Jah know, Jamaican cost of living is high bad! Anyone living paycheck to paycheck suffering. So there is no better time than now to budget. It may be the only way to meet living expenses without begging anybody a smalls or owing anyone you can not repay. A smart budget may even save a likkle sumting fi a rainy day if you live within your means.
Start with identifying your income and expenses. Some people like the old school pen and paper, others want fancy spreadsheets and the hip prefer an app that helps you manage a budget without too much hassle. The Goodbudget app gets good reviews as the best budgeting app with an unlimited free version.
Whether luddite or technophile, the budgeting principle is simple: put down your sources of income and your expected expenses so you can see how they balance. Start with the most important ones, i.e. rent, food, utilities, insurances, transportation, medical costs and savings. The goal is to prioritise spending on necessities first before putting money in non-essentials. Keep costs kept below income so you have something left over for an emergency fund/savings.
But life is unpredictable, and unplanned expenses will stress a tight budget. So you must determine which expenses are worth going over budget and which don’t. Needs versus wants is the tightrope many walk in sticking to a budget.
To help you with the discipline you need to meet your budget goals here are a few tips.
1. Be realistic
Taking charge of your finances can be somewhat daunting. Don’t complicate the process by giving yourself unreasonable goals. When listing your expenses, be ruthless in classifying your needs and wants. You will survive without the Netflix subscription or the favourite soda on the grocery list.
2. Don’t spend more than you have
Credit buying expands your spending power, and leads you to a trap. We beg you, please avoid the debt cycle that puts many in financial purgatory. If you can’t put the cash down for a purchase without blowing other necessities, you can’t afford it. Set money aside over several budget cycles and buy the item at a later date. Ditch the credit cards to avoid derailing your commitment.
3. Autopay necessary expenses
If you use online banking to manage your bills, set up automatic payments to ensure you don’t forget to pay them. Add savings to your budget so you are building up your nest egg. If you are someone who spends money as soon as it touches your hands, this is one way to avoid temptation.
4. Plan your meals
Eating out is convenient, but it is a key reason people spend in excess each month. Planning your meals and sticking to a grocery list are some of the easiest ways to halt the money hemorrhage.. You can also reduce grocery overspending, minimize food waste and eat healthier by sticking to a budget through meal planning.
5. Decline, Deflect, Delay.
Socialising can also bleed your budget. Say no to activities that fall outside the “necessity” category. Short-term depravations are part and parcel of sticking to a budget. Once your savings are healthy or your income increases you can return to activities and enjoy them more without worrying about the costs. Alert your inner circle of your money management goals so they can act as a support system to keep you on track.
Revisit your budget often to see what expenses can be removed, what necessities can be bolstered and where you can maximize your savings. This will help keep your goals realistic and the process more manageable. Once you get past the first month or two of your new financial reality it will become second nature and ensure you financial stability.