By DeVry University
From utility bills and mortgage payments to personal expenses, managing your monthly budget is a task that requires keen attention to detail and planning. While keeping your accounts in line can sometimes be a challenge, did you know there are several best practices that can help make money management easier to understand and stick to?
Those who work in the world of accounting and finance make a career out of keeping organizations and individuals in good financial health. Here are 5 accounting tips they leverage that can help you streamline your personal finances.
1. Develop Budgeting Techniques
Budgeting can be a challenge, but it’s a great practice for keeping your spending in check and making sure your bills are covered. If you’re new to setting a budget, a helpful piece of accounting advice is to start by understanding your income. If you have a salaried job, this will be more straightforward. If you work hourly or earn tips, calculating your average income over a period of a few months will give you an idea of what you have to work with. Based on what you earn on average, you’ll have an idea of how much of your income should be devoted to monthly expenses, savings or fun.
The key to creating a workable budget is to prioritize essential things like rent, monthly bills, savings and groceries. Be realistic about what your expectations and habits are. For example, if you don’t cook, set a limit for how much you can spend per month at restaurants or on takeout. If you’re trying to get yourself into the habit of cooking more, start with a small goal to gradually ease into the change. For example, if you always get pizza on Fridays but are determined to cut back to only twice a month, try cutting only one week the first month and then two weeks the next. If you find yourself struggling to keep up the habit, it’s okay to reassess your goals and budget accordingly. The key is to find what works for you. Tweak your budget a little bit each month until you find something that fits your needs and responsibilities.
“Bucketing” your savings into separate accounts for different things may also help you keep your money organized. If you are saving for something specific, putting money into “buckets” or different accounts can help you stay organized while you work toward your savings goal.
2. Create a Budget Spreadsheet or Tracker
Keeping a record of your bills, expenses and transactions helps you track your spending and saving activities accurately. Create a spreadsheet or download a budgeting app to help you keep track of when money is scheduled to be withdrawn or paid out of your account. This can help you monitor your spending and avoid overdraft fees.
Budgeting tools offered by your bank can also be tools in keeping tabs on how your money is being spent and often have your expenses broken down by category (such as travel, entertainment and recurring payments) for easy tracking. They may also offer tools to help you monitor your credit score. Check your personal banking app to see if these tools are already built in.
3. Cut Unnecessary Expenses
Unnecessary spending can sneak up on you, especially if you’re actively trying to save money. Doing an inventory of miscellaneous purchases and services that you don’t use very often can help you streamline your budget and free up extra money for when you need it. Subscription services like streaming platforms, apps or monthly product shipments you’ve forgotten you signed up for may seem like just a few extra dollars spent here or there, but they can add up quickly.
Being mindful of how you spend your money can help develop good habits and can help increase the amount you have to put aside in your savings account to fund something special, like a vacation.
Unnecessary spending comes down to the individual. Evaluate your hobbies and what you like to spend your time and money on to decide what you can comfortably eliminate, or what you want to continue devoting your income to.
4. Set Up Automatic Bill Pay
After your budget is established, a great piece of accounting advice to help make sure your bills get paid on time is to set up automatic bill pay. This bill paying method allows money to be withdrawn from your bank account automatically.
Setting up automatic bill pay is a great way to help you pay your bills on time and avoid late payment fees or accrued interest. If you’re using bucketing to categorize your money, you can set up your account to deposit and withdraw without ever having to see it in your main account.
5. Tailor Your Financial Accounts to Your Needs
How you manage your money should fit your needs. The number of accounts you maintain can vary based on your preferences, employment, savings goals or any special funds you’re working on building.
Depending on your needs, you may opt to open one or more of the following:
Opening multiple checking accounts can work if you have multiple income sources or want to have one account for bills and one for spending. If you’re self-employed or do freelance work, you may have a need for an expense account that’s easier to manage or file taxes from if kept separate from your personal money.
Multiple savings accounts can help you keep track of different big savings goals, such as emergencies, long-term spending or a big change like buying a house, paying for college or moving. With your savings sectioned out, you can keep track of how close you are to each goal.
Investment accounts can be a good way to grow your money. Some banks have investment options built into their savings accounts to make it easier for customers to get started with investing. Retirement and investment accounts like a 401(k) that is often offered through employers or an IRA can also be good options, though each will have their own set of tax rules and flexibility when it comes to moving your money around.