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I often get asked, “Rachel, how intense do I need to be with my budget? Do I really have to be hard-core about it?”
My answer varies by person, and it will always depend on your situation. The biggest factor in your intensity level is whether or not you’re out of debt.
In Debt? No Savings?
If you’re still in debt, or if you’re still working on funding a full emergency fund of three to six months of expenses, then I want you to be extremely intense. I want you to be so hard-core about it that you’re willing to look at your budget and find ways to cut back on spending—get rid of cable, lower your cell phone bill, or stop eating out. Use all the extra cash you save and put it toward your debt or your emergency fund.
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Does that sound difficult? Maybe. But I promise you that these quick, short-term sacrifices are worth the long-term gain you’re going to have. You’ll learn healthy money habits and build an amazing financial foundation for your future.
Already Out of Debt?
Now what if you’re already out of debt and have a full emergency fund in place? In that case, I don’t mind if you let your foot off the pedal a little bit. Now, I’m not saying you can take a Caribbean vacation every month or go on a Manhattan shopping spree! I’m just saying you have a little leeway in your budget.
If you’re at Target and you want to spend an extra $100, I don’t think you’re going to wreck your account. You either pull it from another category or simply cash flow the extra spending from your bank account. Or if you go $20 over your food budget for the month, it’s not the end of the world. You’ve worked hard to get out of debt and build your emergency savings, so you don’t have to stress over every nickel and dime. That’s the whole point!
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The bottom line is whether you have $10 or $10 million, I want you to live on a plan and be intentional about where your money is going. Your budget gives the freedom to give, save and spend like never before.
Has your budget ever “told” you to adjust your priorities and cut something out of your lifestyle? If so, what was the most difficult cut you’ve had to make? Share your experience with others in the comments section below.
Rachel Cruze is a seasoned communicator and presenter, helping Americans learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. Her new book Smart Money Smart Kids, co-authored by her dad Dave Ramsey, released April 2014 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times best-sellers list. You can follow Rachel on Twitter at @RachelCruze, online at rachelcruze.com, or at facebook.com/rachelramseycruze.