Personal Budgeting: Tracking Spending, the Golden Ticket to Financial Freedom

I’ve noticed that one of the biggest financial challenges that many of my clients face is keeping track of where their money goes. Here’s what often happens: They receive their paycheck and deposit it in the bank, and then a few weeks later it’s somehow mysteriously disappeared. For all they know, it’s been consumed by the black hole in the financial universe.

Personal budgeting can provide financial help to married female entrepreneurs.

To make matters worse, they still have necessities to pay for: groceries, gas and utility bills, not to mention credit card payments. Somehow they manage to be surprised when once again there isn’t enough money to cover the necessities. So, they turn to the good ole’ credit cards or take out loans from friends and family to make up the difference. They heave a sigh of relief and say, “Thank goodness, we made it through another month.”

But in truth, they haven’t really made it. They’ve only acquired more debt that will have to be paid off in the future-more debt that continues to quietly whittle away at the hard-earned paycheck they bring home each month.

But I Don’t Do That!”

“That’s not me,” you say, “I don’t borrow money from friends or family, and besides, I pay my credit card bill off in full each month.” And I say, “wonder­ful, great… but, is any of your money going towards important things like your retirement, emergency savings or saving up for your big dreams?” If you are like many people, I would guess that it probably isn’t. I’m willing to bet that all of your income is going towards supporting your current level of lifestyle as well as debt.

What I’m talking about is spending money on things that make you feel good in the moment but keep you in debt and without sufficient retirement or emergency savings. Maybe you like to buy nice clothes, cool gadgets, new music, a weekly manicure or magazines.

If you do manage to put money into your savings account you may likely be one of those people that ends up having to dip into it regularly after discovering that you don’t have enough to make it through the month. Many of us walk around in what I call “blissful, financial ignorance.” Another appropriate word for this is denial.

You also need to become aware of your spending patterns. When I speak of tracking your spending, I’m talking about using a system that tells you where your money is going (how much you spend each month for things like groceries, transportation, utilities, gifts, dining, etc.)

Awareness is the critical first step towards changing our money behaviors. If we don’t have a clue as to where our money is going, how much and for what, we won’t have the necessary knowl­edge to motivate us to change our behaviors.

Why should you be motivated to spend less money on magazines, lattes or clothing, if you don’t know how much you’re actually spending on these items each month, and how much you have left over, if any, for savings or paying off debt? Because real numbers inspire real motivation.

Remember: if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got.

This means if we continue to unconsciously spend money the way we’ve always spent it, it’s no surprise that we’ll continue to have in­creasing credit card debt and little or no money in our savings accounts for our important financial dreams and goals.

We may experience a fun, carefree lifestyle. But it is a lifestyle that is acquired on borrowed money that we’ll have to pay extra for, both now and long into the future-a lifestyle devoid of the financial security and deep peace of mind that all of us desire.

by Leslie Cunningham

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