One of the main issues everyone has is money. It seems like no matter how hard we work, there’s rarely extra income that we can use for spending or saving. The number one tip financial experts give is to create a budget and stick to it. By having a budget, people can spend smarter and have a bit of financial breathing room each month.
There are many techniques for building a budget. You can divide it by how much you make versus how much you spend and go from there. It’s also important to consider your future and save accordingly. Putting money away each month – even a small amount – can help you build up a nice savings account. To learn more about the best rules to follow for budgeting and spending, read on.
The most important rule of budgeting is simple: spend less money than you take in. People that live beyond their means and spend way more money than they earn each month are doomed and will go into debt quickly. It may not seem like fun to stick to a budget, but it’s worth it.
Avoid making extravagant purchases and curb impulse shopping. If you have significant financial goals, saving is the smartest option. It’s better to save up for a few months to get a big-ticket item than max out credit cards and drain bank accounts to get your hands on something now.
Keep It Simple
The more simple your finances are, the easier time you’ll have sticking to a budget. If you have several credit cards, you are making yourself more susceptible to identity theft as well as missed payments. Missing payments and going over your credit card limit can severely impact your credit score.
The same goes for investment accounts. If you have a high number of accounts to watch over, there’s a higher chance that you will miss any issues that come up. Having a large number of bills and accounts to monitor will take up a lot of time and energy.
Don’t Rely on the Future Self
It’s easy to think that you can send what you want and that your future self will handle the consequences. But it’s not fair to you in the present or the future to make decisions like this. Just because you think you will have more money in the future doesn’t mean that that’s the reality.
You will still have bills and financial obligations to deal with in the future. In fact, you may have even more if you end up buying a house or a new car. You don’t want to try and make a large purchase and also have a debt to pay off from a few years ago.
Comb Through Monthly Bills
Bills are a part of life. We all have several bills to pay each month to have working cable, electricity, vehicles, and more. You may not have looked at your bills lately, but many of them may have extra charges on them that are unnecessary.
Take the time to go through all of your bills to see what kinds of charges are listed. When you see costs that are unfamiliar or seem unneeded, give the company a call. You may be able to get your fees reduced or waived. If you determine that an expense is entirely unnecessary, call and have it canceled.
Rent vs. Own
Do you rent or own your home? Financial experts say that unless the total cost per month of a home is lower than renting a place, you should remain a renter. Although it’s considered to be the American dream to own your own home, it’s not a must.
Only buy a home if it makes sense financially. While you rent, you can save money each month to put toward a down payment. Remember that you’ll also have to worry about a mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and even homeowners association fees. When you rent, you only have to pay for the cost of rent and renters’ insurance.
Don’t Do It Alone
Although we are all tasked with taking care of our finances and sticking to a budget, that doesn’t mean you have to be completely on your own. You can hire a financial advisor to help you formulate a plan to fix your finances. Also, you can find a friend to get together with and trade budgeting tips.
Another great idea is to get words of encouragement from friends and loved ones. They can also help give you a bit of tough love to help you stick to your budget. Share your savings goals with at least one other person to keep yourself on track.
Everyone can relate to opening up their email account and seeing page after page of newsletters. Countless online and retail stores send emails with enticing sales trying to get you to spend your money. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, this can be torturous.
To avoid temptations, cancel all newsletters and catalogs you receive. It can be fairly easy to unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters, and your budget will thank you. By doing this, you can also lighten up your email inbox and help save some paper. If you don’t want to unsubscribe from a particular newsletter completely, see if you can automatically send it a hidden folder that you can access if you really have to.
Set Up Different Accounts
It’s recommended by financial advisors to separate your income into several categories known as buckets. There are several methods to choose from, but the most common is the 50/20/30 plan. With this method, 50 percent of your income is allotted to necessities, 20 percent is for long-term savings, and 30 percent is for extra expenses.
Another option is to divide your money into a few different bank accounts. You can make this process extremely easy by automatically sending different amounts to each bank account every month. At the very least, you should have one checking account and one savings account.
The 50/20/30 Spend and Save Rule
As we mentioned above, the 50/20/30 spend and save rule is the most common method of budgeting rule. With this method, half of your income is for essentials. This figure covers rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, minimum debt payments, clothing, and transportation. This rule requires keeping these expenses at or less than 50 percent of your take-home pay.
Twenty percent of income should go to savings. If you have student loans or credit cards to lay off, they can be put in this category. Additionally, this category covers saving for investments and retirement. The final group is personal and applies to nonessential spending that supports your lifestyle. This section includes gym memberships, hobbies, pets, travel, dining out, and entertainment.
