Five Simple Budgeting Habits to Kick Your 2020 Budgeting Plan

It feels like an intimidating topic, but when it comes down to it, personal finance is actually very simple. Believe it or not, you do not need to have an advanced finance degree in order to manage your money when ultimately, it comes down to basic habits and behaviors: How much do you earn? How much do you spend? How much do you save?

If, like nearly half of all Americans, you live paycheck to paycheck, you may benefit from adopting a few simple, basic habits that can help you budget effectively. Some may be as simple as basic sacrifices, like buying generic instead of name brand, while others may require a tad more discipline and planning. Nonetheless, even just adopting one at a time can help you make significant strides toward becoming debt-free and even building wealth. 

If you find yourself struggling, there are always resources like CountryWide Debt Relief expert financial advice on how to budget, get out of debt with debt relief programs, and move toward financial independence.

To get started, here are five simple steps you can implement today to kick your 2020 budgeting plan into high gear.

#1: Live on less than you earn.

It’s basic math: If you spend more than you earn, you will accrue debt. If you spend less than you earn, you will accumulate savings.

In order to see the math work out in your favor, you will have to take stock of how you’re living, then put some good habits in place. Specifically, you will need to develop a habit of living BELOW your means, not UP TO them. In other words, buy a cheaper home than you can afford, drive a used car, shop with coupons, ditch your daily Starbucks run in favor of home-brewed coffee, and set a chunk of your paycheck to auto-draft into a savings account so you don’t even see – and feel tempted to spend – that cash, as a few examples.

But here’s the kicker: This principle is easy to understand, but hard to implement. It takes effort to say no to impulse purchases you really want to make, to continue to drive an old car when you’re tempted buy a newer and shiner one, and to stay in your perfectly acceptable small home while your friends are taking on massive mortgages, but your bank account – and your future self – will thank you for doing the more difficult thing.

#2: If you don’t have the money for it, don’t buy it.

Once again, this is simple in theory but hard in practice. As consumers, we face innumerable ways to get what we want immediately with the swipe of a credit card. Lenders know this and by slapping predatory interest rates on their loans, they can land unwitting consumers in serious financial turmoil.

To combat this, set an absolute, non-negotiable rule: If the cash to cover the purchase is not currently sitting in your bank account, just say no. Even if you choose to use a credit card, think of it as a cash equivalent: Do you have the funds to pay the balance immediately, as soon as it posts? If the answer is no, then don’t buy that TV, book that trip, or order that new couch.

#3: Talk about money, even if it feels awkward or hard.

No one likes to confront reality, but when it comes to money, you simply can’t afford to bury your head in the sand. Get on the same page with your partner or spouse about your financial situation. Make sure you both understand how much money you currently have, how much you earn, how much you save, the debt that is weighing you down, and your goals to pay it off. Approaching your finances as a united front will set you up for success.

If you struggle to have productive conversations about your money, consider hiring a credit counselor to help. Your agent can help you work through any hang-ups, from debt to mismatched financial goals, and help set you straight.

#4: Check your accounts regularly.

When was the last time you checked your accounts? Actually, back up: Do you even know your username and password? It sounds like a joke, but many people could not answer this question with a straight face.

Developing a practice of checking your accounts can not only help you avoid those pesky overdraft fees when your balance drops too low, but will allow you to keep a finger on the pulse of your finances: How much do you have? How much more do you need in order to meet your financial goals for the month? Are you saving more than you spend, or spending more than you save? Take some time each week to log in and assess where you stand financially.

#5: Pay off your cards.

Credit cards can be extremely tempting – they’re like free money, right? 

Wrong. 

Not only can your credit cards be easily abused, but interest payments can really land you in financial hot water. The interest rates on some cards each amounts as high as 20 percent or more. To avoid diving deeper and deeper into debt, make sure that you pay down your card balance RIGHT AWAY after making a purchase rather than letting it carry. This will save you hundreds – or even thousands – in needless interest payments. Not to mention, it will keep you honest: If you know you will have to pay your balance immediately, you will be far less likely to purchase things that you cannot afford.

If you struggle to avoid the temptation to swipe your card at every chance, stow your cards away or find an accountability partner to help you. Developing better financial habits takes time and commitment, so don’t beat yourself up if you still find yourself reaching for your cards and having trouble saying no to superfluous purchases.

Don’t Tackle This Alone

If you’re already steeped in debt, the budgeting process may be more difficult. In these cases, you may eventually opt to enter a debt consolidation program to help you manage this process. Before you do so, however, be sure to thoroughly research the company you’re engaging to ensure they’re reputable, accredited, and sufficiently experienced to help you.

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