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How to Keep Your Personal Budget Under Control

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How to Keep Your Personal Budget Under Control

Waking up one day and realizing that you don’t have that much money left to use this month is surely nothing nice. I’ve had it happen a couple of times and it wasn’t pretty. It’s not that I don’t have any common sense; the core of the problem sits somewhere else—bad money management.

personal budget

    So how was I able to fix it, and how you can do the same? There are some steps that need to be taken, but before I can tell you what I mean let me explain what this post isn’t about: it’s not about how to make more money, it’s not about saying no to the nice things in life, and it’s not about starving. It is, however, about being aware of where most of your money goes, and about being conscious of your spending habits.

    Monitoring is the first step

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying that what gets measured gets improved. This is a rule that’s valid for your personal budget as well. If you want to keep things under control, you need to start by paying close attention to what you’re spending money on. Now, this isn’t the moment where you should restrain yourself from buying something you’d normally buy. It’s just about writing down your expenses and keeping them for later analysis. Keeping note of very expense sounds like a lot of work, but the 21st century comes to rescue.

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    If you have an iPhone or an iPad (or an Android device) then you can use one of many personal financing apps that are available out there (image below).

    iPad-apps

      There are both free and paid solutions, such as:

      I didn’t have the chance to test them all out, so choosing the exact app you’re going to use is up to you. You can start by going to the App Store and searching for either “budget” or “personal finance”, but make sure that your app allows you to:

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      • categorize your expenses
      • add expenses on specific dates
      • add your salary and any income you have
      • input all costs using your local currency
      • change the currency (optional, if you’re spending money in more than one currency)

      One month head start

      Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do everything overnight: you need to spend some time getting data and building your spending profile, so to speak. Usually one month is enough to gather a sufficient amount of data, but if your spending habits are a bit more unpredictable then you might need more time. During this initial month, make sure to set a habit of noting down every expense you make by putting it into your chosen app. Remember to use the right categories, as this will be the only way you’re going to able to analyze this data later on.

      Let me say this again: categorization is key to success here.

      For instance, you can divide your expenses into these categories: rent, food, going out, coffee, alcohol, bills, gas, entertainment, education, etc. This is also a good opportunity to input your salary and any other profits you’re making (e.g.: freelancing, securities, bonds, stocks).

      Review

      When the month is over, it’s time to review your expenses and take notice of all possible areas for improvement. As I said before, the key here is to look at categories of your expenses: some of these categories are completely mandatory, like rent, or your electricity bill, so you can’t do anything about them. Others are not mandatory, but they are part of your “joy of life,” so to speak, so you wouldn’t necessarily want to get rid of them. The rest, however, may prod you into making some conscious decisions and taking a different direction with your money.

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      Start by looking at each category and deciding if you’re comfortable with the amount of money it costs you. If you’re not, then try to find cheaper alternatives or erase some expenses completely. For instance, one of the most interesting revelations for me was that I was spending an incredible amount of money on coffee. The first step I took was the decision to drink more coffee at home as opposed to going out—this one step cut my coffee expenses in half.

      This is just an example, but I’m sure you can see the potential that lies in this method. The more you categorize your expenses, the more areas of improvement you’ll be able to find. Again, this isn’t about lowering the quality of your life—it’s only about erasing stupid expenses and finding new and improved ways to experience as much joy in life and spending less money at the same time. Of course, if the amount of money you spend is more than the amount you earn, then you’re in a lot of trouble. Once you input your salary, every personal finance app will let you know about such a situation.

      When you have all your categories sorted, you can move to the next phase.

      Planning

      The final step is to plan your spending for the next month. Now, this isn’t about writing down what you can and cannot buy, but more about placing some simple guidelines in the back of your head. Things like: drink coffee at home, don’t buy more than three beers at a time, don’t use credit cards to buy cheap items, buy less clothing, and so on.

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      If you manage to pay attention to such guidelines for the duration of the next month, you’ll surely be able to lower some of your expenses with no loss in your quality of life. Actually, being aware of our personal budgets is not that difficult once we realize one thing: the devil is in the details, and when it comes to personal finance, details = small expenses.