28/36 Debt Rule
The rule that mortgage lenders use when they are deciding whether or not to approve you for a mortgage loan is the 28/36 debt rule. Also known as the debt-to-income ratio, it can be used to determine if you are living beyond your means. For those looking to buy, maintain, or refinance a property, it’s the best method to follow.
With this rule, you should spend no more than 28 percent of your income on housing expenses like interest, monthly principal, insurance, and property taxes. The other part of this rule states that 36 percent of your income should cover all incurred debt. This figure covers housing expenses, homeowners association or condo fees, car loans, credit card debt, and student loans.
The 20/4/10 Car Loan Rule
It’s quite common for people to spend too much on their car loans. Much confusion can arise during the car buying process, especially concerning fees, expenses, and other unknown costs. Use the 20/4/10 rule when purchasing a car.
This rule can help you keep from overspending on a vehicle. Save up enough money to put down 20 percent on your car. This amount will help you avoid owing more than the car is worth in the future. Keep the length of your loan under four years to reduce the amount of interest you will have to pay during the duration of your investment. Finally, try to keep monthly car payments less than 10 percent of your gross monthly income to stay on budget.
Automate a Savings Account
One of the best ways to start saving is by doing so in small increments. You don’t have to put hundreds of dollars away every month. A great way to do this is through automation.
Talk to your bank to see if you can set up automatic payments to your savings account. You can also set up electronic transfers from your paychecks to your 401(k) through your employer. By doing this, you can have some degree of savings happening every month without fail. If your income goes up or down, you can easily adjust the amounts as needed.
Save Before Spending
You’re most likely used to the idea of spending first and saving later. Usually, people will spend the money they need on bills and other essentials and then put the leftover dough into a savings account. This method works, but you do have another option.
Another way to save money is to put funds into your savings account before you spend. If you put money away right when you get paid, you’ll have less temptation to spend it during the month on unnecessary expenditures. This idea can help you get into the habit of saving money and not spending all of your extra income.
Make a List
In addition to having a detailed budget every month, it’s wise to write down other lists to keep yourself on track. The most important list to make is a grocery list. By writing down everything you need for the week, you’ll be less likely to make impulse buys at the grocery store.
Create a menu for the week of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for the whole family. Please make a note of everything you’ll need for these meals and take it with you to the store. This action can also help you and your family to eat healthier meals and feel better.
Set Small Goals
It’s unrealistic to try and tackle all of your money issues at once. You will end up frustrated and disappointed with your progress. Setting small goals can help you accomplish what you need to promptly.
Make a list of small goals that a specific and attainable within a month. Your first month’s goals could be tracking expenses and identifying problem areas. For your second month, you can establish a modest goal for savings. Keep in mind that setbacks can happen and are very common. Try not to let them distract from your goals in the long run.
Identify ‘Top Three’ Offenders
As you set out to achieve your goals one at a time, narrow down the top spending categories that are the most out of control. See what is draining your income and causing you the most grief. The three most outrageous expenses should be dealt with first.
If you find that you spend close to half of your monthly income on fast food, alcohol, and shoes, sit down and address those first. By making changes to these three categories, you will see your budget improve immensely. You will also find that you have more money to put towards your savings account.
Technology is a beautiful thing and can help you maintain your monthly budget comfortably. Many people write down their budgets on paper or create detailed spreadsheets, but those take time and patience. Luckily there is a wealth of programs and apps that can help you stay on track financially.
You can download apps that link directly to your bank account or credit card and track your spending. They will show you detailed breakdowns of where your money is going as well as how much you can save. Many apps will customize a budget for you, so you don’t have to put in much effort at all.
Track Spending for One Week
You don’t have to track your spending for too long to find patterns. It doesn’t take weeks, months, or even years to explore your spending. By just detailing one week of your spending habits, you can see how they are affecting your budget.
You’ll be able to see if you are spending too much on food, clothing, or even rent. The earlier you discover any poor spending habits, the easier time you’ll have to fix your financial situation. This rule will also make it, so you don’t have to count every single penny you have every single month.
Focus on Debt First
When you start building your budget, it’s smart to try and get out of debt as quickly as you can. Saving money can be difficult if you are always in the red. As you work on a budget, build a plan for getting rid of any outstanding debt, including bills, credit card payments, car loans, or other payments.
The sooner you can wipe out any debt, the better. Speak with a financial advisor to see if there are any ways to consolidate your debt. They may be able to give you good advice on which obligations are best to pay off first. As you get rid of debt, you will see the stress on your finances slowly lift.
The 20 Percent Homeownership Rule
As we mentioned before, a rule of thumb for buying a home is to put at least a 20 percent down payment on it. This budget rule will help you stay within the parameters of your means. It can also help to lower your monthly mortgage costs and boost your chances of being approved for a home loan.
