‘Tis the season for making resolutions.
By the time this column runs, I’m sure a large percentage of resolutions will already have been scrapped. Changing our routines and habits can be tough. I am guilty of letting more than a few resolutions die in infancy.
The most prevalent commonality among all of my failed resolutions is preparation.
I usually make resolutions with the best intentions, but never quite take the time to identify what changes need to happen to succeed.
Budgeting is one area where I tend to succeed in making resolutions. Working in finance has enabled me to see with clearer eyes the effects my goals will cause.
I know from experience that many people struggle keeping resolutions in this area.
I can often look at an individual’s budget and tell them if they will succeed or not. This doesn’t require any special skill on my part, just experience in seeing which numbers are realistic or not.
When people make a budget grounded in reality, they will increase the odds of success.
I’ll share a few numbers with you that I have learned from experience lead to more success. These numbers are not concrete, and all budgets should be customized, but the average person shouldn’t deviate too far from these numbers.
Mortgage or rent should not be more than 20 to 25 percent of the budget. Lenders will usually lend more than this but play it safe. This will allow you to experience a reduction of income and still survive.
Food costs should be less than 10 percent of the budget. This can be hard in Napa especially with teenagers at home.
Eating healthy on a budget can also pose some challenges. Keep in mind that Americans waste an estimated $165 billion annually throwing out food. I think we can all improve in this category.
Transportation costs should be 15 percent of the budget or less. This includes car payment, insurance, and gas.
I know car guys may roll their eyes at this, but for the average spender, this is a must. Many people measure their success by the car they drive; perhaps that fact should be reconsidered.
The single greatest measure of successful budgeting is how much you save. Save at least 5 percent of your income. Follow the age old advice and pay yourself before anyone else.
If your budget ever falls apart and you are still able to save, you are doing great.
Many people don’t budget because of the unexpected expenses that are so difficult to plan for.
Budgets don’t have to be perfect to be successful. The essence of a budget can prepare for the future. If you can sufficiently save for retirement and a rainy day, then you have succeeded.
Managing finances requires some degree of skill. Similar to practicing a sport you can improve those skills.
I’ve met many people who shrug off their financial responsibilities because they are not “money people.”
Perhaps you can make another resolution to read a short finance related article every day. Before long you will be an expert.