Basic Budgeting

Do you control your money? Or does your money control you?

Nobody really likes the idea of being on a budget. It sounds like work and sometimes feels limiting. But budgeting doesn’t have to complicated. And if you stick with it, it will actually help you have more financial freedom, by giving you greater control of your money.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Start with the big things

Basic budgeting doesn't mean you have to account for every candy bar or cup of coffee you buy. The key is to know how much you pay each month for necessities like rent, utilities, gas, insurance, etc. Add up all of your major monthly expenses, make sure you have enough set aside to pay them, and you’ll start to get a sense of how much you have leftover for the more "optional" things in life.

Pay off/pay down your debt

Most people don't realize how much money they're wasting on interest when they carry a balance. And paying only the minimum payment isn't enough to make a dent. Instead, take a look at your monthly interest charges and make sure you’re paying at least that much — and commit to paying a certain amount beyond that each month. The more you pay, the sooner you can stop throwing money away on interest charges. (And avoid using your credit cards in the meantime.)

Trim the fat

Keeping track of what you spend your money on helps you identify where you can cut back. For instance, chances are you spend a lot more money eating out than you realize. Track it for a month and see. Packing a lunch for work (even just a few days a week), making your morning cup of coffee at home, and/or forgoing a few restaurant dinners each month can go a long way toward getting things in better balance.

Remember, these are just starting points. As you get better at budgeting, you’ll start to track more expenses each month — and discover new ways to take control and give yourself more of the financial freedom you crave.