This guest post is courtesy of AgSouth Farm Credit.
Make time to budget
This is the most important factor in sticking with your family budget. Like any mundane adult task we don’t like doing (grocery shopping, anyone?), simply put, it won’t get done unless you dedicate time to doing it.
This can be a big project on the front end if you don’t do any kind of budgeting currently. You might have to set aside a few hours on a Sunday to really research your current spending habits. We recommend going back and reviewing three to six months of bank statements to fully grasp where your money is going.
After you have a better understanding and have set up tracking tools (see below), set aside some time every month to review the previous month’s spending. Set up a recurring event with an alert in your phone calendar to easily remind you it’s time to look at your cash flow.
When analyzing your spending, ask yourself, “What do I want to achieve next month? In six months? In two years?” For some, it’s saving for family vacations, for others, it’s saving for a big land purchase. Whatever it is, achieving small goals can add up over time.
We asked Chad Thompson, AgSouth Farm Credit Loan Officer out of Thomaston, Georgia, what tips and tricks he uses when it comes to budgeting:
“After my wife and I analyze our spending a couple times a year, we pick out what we have a tendency to overdo it on, and then make a plan for how to deal with it. This changes throughout the year. Sometimes it’s a simple as spending too much on junk food. The answer to that would just be ‘spend less on junk food’. But most of the time the situation is more complicated than that. We’ve noticed we spend more during the summer because we like to get out and do things with our children. The answer to that wouldn’t be, ‘do less things with our children’. Instead, we make a plan to prepare for that season ahead of time so that it doesn’t derail us from any long-term goals we are trying to achieve.“
When setting short and long-term goals, review your spending with a critical eye. Do you really need Netflix, Hulu, AND Youtube TV? Can you cut back your nights out from four times to two? Do you need to sacrifice for a short period of time to achieve a long-term goal? Having these goals and analyzing your spending against them frequently is a good way to stay on track.
If your family is in agriculture, your tracking is going to be a little more extensive than the average person. We recommend keeping two books or separating out farm verses family if you like tracking on one single sheet.
QuickBooks is great for more in-depth business and personal tracking. Mint is great if your personal banking doesn’t allow snapshot dashboards. Excel is a good option if you like more control over your spreadsheets.
Reviewing, tracking, and goal setting are three ways that can help you stick to a budget. Make a point to set aside time each month to review your finances. Monitor your cash flow with some sort of tool. Set small, achievable goals that keep you trekking toward your larger goal without overwhelming you during the process.