This post is sponsored by our friends at Regions Bank.
Alright, buckle up, Mamas. We’re gonna have a conversation that involves some words that stir-up a lot of emotions— “Money.” “Budget.” “Savings.” “Long-term goals.” Depending on your personality and history, these topics might have you feeling competent and confident….. or wanting to stick your fingers in your ears, close your eyes, and run away! If you are in the latter group, don’t worry. I’m going to give you some very basic and beginning steps to either start a financial budget for the first time or analyze if your current budget is still working for your family’s needs. I’m also going to point you toward some resources that will help you along the way.
We’ve all heard that we need a budget and that it’s supposed to be good for us, but not everyone actually knows how to follow a clearly-defined one, and it can feel overwhelming to map it out. Budgets are always evolving, so maybe you made one a long time ago, but things have changed, and it’s just not relevant anymore. Maybe you keep blowing your budget every month, and it feels too restrictive, so it’s easier to just ignore it and hope everything works out ok in the end.
But why is having a budget actually worth it?
You need a budget so that your family can accomplish its life goals.
You need a budget to reduce the stress you feel when you don’t know exactly where your money is going.
You need a budget to help you and your partner to stay on the same page with financial priorities and reduce disagreements.
You need a budget so you can spend without underlying stress.
First Steps to Get Started Crafting a Budget
- Start tracking your spending. You don’t need to change your spending habits yet. Just start paying attention. One great way to do this is to set up a free online service that links your eligible financial accounts in one place and allows for easy tracking of your spending. Regions My GreenInsights is a no-cost benefit of banking with Regions. It will not only give you the specifics of where your money is going but will also show you an overview of your financial health.
- Pour two big glasses of wine, and sit down for a conversation with your partner. Have an honest look at where you are right now, and talk about your dreams for the future. This can actually be FUN! Make some lists of short-term goals (Disney vacation? Private school tuition? New car?) and long-term goals (Home renovation? Early retirement? College savings?). Decide together how you want to prioritize your list. Get excited because you are about to create a realistic budget that will help you reach these goals!
- Be real about debt. There are resources out there to help you get a handle on the best way to pay it off, and Regions offers some great advice to get started. The good news is that your new budget will help you feel confident that you have a doable plan and can confidently fit debt repayment in your list of financial goals.
- Take an honest look at your monthly expenses. Some of these are fixed (mortgage, insurance, etc…,) but many are at your discretion. What percentage of your monthly income are you spending on things like eating out, clothing, subscription services, or entertainment? How much is going to savings? How do those numbers fit in your list of goals and priorities your partner and you came up with? Take a look at the percentage guidelines Regions provides as a blueprint to help you figure out if your spending is on track with your income.
- Make necessary changes. If you’ve been spending $100 a month on clothing, but that doesn’t fit within your list of priorities, then pick a lower number for a clothing budget. If the ease of eating take-out weekly is worth the reduced stress to your family, keep it in the budget. Be realistic about what you can and can’t change, but embrace opportunities to intentionally save a few bucks! If you can reduce your clothing budget by $50 a month and put that money toward something else that’s a higher priority for you (Babysitter?!), you are going to LOVE your new budget!
- Don’t forget that savings account! You will likely have to cut unnecessary spending during this process, so direct some of that to savings for those big goals. You can set up and track your progress as you work towards your savings goals in My GreenInsights. There are simple and painless ways to start saving more, and your future self will be reaping the rewards of the choices you make today!
Taking steps to analyze spending, make a budget, and stick to it can be scary. But you are not alone. There are so many resources out there to help you every step of the way. Regions Bank is always looking to help people make financial decisions by providing free educational resources and tools. There are even free online financial education courses to help you with your goals. Don’t miss all the valuable help their can add to every aspect of getting your financial life in order.