This method means that you will most likely not have to pay any private mortgage insurance. For homeowners, this is the safest bet. It can be hard to come up with a 20 percent down payment, and some experts believe that homeownership isn’t worth liquidating your savings to purchase a home.
The Income Rule
When it comes to buying a house, financial advisors would advise never buying a home that costs more than three years combined with your gross annual income. Others recommend giving no more than two years or two and a half years of income. This method puts a limit on how much you can afford to spend on a home.
Because this method doesn’t factor in how much money you have saved, it might be better to consider your net worth more than income. This budget rule is especially true if your job is unpredictable and your income fluctuates. Don’t forget to factor in expenses like closing costs, insurance, and homeowners association fees.
It may seem like common sense, but not everyone saves for retirement. The rule of thumb for retirement savings is to save 10 percent of your income each month. This tip is a nice, simple number to stick to that most people can easily save.
Whether you’re young, just opened a 401(k), or have no idea where to start when it comes to saving, 10 percent is a great jumping-off point. On the other hand, since you don’t know the exact amount of money you’ll need after you retire, 10 percent may not be enough. This notion is especially true for those who are starting retirement savings later in life.
Financial advisors recommend never taking out more in student loans than you predict you will make in your first year in the workforce. This rule will keep you from having to put most of your paycheck towards your student loans. It also helps to prevent you from taking out more student loans than you can ultimately repay.
Unfortunately, the rising tuition costs of colleges and universities make it hard to pay for your entire college career with affordable student loans. Additionally, college graduates are not guaranteed a job after they leave school. The growing unemployment rates can lead to even more deferment on student loans.
Emergency Fund Rule
You know the old saying, “save something for a rainy day.” It’s wise for everyone to have a stash of money on hand in case of an emergency. A good rule of thumb for an emergency fund is having at least six months’ worth of income stored away.
This budget rule ensures that if you are unable to work or have a considerable expense, you need to cover immediately, you have a small cushion to handle it. Six months is just a guideline, but you can also save only one to three months or even up to a year of income in your emergency fund. This rule may not be realistic for all revenues, but also putting away a few dollars per week of better than not saving at all.
Age Rule for Stocks
When it comes to investing, bonds are known as a conservative investment, while stocks are much riskier. If you’re new to the world of investing, there is a formula based on age that can help you get started. Take your age and subtract it from 120.
For example, if you are 30, the ideal number would be 90. That means that 90 percent of your portfolio should be invested in stocks. This plan helps to give you a general allocation for investing. Of course, if you plan to retire sooner, you may have to adjust your portfolio percentages. You will also have to do that if interest rates begin to plummet.
Save 10 Percent
As you learned above, it’s common for people looking to start saving to put away 10 percent of their gross income per month. That means if you make $40,000 a year, you should save roughly $333 per month. The sooner and more often you start saving, the better your money will compound.
The money you save will end up accruing interest and ultimately can double. Because of this, it’s better to keep a little early on than put away a considerable chunk of funds later in life. By the time you’re ready to retire, you could have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars that way.
20 Times Gross Income
The best way to have a comfortable retirement is to start saving as soon as possible. When it’s time to stop working and enjoy the rest of your life, you should have saved at least 20 times your gross income. If you make $50,000 per year, you will have saved around $1 million upon retirement.
Along with that, you can abide by the four percent rule. This rule states that you can take about four percent out of your savings each year beginning in the year after you end your career. If you end up retiring with $1 million, that gives you $25,000 per year. Each year after that, you will withdraw the same amount adjusted for inflation.
You now know that it’s essential to pay off your debt as soon as possible. Financial experts agree that the best type of debt to pay off first is high-interest debt. The kind of debt that tends to have the highest interest rates is credit card debt.
It may seem more efficient to invest your extra money instead of paying off debt, but think again. Paying off a 15 percent interest rate in credit card debt will give you a better return than the stock market would, and best of all, it’s a guaranteed return. The faster you pay off high-interest credit card debt, the more you’ll save in interest payments.
If your employer offers a 401(k) option, take advantage of it now. Even if you have no debt and savings built up, having a 401(k) is essential. It’s a great way to plan for retirement.
No matter what kind of matching your employer offers, you should always go for the maximum. It’s basically like getting free money. Some companies will deliver between 50 and 100 percent matching contributions. It doesn’t matter where you work; if your company matches your earnings in a 401(k), you must take that offer. The more you put into your 401(k) account, the more you will end up saving.
Maintain a Solid Credit Score
Everyone needs to have a good credit score. The numbers are essential for renting or buying a home or getting a car loan. The better your credit score is, the better deal you can get on a mortgage. An excellent credit score can earn you a low mortgage rate and save you thousands of dollars.
