Start a healthy financial habit by creating a budget. Learn how to set specific financial goals, create an effective budget based on your income and spending habits, utilize budgeting tools, and plan for your financial future!
Meet Your Financial Goals by Setting a Budget
You work hard to earn an income, devoting your time and energy to making the money you need to support your lifestyle. Why not stretch that money further by creating a budget and defining your financial goals? If you’re not tracking your monthly spending, it’s hard to know where that hard-earned check goes each month, much less get closer to achieving financial freedom. At Muncy Bank, we specialize in offering accounts that will help you save the money you need for the future. As your local community bank, we have been helping our neighbors reach their financial goals since 1893. We put together this guide to help you identify your financial goals and create a plan to achieve them.
Setting Financial Goals
Maybe you dream of buying your first home or a vacation house at the beach. Whatever your desires, creating a plan is the first step to making them a reality. Your plan should start with a specific goal. Let’s say you want to buy a home in Lycoming County. “Buy a house” is too general as a goal. A specific financial goal will identify the amount of money you need to save and in what time frame. “Save $30,000 in 3 years for a down payment” is a specific financial goal. The next quality of a successful financial goal is feasibility. Given your income and expenses, is it possible to save $30,000 in 3 years? If not, set a more realistic goal. Don’t set yourself up to fail! Setting specific and achievable goals will put you on the road to success.
Make a list of your short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals should be achievable in under a year. Paying off a credit card and saving for a vacation are examples of possible short-term goals. Long-term goals could include saving for a new home, retirement or a child’s college education. The friendly and knowledgeable staff at Muncy Bank can help you choose a savings option that is suitable for your time frame and will maximize the return on your money. Our interest-bearing checking and savings accounts are great for putting money aside for short-term goals. A CD is a more secure way to earn a higher interest rate on money that you don’t need to access for three-five months. Even if you can’t define a specific goal at this time, consider challenging yourself to save 10 percent of your income each month. This will give you a savings base to start from when you do identify the next step in your life and finances.
Making a Budget
It’s hard to know how much you can save every month if you don’t have a financial snapshot. You can track your finances using a simple spreadsheet or mobile app. The Muncy Bank online banking product also allows you to download your account transactions directly into your money management tool. Sites like Mint.com go as far as syncing all of your bills, debts, and bank accounts to create a financial snapshot for you. Like any new habit, tracking your budget takes time to get used to, so don’t give up! You can find a wide variety of budget templates online to fit your needs and lifestyle. Read more about ways to build a budget.
A household budget is an irreplaceable tool for achieving your financial goals. Start by taking note of your monthly net income. Your net income is the amount that gets deposited from your paycheck(s) each month once taxes, social security, and any insurance fees are taken out.
Next look at your expenses, some expenses are fixed, meaning you can’t change them. House and car payments, utilities and insurance bills are most likely coming out of your net income whether you like it or not. Now calculate your variable expenses. Where do you choose to spend money each month? For this, you’ll want to look at the last few months of credit card statements and roughly categorize your spending. Groceries, restaurants, clothing, and entertainment are a few common categories but don’t make this too specific. What’s the total amount you typically spend on variable expenses? Make this your “fun money” and don’t spend any more than that on non-essentials. It can be helpful to have an understanding of the average cost of living in Lycoming County when tallying these expenses so that you can see whether you’re above or below the average in terms of your spending. Overall, finding and tracking these numbers is the basis for keeping a monthly budget.
Reevaluate your budget as part of your yearly financial wellness checkup.
Planning for the Future
When you take your fixed and variable expenses out of your net income, you’re left with your savings. Without making any changes, is this amount enough to meet your goals? If not, it’s time to adjust your spending and cut back on non-essential purchases. Small savings add up over time so don’t overlook the power of cutting back even a little. Spending a lot at the gas station? Think about alternative commuting options like carpooling or public transportation. Is your cell phone bill high? Switch to a less expensive plan or carrier. Even easier, cut back on non-essential expenses like monthly movie, tv, and music subscriptions or make a plan to spend less money eating out at restaurants. Once you identify the areas where you can cut spending, it’s time to make a budget for next month.
Take the categories you made when you were recording past expenses and set a new goal for next month. For example, you typically spend $400 at the grocery store, so you can set that as your budget for next month as well, or aim to make a small cut, such as $375 instead. Previously you were spending $300 at restaurants each month, and next month you’re cutting that budget to $250. Be realistic with your budget. A goal to spend $0 at restaurants is most likely an unsustainable goal. Create a budget that allows you to save for your financial goals over time rather than ending in frustration and failure.
Get more tips on saving for your future. Read The Essential Retirement Guide.
Create a new budget each month by examining last month’s results and making tweaks where necessary. If you find you’re overspending on a specific category every month, try increasing your budget for that item and experiment with cutting back somewhere else. Keep an eye on upcoming events and holidays and be sure to budget for those special occasions. You’re on the path to achieving your goals!
Get Started Today
Even if you don’t create a new budget today, start tracking your expenses. Until you know where you’re spending your money, you can’t cut back and increase your savings. Making changes to your lifestyle can be challenging, but Muncy Bank is here to help. We’ll help you earn even more money on your savings so you can achieve your financial goals sooner. If you’re saving money for retirement, our wealth management experts can help explain your options and help you choose the best one for your needs.
Whether your goal is to put aside $100 a month or $1,000 a month, we’ve got the tools you need to succeed. Our interest-bearing accounts come in all shapes and sizes. We’re happy to help you find the right accounts to maximize your savings. Stop by one of our convenient Lycoming County locations in Muncy, Hughesville, Clarkstown, Montoursville, Dewart, Avis, and Linden, or contact us today.
Get more ideas to improve your financial wellness in 7 Pledges for a Healthy Financial Life.