What is a spending plan?
Your spending plan is your active strategy for getting where you want to go. Think of your spending plan as a road map that helps you reach your goals, as well as give you a sense of direction. Your spending plan not only puts you in charge of how your money is being spent on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis, but it also gives you a sense of control.
What are the steps to develop a spending plan?
It takes some time and effort to develop a spending plan that is right for you and your family. Of course, there are guidelines provided by experts that you can follow, but in the end, you need to develop a plan that you can follow. Here are the steps you can take to develop your own spending plan:
• Create a spending diary
• Identify out-of-pattern expenses
• Estimate your income
Create a spending diary
In order to develop a spending plan that is appropriate for your lifestyle, you need to understand your own spending habits. First, start recording all your expenses for at least a month. It is important to remember to include all expenses, no matter how trivial they may seem.
It is important to understand the types of things you spend your money on, as well as the individual items. For this reason, you will want to make a list of categories under which you expect your expenses to fall into. You might want to include the following categories in your list:
• Housing (e.g., mortgage, property taxes, insurance)
• Transportation (e.g., car payments, gas)
• Other (e.g., entertainment)
Use a money management program
One way to track your income and expenses is by using an online money management program. An added advantage of a money management program is that it can link all your accounts with each other so you can access and pull information from your various accounts. It can also help during tax season by keeping track of all of your tax-deductible expenses.
Identify out-of-pattern expenses
Once you have created categories and listed all your expenses for a month, your next step is to identify your out-of-pattern expenses. Your spending diary will only give you expenses that you made during that period. However, there are many expenses such as insurance payments, holiday gifts, or property taxes that occur annually, semiannually, or quarterly. Look at your canceled checks, your checkbook register, and any other receipts for the last year that can identify all of your out-of-pattern expenses. Add all your out-of-pattern expenses on a yearly basis and divide them into 12 so that you have a clear idea of how much you need on a monthly basis for your spending plan.
Estimate your income
If you are getting a regular salary, estimating your income is easy. Write down your monthly income minus federal and state taxes, Social Security taxes, and any other automatic deductions. Add other income such as dividends, interest, and child support. Make sure you include all types of income.