You know that setting up a household budget is something that you need to do. Doing so can help you prepare for your retirement, pay for your children's college educations and make sure that you don't run up high-interest-rate credit-card debt.
Unfortunately, budgeting is also something few people like to do. It takes time and it requires organizational skills. That's something that many of us lack, or at least think we lack.
But here's the good news: Creating a budget doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, there are three simple ways to create an accurate budget for your household. Simply pick the method that works best for you and commit to it.
Bring Out the Envelopes
There was a time when the envelope method of budgeting was king. Today, this method feels a bit old-fashioned, what with the proliferation of online budgeting tools available. But for many households, the envelope system works just fine.
Here's how it works: Set aside a series of empty envelopes and label each of them with a specific expense. One envelope might hold the label "mortgage payment." Another might say "groceries," while still another might say "entertainment." When you receive your paycheck, put the appropriate amount of money -- the money you've set aside for each expense in your monthly budget -- in the right envelope.
If you stick to this method, when each of your bills come due, you should have enough money in the corresponding envelope to pay it. And when you want to go to the movies or eat out, you can only do so if there's enough money left in that "entertainment" envelope.
This method has fallen a bit out of favor as more consumers rely on debit and credit cards to pay their bills each month. But if this method works for you and your family there's no reason to abandon it. It's simple and effective, if done properly.
The Internet brings us the latest-breaking celebrity news seconds after a star divorces or shows up at the beach 15 pounds heavier. It lets us waste days Tweeting about what we ate for breakfast. And it gives con artists an easy way to scam people out of their hard-earned dollars.
But the Internet has given us some good things, too, such as online budgeting tools.
The Web is now full of these tools, all of which let consumers enter their expenses and revenues to quickly determine where their money is going and whether they've breaking their budget.
Some of the more popular online budgeting tools include Quicken and Mint, a pair of powerful tools that come with money-management tools, financial calendars, calculators, spreadsheets and everything else you need to track your spending and earning each month.
But Mint and Quicken are just two options. Search the Internet for "online budgeting tools" and see what you find. The only way to find the right online budgeting tool for you and your household is to try out several. You'll soon discover the online tool with which you feel the most comfortable.
You can use your bank as a budget, too. Simply take out separate checking or savings accounts for your various expenses. For instance, take out a checking account reserved solely for your mortgage. For each paycheck you receive, deposit the right amount of money in that account. Then, each month, your mortgage payment should be ready to go.
Do this with your monthly grocery allowance, entertainment fund, insurance allotment and car-payment fund. If done properly, this method works a bit like the envelope method of budgeting. Only with separate accounts, you won't have to worry about storing large amounts of cash in your home.
Of course, these are just three of the many budget methods that you can employ. Be creative and experiment. You'll soon find the budgeting strategy that works best for you.
The only wrong method? Not budgeting at all. That is a formula for running into debt and scrambling to pay your bills each month.
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