A colleague recently asked me how he might be able to finally stick to a budget. For years, he had tried to create and adhere to a specific annual spending plan, only to blow a hole through it at some point during the year. "What's wrong with me?" He said. "I know that I should do it, but there's always something that comes up."
Let me be the first to admit that I am not a fan of budgets. In the same way that I think most crash diets lead to failure, the majority of budgets or new year's resolutions fall by the wayside within months of being made, as life interrupts our best intentions. Part of the reason is that we sometimes make the whole process more onerous than necessary.
Budgeting should not be an end but rather the means by which we can accomplish our financial goals.
Of course, that fact means that you need to start by establishing those goals. Here are my top five to help get you started in 2018, though you’ll have to listen for the details on each...and to hear the other three:
- Pay down consumer debt
- Establish an emergency reserve fund
- Maximize retirement savings
- Fund an education plan
- Establish a general investment account
Technology can be your friend as you address your New Year’s Resolutions. Use it to create automatic drafts to avoid late payments and accelerate the pay-down of loans; to establish similar drafts with your bank or brokerage firm; to beef up your emergency reserve fund; and to slowly increase your contribution levels to your retirement plan with auto-escalation features available at many financial institutions.
“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.
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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.