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Planning Your Budget

Bill pay online and more strategies to manage your money

Budgeting Basics

Plan for your financial future with an essential building block – a budget. Setting up a budget helps you understand your income and expenses and how to live within your means. It’s a personal finance plan that lets you see where your money goes and how much you need to put away for both planned and unplanned expenses (like major auto repairs or a last-minute trip). What else do you need to know to get started?

Budgeting Basics FAQs

The simplest approach is to create an annual budget in an online spreadsheet. Opt for a free online budgeting tool to start or use personal budget software like Quicken, which can also come in handy around tax time.

The 50/30/20 budget rule breaks up after-tax (earned) income into three percentage-based spending categories: 50% on needs, 30% on wants and 20% on savings. Regular monthly expenses fall into the needs category, discretionary spending goes in the wants category, and travel, emergencies or paying off debt go into the savings category.

There are variations on the 50/30/20 rule like the 70/30 rule, which allocates 70% of earned income to needs, 20% to savings or investments and 10% to debt payments. The simplest is the 80/20 rule, which recommends 80% of earned income go to spending and 20% to savings. The key is to create a budget you think you can stick with. Signing up for free online bill pay and mobile check deposit can help.

Your budget should list your income from all sources and your expenses over a given time period. Whether you build a monthly or annual budget, you’ll need to include regular expenses like housing, utilities, groceries, gas, healthcare, insurance and credit card and car loan payments. Beyond that, you’ll want to note any fees for things like streaming services, gym memberships and software subscriptions. Finally, it’s a good idea to list discretionary items like clothing, entertainment, gifts and travel. The best place to start a personalized budget is with a personal assessment. What matters to you? What are your financial goals? Make a list of your values and goals. Follow that up with a reality check on your monthly income and expenses. Then rough out your budget, check it regularly and refine as needed.

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