Do you have trouble sticking to budgets? Maybe it’s time to take a new approach in the upcoming new year. Monthly and weekly budgets are helpful, but don’t take into account the many changes in expenses and income that occur during the year. After all, you usually think of your salary as an annual figure. By considering your expenses in the same way, you can create a more realistic budget.
The advantage of creating a yearly budget is that it can get you thinking about yearly expenses, such as vehicle costs and home maintenance issues. When you start to look at your whole year, you begin to see how your finances change with the seasons. This gives you a more realistic understanding of your financial health.
Here is how to get started with a yearly budget:
1. Determine Fixed Expenses – This is the easy part. Write down all of your weekly expenses such as gas and food and multiply them by 52 to get a yearly amount. Do the same for monthly expenses, such as housing and utilities, but multiply by twelve to get an annual figure. You can also sign up for a service like LearnVest that can help you create and stick to a budget.
2. List Other Expenses – Don’t forget your car registration, insurance premiums, or other expenses that do not occur every month. Multiply them appropriately to obtain a yearly amount. You should also figure out if you are wasting any money in your budget. Here are some tips on how to avoid wasting money.
3. Plan for the Unplanned – This is where it gets a little harder and is also a step that most budget-makers skip. Think about what might be coming up for repair. Is the dishwasher making funny noises? Will the car need new tires? Add in some money for expenses that you can’t anticipate. This step is very important, as these are the expenses that throw people off their budget and cause long-term damage to their financial health.
4. Don’t Forget Some Fun – Life need not be all about self-denial and sacrifice when you are on a budget. Set an amount each week for a dinner out, a movie or even just a couple of lattes. Your “fun time” doesn’t have to be a fancy event, just a break from the routine. Twenty or thirty dollars is often enough. You’re going to go out with friends and treat yourself occasionally anyway, so add these costs to your budget.
5. Determine Income – Determine your yearly income after all the deductions for taxes, retirement contributions and HSA contributions. This is how much money you have to meet your expenses. If you are self-employed, review your income from the previous year and take note of seasonal trends.
6. Add It Up and Address Problems – If it is clear that your expenses outstrip your income, it’s time to make some choices. You can either lower your expenses or increase your income. This is not optional. Just like a business cannot run in the red for long, neither can you. If you truly want to get ahead, accept your financial situation and do something about it.
Now that you’ve taken a hard look at your financial health for the coming year and developed a plan, how do you stick to your new budget? One of the best ways to stay on track is to assess your finances regularly. Check your accounts and spending every day and review your progress at the end of each month. Don’t let a slip discourage you. Find an area where you can cut your expenses, address the deficit, and move on. If you need help, you can use a product like QuickBooks to help. (You can get the Quickbooks app here.)
A yearly budget can give you new insights into how you’re doing in the long term and can motivate you to get on track, stay on track, or even reassess and increase your financial goals.