Alright, so you’ve lost track, you’ve derailed and somehow your budget took a turn off course. Don’t worry, life happens! I like to think of January as a “Trial Month” The one month where you are allowed to mess up with your budget because you’re trying to figure it all out. For instance, January tends to be the month we have to pay off our credit cards from December, which we all know are higher than most months. But January is also the time we plan for the year, we start looking at family vacations, planning for things the kids need and we start to look at improving things in our lives like our home or our vehicles.
January is that one month, where it’s OK to mess up with our budget because we know we are going to bounce back even stronger than ever!
But… how do you bounce back?
- Sit down and strategize!
Chances are you saw your year-end credit card statement in December and panicked. You saw how each $1 added up and it scared you. So you decided that January you were going to stick to your budget and not fall short. You created a budget but left out a few short details… your credit card bill from December and you’ve realized you have a few long weekends coming up so you book a last minute trip. These items can eat up your budget and before you know it… you’ve overspent!
Now is the time to sit down, and look at your budget and ask yourself a few questions.
Are you being realistic?
What do you still need to pay off from 2016?
What can you expect this year as far as vacations?
What needs do you anticipate? (New school clothes, School supplies, Winter Breaks, Spring Breaks, Summer Breaks)
How old are you children? Will you be adding a new phone line to your plan?
Or maybe your kids are moving out and you will be using less electricity
Sit back and think about these questions, see where the answers might lead you and what other questions might come to mind. When you work on your budget you want to be sure to take into account as much information as you can. For instance, winter break you might think things will not change, however, if you have kids, expect your grocery bill to double. The kids are home all day with nothing to do… they’re going to eat!
When it comes to strategizing be sure that each month isn’t identical but they vary based on your needs. Also take into account a small budget to splurge. This can mean a new pair of shoes for you or a family vacation with a deal too good to pass up.
- Set boundaries
I am not one to live within boundaries but when it comes to my budget, boundaries have saved me a lot of time and money. There are times when you’re going to have to say “No” whether it’s to a night of ice cream, a day trip to the keys or even to that new pair of shoes your child “has to have.” While no is a hard word to understand you do realize you might have to tell yourself no as well. Trust me, saying, “No” is no fun but you will be grateful later on when you have more money for that awesome summer vacation or when you can pay off your month’s credit card bill in full.
Boundaries are something that you can decide together as a family. Sit down and talk to your children about a family trip you are trying to take and let them know that every now and then you’re going to have to tell them “No” but remind them it’s because you’re taking them to Orlando for spring break. Having this conversation with your kids will allow them to realize you’re not just being mean but you’re trying to plan something they will value more than a bowl of ice cream.
- Be sure to account for your savings!
Having a savings account is vital to any budget. Things happen in life and if you don’t have a strong savings account chances are you going to be getting yourself into debt that’s going to take much longer to pay off. So if you save a little bit from each paycheck every week, you’ll be preparing yourself for the unknown. And the unknown could be a credit card bill that is larger than expected, a car repair, repairs to your home, medical expenses… your savings account can help dig you out of a ton of tight spots.
Another thing you should be savings for all year long are the holidays! I know, you’re so over hearing me talk about the holidays. But when working out your budget, be sure to start a savings account for the holidays now. If you start tucking away money now for the holiday’s come the shopping season you won’t have to stress about your budget or worry about going over budget or putting yourself into debt. Let’s say that you can save $40 a month, by the time December comes around you will have saved $480 and I don’t know about you, but I can do a lot of shopping with $480!
- Give yourself a pat on the back!
We spend so much time stressing and criticizing that often times we forget to praise ourselves for the good. You’ve had a slip up on your budget. So what! It happens to the best of us but the important thing is you’ve realized it, now it’s time to get back on track. Follow these steps to see what works for you and your family when it comes to restructuring your budget. Don’t stress over what’s done because you can’t undo it but you can move forward and create a stronger budget that is realistic and easy to stick with.
A budget isn’t something that you set and forget, it’s something that you should always be working on.
Now go on, give yourself a pat on the back, and get to rethink your budget for the year. And remember there are always changes to be made to your draft, it will never be a final copy.