The best way to get your credit score up and keep it high is to pay off your bills on time and in full. Also, avoid maxing out your credit cards. Take a look at your credit report to see your debt and repayment history. This budget rule will give you a clue as to how to go about improving your credit score and, ultimately, your finances.
Do you have anyone depending on you financially? If you have a spouse, children, or parents who rely on you, you must invest in life insurance. This will help them adapt after you are no longer around.
Typically, term policies are better than whole life insurance policies. Term life insurance only requires you to pay for coverage when you need it. If you no longer have any dependents, you may want to consider stopping your life insurance payments to save money. However, in the long run, getting life insurance is a smart financial decision.
Shop for Cheaper Insurance
It’s essential to make sure you have all of the insurance coverage that is essential for living. That includes car insurance, life insurance, home insurance, health insurance, renters insurance, and even umbrella insurance. Having several policies under the same insurance provider may get you a discounted rate.
Once you have policies in place, never settle for your rates forever. Sit down once a year and call a few insurance companies to see if you are getting the best deal. You may end up finding an insurance provider that will give you lower rates that also has a great reputation. It may seem like a lot of work to switch, but there’s nothing wrong with saving money.
Save In A Separate Account
It’s always a good idea to save money wherever you can. As much as living below your means doesn’t seem fun, it can lead to an excellent retirement for you and your spouse. You don’t even have to save vast amounts of money at a time.
Start slow and save between $50 and $100 per week. If you have a goal to increase the amount you save every year slowly, you will have a sizable nest egg a few decades down the line. Take any extra money you receive and put it into a savings account. Don’t forget to contribute as much as possible to your 401(k) at work.
Let Retirement Funds Grow
As tempting as it may be to withdraw money from your retirement account when you need some cash, it’s not recommended. Pretty much all financial experts say to leave your retirement funds alone until you officially retire. Studies show that one in three investors cash out their entire 401(k) before they reach the age of 60.
If you withdraw money early, you will be charged with penalty fees. Typically you will be given a 10 percent penalty as well as charged taxes on the income. Many people tend to cash out their accounts each time they leave a job and at round ages, which in turn causes them to lose out on a lot of money. The best thing to do when you change jobs is to roll over your 401(k) funds into an IRA account.
If you’re one of the many Americans who have not saved much money for your retirement, it’s time to try and catch up. That’s why you should consider aggressively investing. Now is the time to start putting away some serious money.
The earlier you store away money, the more time it has to grow and earn interest. A single investment of $1,000 with an average return rate of 8 percent can earn over $21,000 in 40 years. If you invest $20,000 per year at that rate, you could have upwards of $2.5 million saved up.
In addition to investing aggressively, it’s also vital to invest effectively. Putting away large amounts of money in primarily money market investments will not lead to those sums multiplying. Many plans like your 401(k) have default settings, but you’re better off not sticking to the necessary settings.
Check into what types of fees you’re being charged for your 401(k). If you’re unhappy with the prices you’re being charged, work with your employer to change them. For consistent growth, invest your long-term funds in the stock market. That will help to diversify your funds and earn you considerable money.
Pay Attention to Fees
When it comes to your finances, there are countless fees you’ll be charged. Fees are associated with retirement accounts, investment accounts, mutual funds, bank accounts, and more. It’s not a bad idea to routinely check into what sorts of fees you are paying.
You can shop around for lower-cost options to see if they work better for your budget. Paying just one percentage point less on an investment of $100,000 can save you about $1,000 a year. It’s worth it to look into your various fees and see if you can get any of them reduced.
Teach Kids About Managing Money
It’s never too soon to start teaching your kids about managing their money. Giving them a good foundation in the world of finance can help them grow up to handle their money responsibly. The earlier they begin to spend and save money wisely, the more time they will have to let it grow.
Talk to your kids openly and frequently about money management. Help them open a bank account and get them interested in investing in the stock market. They can choose a few companies they are fans of to invest in slowly like Amazon, Apple, Disney, Starbucks, Nike, and Netflix.
Social Security Decisions
Never make any Social Security decisions off the cuff. Take your time to read up on your SSI benefits and know precisely what you are getting. Make sure that the time you choose to take your benefits is the optimal time.
The later you decide to collect your checks, the more money you’ll end up getting each month. You can also look for ways to maximize your income along with your spouse. Remember that your Social Security income is supplemental and not intended to be your sole source of income. That is why investing early and often is so vital.
Get Professional Help
There’s nothing wrong with getting some professional help, especially when it comes to your finances. Money management skills are not a given in all of us, so getting assistance from a financial expert can help you maximize your savings. It’s worth an initial investment of a few hundred dollars to get your finances in order.
The tools you learn from a financial expert are valuable, and you can carry them with you through life. You can then pass this knowledge onto your spouse and children. Now is the right time to get help and start planning your retirement and savings.