Charlotte Women's Magzine - June 2009
April 15th marks the end of ‘tax season’ and the deadline for individuals to file their tax returns. I have met with many people during the last four months, including women from every economic spectrum. The majority of the women I talked with are concerned about making ends meet in uncertain economic times for themselves and their families. Stretching paychecks and getting the most for every dollar is one everyone’s mind.
I encourage everyone to budget their dollars carefully and not loose sight of long term financial goals. Managing the finances of a family is just as important as managing the finances of a business. There is always the stress from an unexpected medical or dental bill, new tires for the car or facing the possibility of having your work schedule cut or job eliminated. Some months it may be difficult to save extra money – the car insurance bill is due or a child has a tuition payment.
Planning a budget will help ease some of the pressure. Look at the bills that will come due each month. There are mortgage payments or rent, car payments, water bills, electric bills and a seemingly endless list. There are other necessary expenses – groceries, prescriptions and more. Planning for the bills and putting the money aside first will help. Too often the process is done in reverse, where people gather the bills and then try to figure out how to pay them.
Just because a woman has a large paycheck does not guarantee financial success. Financial success comes from careful spending and careful savings. And you have to budget some money for fun – there has to be some purpose in going to work. Saving money and planning a budget are a discipline and some of the most financially successful people are disciplined money managers.
By tracking your expenses, you will realize exactly where your money is going. You will think about the purchases you really could do without – maybe you do not need the extra blouse or pair of shoes, even though they are on sale. Sometimes buying an item of better quality will last longer and cost less in the long run too. And it is good to carry a calculator to the grocery store because bigger is not always cheaper.
If you need help planning a budget, there are many free sources on the internet to obtain forms and ideas. You may ask a friend who is financially responsible and financially successful for advice on how they manage money.
The first savings component is for financial emergencies. If saving money is a problem, use the checkbook and not the credit card. You will limit your spending by seeing the checkbook balance. If you are spending money on a credit card, you really do not realize how much you spent until the credit card bill arrives in the mail.
Secondly, save for long term goals such as retirement. If you have children, you may also want to start a college savings plan. Adding an additional $25, $50 or more will shave years off of the mortgage payment.
It is always easier to spend money than to save it. Saving money can be fun, especially when you see the account balance grow over time. Prepare yourself mentally to sit down and plan your budget and goals. You have to decide if it is best to plan with your spouse or significant other. Sometimes couples are opposites about finances and the differences add to the stress of planning a budget. Developing a plan is the first step. It is not always what you make, but what you keep.