Photo: Andrei Tchernov/iStockphoto
By Sarah Chang/Credit.com
About 40 percent of households don't bother budgeting, according to Bankrate. However, we're aligning with the 58 percent that said they do!
Your budget is one of the most personal things you create; it's completely dependent on your financial circumstances, expenses, liabilities, and goals. A good budget can help you fulfill your dreams, whether you're planning on leaving a job, saving up for a goal, or purchasing a home.
Of course, life can be unpredictable, and expenses do change. Mary Beth Storjohann, founder of Workable Wealth, suggests reviewing your budget regularly to keep spending under control.
"Checking in on your budget and expenses monthly by setting and scheduling recurring money dates into your calendar at a minimum is key. This gives you a chance to review inflows and outflows and make adjustments as necessary going forward to keep you on track to meeting your goals"
It's also important to keep an eye out for signs that you may need to make changes in your budget. Here are 8 major indications that you need to revise your budget.
You’re living paycheck to paycheck
If you get to the end of the month and there's nothing left, it's a glaring signal that you need to revisit your budget. Think you can't cut back to save anything extra? It's time to track where your money is actually going by using a program like Mint.com, and really reflect on your spending.
You're depending on credit cards to cover expenses
What would happen if your car suddenly needed major repairs? Or your furnace gave out? Would you be able to cover these expenses based on what you have saved -- or would you need to depend on credit? If your answer is the latter, it's time to start cutting back in some areas, and saving a little more of your take home pay towards an emergency fund.
Manisha Thakor suggests that 20 percent is the ideal amount to set aside for savings (which can be adjusted for debt pay down, if necessary).
You’re noticing patterns in your spending
Are you consistent in going over your entertainment budget each month? Are you spending more than you'd like on dining out? Maybe it's time to adjust your spending, or to consider cutting back in certain areas so that you can spend a bit more in others.
Ashley Feinstein says it's all about trade-offs: "If you love going out to dinner with friends because you enjoy spending time with them, you can choose less expensive restaurants or organize a potluck in order to save money to allocate elsewhere."
You’ve experienced a rise or fall in income
Did you get a raise this year? Congratulations! Now's the time to set that money aside for debt, savings, or put it towards achieving one of your financial goals. Alternately, if you lost your job, now's the time to look at your budget honestly. Being out of work for a period of time means you'll need to adjust your spending accordingly.
Your expenses have changed
Did you purchase your first home this year? Have a child? Get married? Or perhaps you paid off an outstanding loan and have a little extra cash in hand. Don't ignore these changes; take them as an opportunity to reflect on what goes where.
Your financial goals have changed
Are you looking to pay off your car this year? Make a dent in your student loans? Plan that dream vacation? Any time your financial goals change, you should take a hard look at your budget. Cutting back in certain areas may allow you to save an extra $20, $50, or $100 a month towards your goals.
You’ve reached a financial goal
Did you pay off the last of that credit card debt this year? Good for you! This probably means you have a little extra cash in hand. Be responsible with it! By assessing where that extra money could go, you'll be sure to use it responsibly.
You received an inheritance (or some other financial windfall)
Be smart with that lump sum of money, and resist the temptation to blow it on something major. A large chunk of cash can mean you're able to pay off debt more quickly, save towards a down payment, or take that vacation this winter instead of next. Allocate the money towards something that's important -- and make sure you know where it's going.