You've got a great budget, and you stick to it. That's a good start, but there is so much more that you can do. Staying on track is admirable; getting ahead is even better.
Great money managers aren't born, they're crafted through trial, error, and lots of experience. If it's been a while since you stopped and really considered how your financial plans are performing, there's probably room for improvement.
Here are 5 ways to become a better budget manager:
Use Budgeting Software
If you don't use budget software, you might not realize just how simple budget management can be. Instead of hours poring over statements, paying bills, and making entries, much of the time-consuming, mundane part of managing your finances is taken care of.
Stress can lead to burnout. Even if you're disciplined and handle all your monthly financial business just as you should, easier is still better. Especially if easy is just as accurate. With less time devoted to the required monthly budget tasks at hand, you can spend more time planning for the future.
If you're comfortable with your budget, it might be easier to slip into bad habits. When there's $300 a week allotted for discretionary spending, which is whatever you like, you might spend it unwisely.
Take time to track what you're spending and where. Budget software really helps with that, as it reveals patterns that you might not know you have. Being accountable to yourself is the opposite of punishment. It's what keeps you moving forward instead of becoming stagnant.
Read, Read, Read
The more you know about personal finance, the better off you'll be. While some advice remains evergreen, changes in the economy can alter the way you need to manage your money.
Subscribe to a respected personal finance magazine, read blog posts written by financial experts, and never stop learning. No one is responsible for your finances but you, and you owe it to yourself to know as much as you can.
Look at the Big Picture
The best plans now might not be the best 6 months or a year from now. The only way to know whether your budget is still on the right track is to step back and evaluate everything once in a while.
Look at your savings and see how it's growing. Examine interest rates, and spend a little time checking around to see whether better rates are available elsewhere. Train a keen eye on investments. If they aren't performing as you like, it might be time to move some of your money around. Tunnel vision happens when you're too close to see how each facet of your budget affects the rest. By stepping back, everything is clearer.
Expect the Unexpected
One of the biggest budget mistakes that anyone can make is forgetting that unexpected things happen. If your budget is designed to pay all of your bills on time, that's great. Setting aside money for retirement is also smart. But if every dime is allocated and you're not adding to an emergency fund, then your budget really isn't complete after all.
By definition, you can't predict the unexpected. But you can reasonably predict that something will happen at some point, and you'll need money to handle it. It might be a leaky roof, flat tire, layoff at work, or any number of things that you don't see coming. Setting up an emergency fund turns your good budget into a great one.
As with most everything in life, there is always room for improvement. Adding budget software to your personal finance repertoire can help. Mint.com offers many budget solutions, whether you're just getting your sea legs or you're a seasoned budget pro.
Sign up for your free account today, and become a better budget manager tomorrow.