Budgeting: Reviewing & Revising to Get the Most from Your Budget Plan
Reading time: 4 minutes
April 6th, 2021
Research shows, 2 in 3 Americans have created a budget. And while 93% say it's important to maintain a personal budget, only 33% actually do so. Once you've learned how to create a budget, a big part of sticking to your budget is understanding how and when to review and revise it. In this article, you'll learn how to review and modify your personal budget to reach your financial goals.
Budget planning: review and revise
Think about managing your finances like you would manage a business. While also tracking their day-to-day spending, businesses typically schedule times, both monthly and annually, to conduct a deeper review their current budget, and make revisions that best suit their future needs.
And you should do the same.
Review Your Budget Monthly
At the end of each month, with your mighty mini SMART goals and budget in front of you, review how you did. To assess your progress, ask yourself:
- Am I on track to meet my mighty mini SMART goals?
- If there is a category where I overspent, was it because I set an unrealistic target or lost some motivation?
- Do I need to make adjustments to meet any of these budget targets?
- Do I need to reprioritize any of these targets based on a life change (think -lost job, divorce, new baby, a promotion at work, etc)?
Be honest with yourself. If you exceeded your target and saved more than you planned, that's excellent. You may want to tweak your goals to make them more aggressive. If you overspent in a category, try to understand why. If it was because of an unexpected expense, that's understandable. But if you see numerous missed monthly targets, you may need to either remind yourself of your motivation or revise your budget.
How to revise your budget
For smaller overages, review your variable expenses (these are the ones that change every month, tend to be more flexible, and can be considered 'fun money'), and see where you can reduce your spending.
Unsubscribe to any tempting emails, review your cell phone plan and check out competitor deals, shop for cheaper internet services, take a look at your streaming services, and any subscriptions or memberships you have.
If you've already gone through the exercise of reducing your variable expenses, but are still finding difficulty staying on track to meet your financial goals, you might need to find ways to cut larger expenses.
Here are some options to consider:
- Utilize resources like credit counselors to help analyze your income, assets, and debt, and come up with a plan to address your financial issues.
- Consolidate debt, if you have larger amounts of debt you are struggling to pay off.
- For a large balance on a credit card, consider transferring your balance to a credit card with a low interest rate or one with an introductory rate of zero percent interest. Keep in mind that you may need to pay a fee to transfer the balance.
- Another option for a large credit card balance, is to transfer that balance to a personal loan. Personal loans oftentimes offer much lower interest rates and can even boost your credit score.
- If you own a home, consider taking out a home equity line of credit to pay off higher interest debt or do a cash-out refinance, which allows you to take out some of the equity of your home to pay off debt. However, be sure to understand the conditions of the loan as it lead to increasing the terms of payoff or larger monthly payments.
Review Your Budget Annually
Set aside time once a year to look at your annual budget. This will give you a sense of your broader spending habits and patterns.
You may find some irregular expenses (medical bills, vehicle registration fees, etc) you didn't account for in your current budget, but will make note to account for in the future.
You may also notice a larger uptick in spending around the holidays and summer months than you originally anticipated or additional times in the year, you didn't think about (wedding season, anyone?), when you are spending more on gifts and travel.
If this is the case, prepare for these months in advance by creating seasonal budgets. Set aside funds for gifts, entertainment, and travel, as part of your future budget planning. Doing so insures you don't toss your budget aside during those more expensive months.
Your life changes, and chances are your needs and goals change too. Reviewing your budget monthly and annually will provide valuable insights into how you are spending your money, and will help you understand how to revise your budget to meet your financial goals. If you need to create an additional seasonal budget or are looking for budget template resources, feel free to download this interactive budget spreadsheet.
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