In the heat of this summer, you may expect to hear “How low can you go?” during a heated
(yet friendly) cookout limbo game. While that sounds like fun, we’re here to talk about a slightly more serious matter: budgeting.
How Low Can You Go?
True, budgeting is not nearly as fun as a neighborhood cookout or a limbo competition against the guy who always tries to one-up you with outdoor holiday decorations…but I digress. Budgeting is the cornerstone of getting your finances into tip-top shape; without one, it is easy to fail at making your finances work for you (which causes you to incur debt). And even the cavemen knew they had to settle up on their debts in order to survive.
Budgeting truly is a game of, “How low can you go?” While hoping to include categories in your budget that account for everything you’ll need to spend money on for the month (and therefore not have any surprises appear), you need to be realistic about the amounts that you budget for each category.
First thing is first, you need to make sure that the amounts from each category add up to no more than what you make each month (or pay period, depending on your budgeting style). If you go over that amount, you are automatically in the negative. This is okay for a month here or there when you can’t help but go over your normal budget; having a vacation come up is an instance in which this can happen.
That doesn’t mean you can’t plan for the vacation in advance (you should!), but certain things are bound to throw your budgeted monthly total over the amount you have earned. The trick is to not let this happen often. In fact, if you can keep it from happening at all, you are already successfully budgeting.
The key to great budgeting, however, lays in the phrase “how low can you go?” Just because you have your categories laid out and you are under your salary earned for that budget does not mean you are making the best budget you can. You need to look at the amount budgeted for expenses in each category and see where you can lower the amounts to free up extra money.
Do you really need to buy lunch every single work day? If not, drop the amount budgeted in this category in order to free up some money. Can you mix and match different outfit pieces to come up with new outfits for work, saving yourself from buying expensive clothes this month? Drop the category if you think you can get away with not spending money on it for the budgeting period. It’s the little expenses like this that can build up to a large amount of money saved, either for paying off debt or for investments or family trips.
Step 3: Keep the Bar Low
By lowering the bar on the amount of money you allow yourself to spend in each budget category each month, you not only challenge yourself to live a more financially fit lifestyle, but you also can accomplish any (and every) financial goal you set! (Although, becoming a master of budgeting limbo won’t actually help you at the neighborhood cookout limbo competition. But you can save all of the extra money you free up to beat Fred, the neighbor who is crazy about beating your holiday decorations, at his own game.)
This article was written by our long-time staff writer, Will Lipovsky.