Budgeting Personal Finances in Today’s Economy

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There’s no hiding the elephant at the bank: Economically, times are tough. Despite economists predicting that the economy is on the rise, homes across America are still feeling the grip of the downturn. A recent survey released by Bankrate finds that 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. How can you dodge the mainstream economy and learn skills for budgeting your personal finances in today’s economy?

No matter if you make six figures or live off minimum wage, without mastering the art form of balancing money you can be sure “you’ll end up with more month at the end of your money, than money at the end of your month,” according to Dr. Demartini.  Balancing personal finances comes with practice, but here are five thoughtful tips on how to better manage your cash in today’s economy.

1. Leave your card at home

If you follow one piece of advice, this one should be it! The temptation to swipe is so easy we do it without thinking.  Even if we keep the card-swiping-calculations in our head, it doesn’t turn out right (or is this just me?).  Often our bank accounts hold all the money we have. So, allocate a certain amount of money for spending each week–for fun or extra curricular activities like eating out, getting coffee, seeing a movie–and withdraw the budgeted amount. By using physical cash we are more connected to where our money goes and can budget accordingly.

2.  All you have isn’t all you should spend

One of my biggest problems with my personal finances was that after I paid all my bills, I would have a certain sum left. Happily, I saw this leftover as money I could use to buy the things I wanted. But once they came in, I was tight at the end of the month for my basic needs. Don’t think just because your bills are paid, and you’ve got extra cash, that you can spend it.

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image: Alan Cleaver

3. Reevaluate your hierarchy of values

If having a beautiful home, having the best clothes or going out all the time is where your priorities are, then that is where your money will go. As Dr. Demartini says “you will have more month left at the end of your money.”  But, if saving money or accumulating wealth is at the top of your list, you’ll have more money left at the end of the month.

4. Save Save Save

My grandfather used to say for every two dollars he earned he put one aside.  This maybe a little extreme, but the idea of saving money is still something to be valued. Make goals for yourself and be disciplined. The reward will be worth that wait!

5.  Allow yourself one treat  

We deserve to pamper ourselves when we have the opportunity–that’s a big reason why we work.  So, keep a wishlist for the things you want. Chances are, by the time it comes to purchasing them, you might not still want a lot of things on your list, and therefore have figured out what you really want or need. Uphold this spending goal and your ‘treat’ will be that much sweeter. Plus, you will have kept a promise to yourself, increasing your self-love.  Win-win!

featured image: 401(K)2013

Juliette Donatelli

Working in the field of sustainability for over seven years, Juliette is passionate about its intersection within the fashion industry. Juliette began studying ecological conservation, and led consumer awareness campaigns around the world from water usage in southern California, riparian restoration in South Africa, food distribution in Paris and bison habitat in the Great Plains. She has launched her passion--consumerism and sustainability--into a place where it hits home--fashion. Juliette is the founder and editor-in-chief of spadesandsilk.com, Director of Sustainability at Manufacture NY, and loves to read, dance, swim and enjoy the occasional glass of champagne.