
1. Keep the big picture in mind. “All the things I could do if I had a little money! It’s a rich man’s world!” ABBA wasn’t far from the truth. However, instead of a song of lamentation, this can be an anthem to remind you of the kind of life you could have if you stay debt-free, build up your savings and invest wisely. None of these is possible unless you stick to your budget. So, hang up that picture of your dream home or that beautiful Caribbean island you’re longing to holiday at, and look long and hard whenever you’re tempted to overspend.
2. Choose a system that works for you. You may choose to automate your bills, stick to online banking and card payments only, or make weekly withdrawals. Whatever system you use to control your spending, make sure it’s one that works for you. Here is a description, from experience, of how the envelope system for flexible expenses such as food, fuel, hair and body care, etc, works. Assuming you put down three amounts in your budget each month — one for food, one for fuel, one for salon expenses. Withdraw those amounts as soon as you get paid, and put them in three separate envelopes. This way, you can easily track how much you have left for each of these expenses, and when you run out of money, you know it immediately and avoid overspending in these categories. If you find yourself running out too fast too often, you may need to review your budget.
3. Focus on your savings. Your savings account is a huge part of your financial freedom, and there is something immensely fulfilling about setting a savings goal, and meeting it. Having a little nest egg is a powerful confidence booster, and may turn out to be a lifesaver someday.
4. Review your budget regularly. Put it on your calendar and commit to taking the time to catch up with yourself financially. Keep looking at things you can cut out in order to pay off your debts quicker or meet your savings goals. You can consider buying e-books instead of paperbacks, and skipping internet at home if you have access to it at work. And do you really need to eat Bake House’s carrot cake or visit Coldstone Creamery every week?
5. Keep an eye on your expenses. Don’t throw away receipts, and always know how much you’re paying for each item. Visual reminders of where your money is going will help you stay in line.
6. Don’t Get Too Rigid. Your desire to build up your finances by strict monitoring can sap your life of fun and enjoyment if not well balanced. Include treats for yourself in your budget, and be sure to build in rewards for “good behaviour” along the way. After all, you only live once.