      Subconsciously, we all know this. If we’re planning to buy something big—and I mean massively big like some Fort Worth real estate or a new car—then it doesn’t actually affect our monthly budgets. I mean, we always have everything carefully planned out, and know how much we can afford to spend exactly, and how much the investment is going to cost us over the years. However, buying something small here and there doesn’t seem like it can hurt us, but when we add everything at the end of the month, we can see that all those small things have turned into one surprisingly big bill.

      Personal finance apps help us to notice this and then take the right action… as long as we remember to put every expense into the app. I strongly encourage you to give it a shot and check how much money you can save. For me, the change has been significant, to say the least.

      What’s your take on this? Have you faced any surprising problems when dealing with your daily expenses?

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      More by this author

      Karol Krol

      Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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      Published on November 8, 2021

      How To Achieve Financial Freedom With the Right Mindset

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      How To Achieve Financial Freedom With the Right Mindset

      What would being financially free mean to you? Have you made the mistake of thinking that financial freedom requires millions of dollars and decades of hard work? When it comes to our relationship to money, the answers really lie in our mindset. Change your mindset around money and your entire financial outlook will change with it.

      And no: we’re not talking about putting a check for a million dollars under your pillow at night. This is about you becoming a financially free person, in whatever capacity you choose. And that’s really the key: it needs to be defined by you. So many people outsource this responsibility to society/celebrities/the government etc… and as a result never achieve it.

      What if you could identify what financial freedom looks like for you, realize that it is possible to get there in a matter of a few months and then build a road map to do just that?

      Read on, because that’s what we’re going to open you up to. This isn’t about giving you specific strategies “guaranteed to work in five minutes or your money back…blah blah.” This is about awakening you to just how powerful you are, where your blocks lie and how to smash through them effectively.

      Financial Freedom – What is it?

      Well like I said: I’m not going to define this for you. That misses the whole point of this article, but let’s lay out some ideas to get you started.

      Typically, when we talk about financial freedom in the west, we really mean: freedom from needing to work, in order to meet financial obligations. We know that there has been a rise in depression amongst nine-to-fivers, 62% as a matter of fact between 2019 and 2020 in the USA.[1] It’s therefore no wonder that there has been correlative uptick in the search for alternative solutions to finances.

      This depression is largely as a result of feeling trapped, unable to realize potential and being denied opportunity. It is also likely that, thanks to a more global world and social media: we see just how abundant life can be for some; like a carrot dangled tantalisingly close, but just out of reach. We yearn for more meaning in our lives, more excitement and to be able to live on our terms.

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      Finances are (as we see it) the stumbling block and the preserve of the chosen few…not us.

      So to start building an accurate picture of what financial freedom would be for you, begin with what your life would look like if you didn’t have to worry about money. How would you feel if you didn’t have to consider your monthly budget, when putting your hand in your pocket to pay for lunch?

      The point is that a lot of the stress and resulting depression that comes from feeling like a ‘wage-slave’ is down to our lack of clarity on what we actually want. We get caught, focussing on what we lack and that perpetuates a mindset of lack that very quickly is reflected in our reality. We are allowing our subconscious, emotional mind to be bombarded with imagery every day that reenforces a sense that we aren’t good enough. That we do not have what it takes.

      That wouldn’t happen though if we had done the work of pinning down exactly what we wanted in the first place.

      Does Financial Freedom Come at Extreme Levels of Net Worth?

      There is a tendency, thanks again largely to how we are conditioned through media, to think that financial freedom only comes at extreme levels of net worth. What if I told you that is completely ill-founded and untrue?

      Using the standard/assumed definition of financial freedom for a moment; this means that you need enough capital to generate a return that is greater than, or equal to your monthly expenditure. That doesn’t necessarily tell the full picture, but nevertheless; it’s is a good place to start.

      If your monthly outgoings (mortgage, bills etc…) come to $3,000 for argument’s sake, you can achieve that with as little as $108,000 invested over three years.[2]

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      Hardly the millions you had probably envisioned is it?

      Remember: we’re not talking about you living a lavish lifestyle necessarily. If that is what you want; fantastic, it’s certainly achievable, but what we’re getting at here is your ability to meet all of your financial obligations without having to work.

      I’m sure you’re unlikely to find $108,000 down the back of your couch, but it is a figure that is well within reach of most working adults. A $36,000 salary opens you up to borrowing that kind of money, and even if you have to continue working in the short term in order to service the debt and keep up with your bills; you’ll have a clear end goal in sight.

