Do I Need a Budget?

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You're coasting along, paying your bills, and sticking a little bit of money into savings on the side. At face value, it would seem that you have a pretty decent handle on your finances. But if you're not following a budget, you're actually doing yourself a major disservice.

Many people assume they don't need a budget because they're not in debt, they're able to save, or their expenses are minimal. But the fact of the matter is that most Americans have poor spending habits and mostly empty bank accounts. Not only that, but countless households owe shocking amounts on their credit cards and struggle to break free from the evil cycle of debt.

If you're serious about staying on top of your finances and meeting your money-related goals, then you absolutely need a budget to help make that happen. And the sooner you realize that, the healthier your finances will be.

Are your savings adequate?

If you have some money in the bank, you're doing better than the estimated 39% of Americans who have no savings to show for whatsoever. But that doesn't mean your savings are particularly strong. In fact, the bulk of Americans are way behind on emergency savings, and part of the reason is that they have no idea how much money they're wasting month after month.

No matter your age or earnings level, you should always aim to have three to six months' worth of living expenses available in emergency savings . If you're nowhere close, then it's time to up your game. But without a budget, you might struggle to identify ways to eke out additional savings.

On the other hand, if you have a budget that outlines where all of your money is going, you can take steps to cut costs and stick more money in the bank. Imagine you're currently spending $300 a month on entertainment, but because you pay for a lot of it in cash, you're completely clueless about that total. Once you create a budget, you'll see just how much you're spending, and you might decide to cut your leisure budget in half and bank the difference.

Similarly, having a budget can open your eyes to bills you're paying that may not even be necessary. For example, you may not realize you're paying for a gym membership you no longer use or a software license you no longer need. Useless expenses like these are the easiest and least painful to cut, but without a budget, you may not think to take that step.

Are you spending too much?

Many folks spend down their entire paycheck month after month, yet fail to take responsibility for it. With a budget, you're more likely to identify specific areas where you're clearly overspending, which might give you the reality check you need to change your ways.

Imagine you bring home $3,000 per month in your paycheck, and you're currently spending $1,400 of it on rent. That obviously doesn't leave you a ton of room to cover your other various expenses, and if you continue on that path, you risk racking up serious debt.

Once you create your budget, you'll get a better sense of which expense categories you're spending too much money on and therefore need to slash. And from there, you can take steps to reduce your spending in a manner that least impacts your quality of life.

Before you assume that creating a budget is nothing but a useless waste of time, give it a whirl and see if it helps you. Creating a budget is easy, and chances are, it'll be just the thing to get your finances back on track.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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