Budget for Success - Quicken Loans Zing BlogIf money were no object, I’d take a page out of Tony Stark’s book and become a billionaire playboy-philanthropist. Sadly, I don’t have that kind of money…yet. (If anybody has an idea for the next big thing that they want to cut me in on, I’ll come to your meeting.)

While not everyone is likely to become a billionaire, a solid budget can make sure you’re living comfortably – both now and in the future. If we treat money as a finite resource, we can invest and spend it prudently.

Read on for some helpful budgeting tips.

Keep Track

Make sure you have a way to easily track your budget. There are finance apps and websites like Mint and Personal Capital where you can put in your account information and track your spending by category on a monthly basis.

Once you have an idea of how much you’re spending or saving in different areas, you can set goals for improvement. If nothing else, you get a more complete idea of your overall financial picture in one place.

Prioritize

Once you know where your money is going, you can reevaluate your spending. One way to do this is to rank things in order of importance. If we determine what’s important to us both in the short and long term, we can start to determine areas where we can cut back.

Expenses

The first thing I would think about when money got tight would be the ability to put food on the table. However, we have some control over what we spend on food. A lot of us survived college okay on Ramen and mac & cheese. Chicken breast may not sound like filet mignon, but it gets the job done energy wise. There are ways you can cut back in this area.

I would also want to keep the roof over my head, so the mortgage payment would be a big deal. Shelter is so important. After that, heat and electric are awesome things we tend to take for granted.

Car payments and insurance are also pretty important. Only after taking care of all these things should we worry about anything else.

If you take care of the necessary stuff first, you can determine how much you have left for the extra things that make life more comfortable. The next things on this list will help you plan for your future and still find a way to have a little fun in the process.

Finding Extra Dollars

Where do you find all this extra money to save? You don’t have to starve yourself. There are things you can do to put a little bit extra aside.

I’ve got a friend – let’s call her Megan – who loves coffee. We have coffee at the office, but Megan calls that “sad coffee.” Instead of drinking the sad coffee, she often goes to a chain establishment and gets “happy coffee.”

Megan has recently been trying to cut down her happy coffee budget. Her coffee budget has gone down to $25 per week from $50 per week. Although this might seem high to most of us, she was once spending as much as $80 on her java habit. With this simple step in the right direction, Megan is saving a ton of money.

I don’t drink coffee, so I can’t fathom Megan’s habits in this area, but we all have something we splurge for on a semi-regular basis. Our family could save money by only going to the chicken wing place once a month. I could also buy a few less “Weird Al” songs. Think of it as paying your future self.

Do you do hair or nails? Maybe you build things and you’re good with tools. Have you ever considered earning money from those talents? Using your talent as an extra income stream can help you get more spending money or save more for the future.

Want some more tips on how your money can stay yours? This post has 13 awesome ideas.

Savings

Sometimes life is like a game of Jenga; you never know when the whole tower might come crashing down. You need a rainy day fund with money set aside for emergencies like car repairs or vet bills. You also have to save for retirement and, potentially, college funds. Setting money aside as soon as possible for these things can help keep them from surprising us.

There are a variety of strategies for growing your savings like putting away a certain percentage of your paycheck or starting with a small amount and trying to double the amount you put aside every day ($1, $2, $4…). However you choose to do it isn’t necessarily important. What’s important is that you’re putting away whatever you’re comfortable with on a consistent basis.

Finally, you should also set something aside for the extra stuff. Contrary to the Cyndi Lauper song, it’s not just girls that want to have fun. You should save part of the money for a vacation fund or to go to events that you would enjoy.

Do you have any tips for keeping a budget in line? Share them with other readers in the comments.

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