      And you’ll have doubled your income in the meantime, for the same amount of work!

      How To Achieve Financial Freedom With the Right Mindset

      As we touched on earlier, coming at your life from a space of ‘lack’ simply perpetuates more of the same. As I always say: your environment doesn’t lie. Look around you, if you’re dissatisfied with any aspect of your life, you first need to accept responsibility for it. If you don’t, you’re abdicating your power to make new choices.

      You may well have been the victim of circumstance in the past, but how you respond and what you do with that experience is up to you. If you choose to look for the positive, however minor it might be in any given situation – your experience of life will begin to change.

      This is, in essence, what The Law of Attraction is all about. What lies behind it is your reticular activating system (RAS). The part of your brain designed to filter out the (as it sees it) unless information, highlight the important information and prioritize your safety. Thanks to it being part of your primeval/‘lizard’ brain however, it predates the conscious mind, intellect and reason.

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      The issue for a lot of us is that we haven’t understood how to communicate in a way that our RAS understands. We can’t translate our conscious desires and are therefore caught in a loop between two incongruous forces.

      Our subconscious wants us to be alive and it bases its criteria for this, largely on the principal of: same = safe. Meanwhile, your quality of life, passive income, work/life balance etc… are inconsequential. That part of your mind doesn’t give a hoot about the utility bill or being able to afford a holiday.

      It is perfectly possible to show you subconscious/RAS the benefits of financial freedom though, or indeed any other outcome you’d like to see in your life. You just have to speak its language. Becoming debt free and financially free is actually one of the easiest things you can communicate to your subconscious, because you have so much ‘real-world’ experience with money.

      Here’s how:

      1. Start by clearing your mind and being present – find a meditation, visualization or breathing exercise that calms your mind, allows you to focus on the present moment and become an observer of your surroundings. The point of this is to stop all of those thoughts buzzing around in your head that are pulling you back to the past, or projecting you into an imagined future.
      2. Then build a mental movie or slideshow of what your average day would look like, were you to achieve financial freedom. We’re not talking about big occasions, huge wins or events; just an average day.
      3. From your position of present observer – start to observe the feelings that arise as you go about this average day in your new life. Do you feel your shoulders relax and drop? Have you got excited ‘butterflies’ in your stomach? Are you smiling more?

      Learn to recall these feelings at will – this will connect the dots for your RAS and you will soon start noticing a shift. Think of it as connecting with your desired future and pulling it into/towards your present.

      Bonus Hack – Practice Gratitude

      We’ve already discussed how you can start attracting/observing the opportunities that will enable you to achieve financial freedom. This involves a lot of work in order to finesse, but the principals are easy enough to understand. Something that we can all do, no matter what we’re trying to achieve, is practice gratitude.

      Using the same principals that I’ve outlined above: something of a ‘catch-all’ that we can train our minds to produce more of, is gratitude. If we can shift our mindset so that the next time some negative, external and unforeseen event occurs, we are still able to be grateful for it; your entire experience will shift.

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      Not only will you observe more to be grateful for all around you on a daily basis, but you will shift out of a mindset of ‘lack’. All of the barriers that stood in your way before (not enough capital, stuck in a job I hate etc…) they will shift to becoming things that support your desires and goals.

      For example:

      The job you hate, when reframed as the means to support a transitional stage of your life (i.e. enabling you to borrow money to invest) suddenly gives you a resource to be grateful for.

      The added beauty of this is that your RAS doesn’t know the difference between a big win and a small win. You being truly, deeply grateful for your socks (for example) carries the same weight as being grateful for your health, or your spouse. This is why I say “practice” gratitude. You can start whenever you want!

      Look around you right now and find something that you really are grateful for, no matter how small and seemingly inconsequential.

      Practicing this will create a snowball effect. Much quicker than you might think: you’ll be overwhelmed with gratitude for your life and all that’s in it.

      In Summary

      Financial freedom is more within your reach than you probably think or feel. Understand that the limits you’re assuming to be there are largely a product of your subconscious mind, having been drip-fed evidence of that over the course of your lifetime. Changing that might take a lot of effort in the short-term, like cranking over an old car, but the effects will begin to build up quickly and self-perpetuate.

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      Apply this mindset to your financial situation and you will find that it too will begin to ‘snowball’. Financial freedom is closer than you think, so start looking for it today!

      Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

      Reference

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