Successful budgeting can help an individual anticipate future financial needs and prevent financial problems like those that arise from taking on too many financial obligations and incurring too much debt. A budget is useful in helping an individual to achieve financial goals and can also be a tool for increasing net worth or for achieving financial security.
The Basics of Budgeting
The stages of the budgeting process are estimating income, estimating spending and planning for savings. Income can be estimated using gross income or net income after deduction of items regularly withheld from a paycheck. For a client on a salary or receiving a regular wage, estimating income probably won’t present much of a problem. But for a self-employed person, the fluctuation may require a low estimate of income for budgeting purposes.
Estimating spending is complicated somewhat by certain large expenditures that arise annually or semiannually. Regular deductions or contributions to a savings account may be required to pay for items such as an annual insurance premium or annual assessment of real estate taxes. In budgeting expenditures, some payments like rent or the mortgage are not subject to much immediate reduction. Other items like clothing, recreation and entertainment may be readily controlled. Additionally, one must always take into account the effects of inflation.
Savings should be planned as part of the budget and not considered a residual that will simply materialize if expenditures are controlled. Conscious effort is required to save. Financial planners often recommend saving 5% to 10% of income annually. The exact amount of savings needed to reach goals will be determined as part of the planning process. Arrangements can be made with a bank to transfer a specific amount each month from a checking to a savings account.
9 Rules for Budgets
The following rules can be helpful in preparing budgets:
1. Be reasonable in establishing goals.
2. Budget for fixed expenses like a mortgage payment or rent first.
3. Make saving a priority.
4. Necessities like food, clothing and transportation may be variable expenses but a high priority.
5. Set aside money over many income periods to spread out payment for large annual expenses.
6. Large expenses are not necessarily the easiest to cut.
7. Develop priorities for general categories of expenses and don’t try to account for every penny.
8. Records should be kept of expenditures after the budget is established.
9. Use it to measure and understand actual versus planned results.
If the estimated expenditures and planned savings exceed income, the financial planner and client should review expenditures to see where the expenses can be reduced. The budget should balance. Moreover, the budget will work only if the estimates have been realistic.