Budget Basics: Where Is My Money Going?

Budgeting-Basics-Where-Is-My-Money-GoingHave you ever had the feeling that your hard-earned money seems to vanish into thin air? Well, it isn’t just disappearing. It’s going somewhere! A budget will help you get a handle on where it’s going. Knowing exactly where your dollars are going is the first step to understanding your current financial situation and taking charge of your financial future.

What is a budget? It is a plan of action. It is the first step on the road to the kind of financial life you want to achieve, and it starts and ends with your goals. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  1. Write down your financial goals.

    First, make your short- and long-term goals SMART (that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). This can motivate you to stick to your plan and help you see how you’re progressing toward your goals over time.

  2. Track everything. Yes, everything!

    This helps you get a baseline of your spending. Keep receipts, write down all your expenses in a notebook or check your statements online. There are many options including online trackers, bank resources, Excel worksheets, and good old pen and paper. Find the one that works for you.

  3. Build your budget.

    Start by tracking your cash flow. What is coming in and what is going out?

    • Categorize your expenses into wants and needs.
    • Prioritize your spending. You must take care of things like housing, food, health care, debt payments, and child care. What are you paying for that isn’t a necessity? Could you eat out less? Are you really using that gym membership? Don’t forget to set aside an amount toward savings. This is your opportunity to take a critical, unbiased look at where you are now, and ask yourself if it is going to help you get where you want to go.
    • Our sample budget worksheet provides some guidelines on how to establish your budget to include different spending categories.
  4. Stick to your budget.

    It doesn’t have to be complicated.

    • Know your net income and determine how you plan to spend it ahead of time.
    • Pay with cash when possible, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Some people use an envelope system, or paperclips to allocate cash into different categories.
    • Find what works for you and stick with it.
  1. Give it some time and adjust as necessary.

    It might take a little while to find the right system for you. If you get frustrated, remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Look back at the goals you set at the beginning for motivation. Keep in mind, as life changes, your budget will change, too. A deployment, permanent change of station and having a baby will all have an impact.

Are you ready to join the mission?

MilSpouse Money Mission® is a Department of Defense resource that offers FREE personal financial education specifically geared toward spouses. There is a Money Ready guide for various stages of financial life, a MilLife Milestones section to help you through the big moments in your military journey, a blog, spouse videos, quizzes, calculators and more!

Join the mission to lead your family to a stronger financial future. Get started, here! Connect with us on social media and share this post.

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MilLife Milestones

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Budgeting-Basics-Where-Is-My-Money-GoingHave you ever had the feeling that your hard-earned money seems to vanish into thin air? Well, it isn’t just disappearing. It’s going somewhere! A budget will help you get a handle on where it’s going. Knowing exactly where your dollars are going is the first step to understanding your current financial situation and taking charge of your financial future.

What is a budget? It is a plan of action. It is the first step on the road to the kind of financial life you want to achieve, and it starts and ends with your goals. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  1. Write down your financial goals.

    First, make your short- and long-term goals SMART (that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). This can motivate you to stick to your plan and help you see how you’re progressing toward your goals over time.

  2. Track everything. Yes, everything!

    This helps you get a baseline of your spending. Keep receipts, write down all your expenses in a notebook or check your statements online. There are many options including online trackers, bank resources, Excel worksheets, and good old pen and paper. Find the one that works for you.

  3. Build your budget.

    Start by tracking your cash flow. What is coming in and what is going out?

    • Categorize your expenses into wants and needs.
    • Prioritize your spending. You must take care of things like housing, food, health care, debt payments, and child care. What are you paying for that isn’t a necessity? Could you eat out less? Are you really using that gym membership? Don’t forget to set aside an amount toward savings. This is your opportunity to take a critical, unbiased look at where you are now, and ask yourself if it is going to help you get where you want to go.
    • Our sample budget worksheet provides some guidelines on how to establish your budget to include different spending categories.
  4. Stick to your budget.

    It doesn’t have to be complicated.

    • Know your net income and determine how you plan to spend it ahead of time.
    • Pay with cash when possible, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Some people use an envelope system, or paperclips to allocate cash into different categories.
    • Find what works for you and stick with it.
  1. Give it some time and adjust as necessary.

    It might take a little while to find the right system for you. If you get frustrated, remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Look back at the goals you set at the beginning for motivation. Keep in mind, as life changes, your budget will change, too. A deployment, permanent change of station and having a baby will all have an impact.

Are you ready to join the mission?

MilSpouse Money Mission® is a Department of Defense resource that offers FREE personal financial education specifically geared toward spouses. There is a Money Ready guide for various stages of financial life, a MilLife Milestones section to help you through the big moments in your military journey, a blog, spouse videos, quizzes, calculators and more!

Join the mission to lead your family to a stronger financial future. Get started, here! Connect with us on social media and share this post.

Team Member

We are team of financial professionals who understand military life because we have experienced military life. Our goal is to educate and empower military spouses to help them make smart money moves. We combine passion and expertise to ensure you get the most accurate and relevant information. Take comfort knowing Certified Financial Planner™ professionals, an Accredited Financial Counselor® and the Department of Defense Office of Financial Readiness have vetted the content on this site.
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