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Zero-based Budget

Budgeting for the Month: January

3 Minute Read

You’ve carefully crafted your budget. You think all expenses are accounted for and you’re good to go, and that’s when it hits you: an expense you kick yourself over because you should have seen it coming.

For example, maybe it’s May and your cousin is graduating, but you haven’t allocated money for a gift. Not only could you feel bad for forgetting, but the oversight can demoralize you and prevent you from budgeting in the future.

Wrong on both counts. Every person everywhere makes mistakes every day, so don’t think it’s just you. And the only time a budget will hurt you is when you don’t make one. It will send your cash into chaos.

So we’re trying something in 2014: We are going to have some reminders and tips about expenses for January that you can stick into your spending plan. Make sure to read them. Even if you don’t see an expense you’ll have, you may get ideas about other expenses you forgot.

Some common costs for this month include:

  • Higher utility bills due to the cold
  • Health club dues, if you decide to join as part of your New Year’s goals
  • Christmas savings (save month by month starting now)
  • Hiring an accountant to do your taxes
  • Any new monthly savings you plan to do in 2014, such as for retirement or vacation
  • Valentine’s Day preparation, in case you want to surprise a spouse next month

There are also some bills that aren’t monthly, but can happen any month of the year. Car tags are a good example. Double-check your renew date happen so you don’t get caught off guard.

If this is your first year to make a budget, you owe two things to yourself: a lot of effort and a little leeway. Don’t spend your life shackled to a bunch of stupid payments. If you are currently making a budget for yourself, put every bit of energy you’ve got into it.

And just to be clear: “Leeway” doesn’t mean you can fudge on your budget. Don’t put $500 into your spending plan for groceries and give an “Oh, well” shrug if you spend $600. What leeway means is that if you make an honest mistake or forget to budget for an expense, you don’t beat yourself up. You don’t quit budgeting. You get back on your feet, remember the lesson for next time, and get right back to it.

If you control your spending, save and invest, you will—repeat, will—be wealthy someday. Don’t let a forgotten expense derail your journey to the life you’ve always imagined.

Welcome to 2014–this is your year.

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