Taking control of your cash inflow and outflow is the base for financial planning. Budgeting is important to gain control over your financial life, be prepared and avoid surprises, save for a major purchase, get out of debt and stay out of debt, expand your lifestyle, and to retire early.
Thiruvalluvar, a much celebrated Tamil poet emphasizes budgeting through his following lines:
Incomings may be scant; but yet, no failure there,
If in expenditure you rightly learn to spare. (Kural: 478)
Who prosperous lives and of enjoyment knows no bound,
His seeming wealth, departing, nowhere shall be found. (Kural: 479)
Most of us hesitate to make a budget because we think it is about cutting all the fun in life. Budgeting is not about cutting all the fun; it is about conscious allocation of funds. Once we start spending consciously, our mind will find out a whole new way of having fun within the budget.
Making Budget: A step by step guide
There is a saying, “God is in the details”. Detail every bit of your financials while creating a budget.
1) Check your financial statements:
It could be your utility bills, d’mat account statement, other investment receipts, ITR, Form 16A, Form 16, bank statement, credit card statement etc. The idea is to make out the monthly average of income and expenses. Therefore the more details you can get the more relevant and accurate will the budget be.
2) Listing out income from all sources:
It is very easy for us to list down the income from employment or self employment. Normally we will lose track of income from investments, rental income and other miscellaneous income. Also check is there any annual income. Don’t forget to record the incomes received by way of cash equivalents like meal voucher and credit card reward points.
3) Finding out your total expenses:
We can easily list down the major expenses. But listing out the miscellaneous and petty expenses would be difficult. This is where the collected financial statements would help. Don’t forget the annual expenses like car insurance and property tax. Once you have recorded all the expenses then split them into fixed expenses and variable expenses. This classification will provide much more clarity.
Most people are surprised to learn that it may go for things that we do not need at all. Writing your expenditures down provides us with the unique opportunity to visualize and find out if any money goes for things that we do not need or want.
4) Are you saving or over spending?
Now you have your total income as well as total expenses. Deduct the total expenses from the total income. You will know whether you are saving some money or doing over spending. If you are saving some money channelize that money into the priority areas such as clearing your credit card outstanding or any other loan to become debt free or retirement savings or children’s future plan. If you are on over spending, then you need to make some adjustments to expenses.
5) Review your spending pattern:
On your expenses list, pay close attention to the variable expenses. This is where you can cut short a few expenses.
Every month we need to keep aside appropriate amount for the proportionate annual expenses.
You can find out the reasons for over spending. Most of the cases it would be emotional buying or unplanned shopping. Once you have pointed out the reasons for overspending, then find out the steps or precautions to be taken to rectify the same.
6) Are you on the track? Check monthly:
Every month set aside an hour to compare the actual expenses with the budgeted expenses. If there is a negative deviation, find out the measures to control them.
Why your earlier budgeting attempts failed?
Budgeting is not a onetime activity. It is a continuous process. Normally we start budgeting with a genuine motive. But after a few months it may get off-tracked like our attempts on dieting or exercising. Therefore one needs to understand the behavioural aspects of budgeting.
1) Positive Approach:
Never focus on the negative aspects. Focus on the benefits of successful budgeting. What will you accomplish by creating a budget? It could be becoming debt free, some money for vacation, planning for retirement or children’s future.
2) Keep your enthusiasm alive:
Budgeting may over a period of time become routine and hence boring. Set a few short term goals like trying to repay the personal loan in 18 months instead of 36 months. If you achieve it reward yourself. Recognition could be a good motivating factor. Inform all your family members, friends and well wishers about your progress on budgeting. You can also join in some of the forums related to money management.
3) Have a realistic expectation:
One needs to keep realistic expectation on the outcome of the budget. Over expectation may demotivate you. Budgeting is not a magic. It is an art like singing and dancing. You will be able to progress it only over a period of time with constant practice.
If you have not done budgeting for yourself and family so far, then now is the right time to take action. The fact that you are reading this article shows you have decided to stop procrastinating, and have answered the ancient question, “If not now, when?” with “NOW!”.
The author is Ramalingam K, an MBA (Finance) and Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and Director of Holistic Investment Planners (www.holisticinvestment.in) a firm that offers Financial Planning and Wealth Management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org