It seems that we’re all tightening our belts a bit these days. Whether we’re clipping coupons, eating out less or picking up a second job, we’re all trying to squeeze more productivity out of every dollar we earn. Visually being able to see where every one of those dollars disappears to is not only useful information, but it emotionally motivates us to make the decisions we know to be intellectually correct! Quicken offers free budgeting tools on their website. They’re very easy to use and very affordable too! 😉
Head over to http://quicken.intuit.com/ – click the big red button that reads “Start Now. It’s FREE” and fill out the form with the requested information.
Selecting Your Financial Institution Here you can save a lot of time by having your online banking log-in information. Simply find your financial institution amongst the list, enter your online banking log-in information, and Presto! It auto-magically downloads your account data for you. If you do not have the benefit of online banking, you’ll need to manually add your accounts and transactions (as well as look into online banking!).
Now that your accounts are in place it’s time to look at where your money is going. Quicken does a great job of categorizing transactions for you (dining, utilities, groceries, etc…), but it’s not perfect so you may need to review some transactions in order to categorize them appropriately and get an accurate money flow chart.
The Goals Screen You see where your money is going, now it’s time to set some Goals. No dollar leaves your home until you know where it’s going! (If you have teenagers this may feel familiar). Here you can assign categories of expense. While every person’s situation is unique, some good starting goals may be as follows:
Housing: 25%-30% Of Your Income
Auto Expenditures: 10%
Savings amp; Investment: At LEAST 5%
Your first budget won’t be perfect. Don’t be discouraged! It’s going to take time using it and tweaking it to your/your family’s needs. Talk to other people that use a budget, you’ll find that it’s very encouraging to feel that you’re not sailing this ship alone. Don’t forget to budget for fun! Even if it’s just 15 bucks to get out for an evening, it can be a real vacation when you feel you’ve earned it. Numbers don’t lie! When Quicken downloads your latest transactions and you see that you’ve already spent 30% of your income on dining and entertainment, you have a problem that no budget can fix: Self Control. Get Some!