Don’t forget about me (said your budget)

It’s nearing the end of the month and the number one thing people struggle with when we start to work on a financial plan is the timing.

I say timing – not time – because no matter what, you’re eventually going to spend the time.  This is more about spending that time in smaller (more useful) chunks and *ahem* not procrastinating.

I am an expert level procrastinator (if I wasn’t this post would have been up last week to remind you to do this mid-month), so I am not throwing any stones here.  Instead let me throw you a soft cushy place to land before that procrastination completely takes you to that crazy overwhelmed place.

Step 1 – If you haven’t looked at your budget or spending since the first day of the month when you settled on your budget, do it today.  Yes, you are busy today.  But you are also busy tomorrow, and the day after that, and all the way up to the actual last day of the month, and then again all of next month.  That’s life and busy is hardly ever a valid excuse for something really important.  Hint:  keeping tabs on your money is really important.

Step 2 – Remember you are on this budget because budget just means plan, and you have a plan, and that plan is a way to reach goals that you really want to reach.  A plan you only look at on the last day of the month ends up being a pretty weak plan, because you give yourself no time to adjust to the life that happens in the meantime. The budget is like your compass – it doesn’t dictate every step you take, it just tells just you which way to go from wherever you are.  If you never look at your compass, your going to need some really amazing luck to keep moving in the right direction.

Step 3 – Block a 30 minute spot on your calendar, turn off all your notifications, set an actual timer, and do just these two things – get as much as you can done in 30 minutes.

First – Find your budget and enter all you actual money spent into the right spots by category. At this point in the month (if you have online access) go ahead and use your current bank and credit card transaction info. Check your balances while you are there.  Look at receipts only for places like Target that might have items for multiple categories or if you don’t remember what something was.

Second – Review what you’ve spent vs. what you planned to spend. If you have already over spent on a line, decide if you can minimize spending in that line for the next six days. You can minimize a lot of lines for 6 days but don’t be silly and not pay a bill or something that will have longer term repercussions. If you have under spent on a line that’s probably good – but check your comments and make sure you didn’t miss something you were supposed to do (pay a bill, buy a birthday gift, register for summer camp).

Last – If your 30 minute timer hasn’t gone off, take a breath and look at the bigger picture here.  Your first months on a budget aren’t about success or failure – it’s about the process and what you can learn along the way.  Are you good on most lines?  Has anything happened that really tanked a line?  Was it predictable or preventable?  Has anything happened that gave you a little bonus wiggle room in a line? Maybe that car repair ended up being less than you thought, or a coupon code made a gift 20% less, or maybe you skipped the second $12 martini at that dinner out – ALWAYS celebrate the little wins.

Now get back to life with one less to-do in the back of your mind and a little refreshed perspective about things you might do this week to keep those bigger goals moving closer!

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