Money guru Carmen Perez, the expert behind Make Real Cents, is here to teach In The Know how to get richer.
If budgeting is the struggle bus you usually commute on, Perez has got tips that will suit any personality. Organizing your finances in a way that’s practical for you can not only save you money, but it can also help you catch up on debt. And let’s get real: That will definitely help ease some stress.
“The big question to ask yourself is not necessarily about what budget suits your income — it’s more along the lines of what suits your personality and lifestyle,” Perez explained.
Here are a few money personality types and budgets that may resonate with you.
If you’re the kind of person who lives in spreadsheets and who friends expect to create trip itineraries, you might be a planner.
“A no-nonsense method like the zero-based budget might work for you,” Perez said. “With this approach, every month, you allocate all of your money to expenses, savings and debt payments.”
With this method, your income minus your expenses should equal zero by the end of the month. Perez recommends the app You Need A Budget for this method.
The Free Spirit
If chaotic good is your vibe, then you probably need some flexibility in your budget.
“A less restrictive method, like the 50/30/20 budget, could be great for you,” Perez said. “This simple approach breaks your spending into three no-brainer categories. Fifty percent of your income should go to needs: things like rent, utilities, transportation and food. [The] next 20 percent of your income should go to money goals, like saving, investing or crushing your debt.”
If that all sounds intimidating, don’t worry: with this plan, 30 percent of your income will still go toward flexible spending. But the ratio is totally customizable, so use whatever suits your goals. Perez recommended Nerd Wallet for free spirits.
Yes, there’s even a budget for those who don’t like tracking their spending. This cash-envelope method is what Perez used to pay down $57,000 of debt in less than three years.
“At the beginning of each month, you set aside money that you’ll need for necessities and for savings,” she explained. “Take out the rest of the money in cash and divide it up into different envelopes that represent different spending categories. So when that money’s gone, it’s gone.”
You may end up doing a little less online shopping, but at least you know exactly where your money is going.
Bonus tips for budgeting beginners
Perez advised not to make any purchases you don’t need before having a good night’s rest so that you’re sure you really want it.
She also said to examine your spending behaviors. Review why and when you spend so that you know what’s working and what isn’t.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to check your bank account. You have to know how much money you’re taking in and taking out in order to tackle those issues.
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If you liked this story, check out these five tips for giving your finances a “spring cleaning.”
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