Budgeting conjures up bad four-letter words – like diet, fear, gain, loss, and plan. I need to create a spending plan? I should follow how much loss and gain I have over a period of time? I’m going on a diet, a financial diet – again? I might as well forget it because diets don’t work, therefore budgets don’t work, and I have a lot of fear that I will fail miserably at keeping a budget. Yikes! This sounds like the Grinch who stole Christmas and beyond.
It can be hard to stick to a budget. We have so many temptations placed before us to buy, buy, buy, thanks to the internet and online shopping. And if you are like me, we get a barrage of ads through e-mail and social media. During the holidays it is all about Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, and oh yes – we continue to have Black Friday ads and specials going on, tempting us to overspend. And then there’s guilt about how much to spend, or not to spend, on each person for gifts.
How can anyone stick to a budget during the holidays, or at other times of the year? The following tips can help:
#1 – For job searching, we recommend putting together a plan. A plan is a roadmap for where you want to go. A plan is important in coming up with a realistic budget as well. Stephen Covey says to begin with the end in mind (from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.) So as I look at how much money I need each month, I can better stick to a plan if I put my money aside for the bills I must pay. A plan includes writing down how much income I have as well as where my money goes, and then it’s easier to meet my monthly bills. It’s a good idea to know how much money will go towards the extras, like a vacation, holiday gifts, eating out, and entertainment. Having a plan will help you to stay within a budget and not overspend so that you don’t have to decide which bills won’t get paid this month.
#2 – Once you’ve created a plan; stick to it. Just like a diet, if I eat too much I gain weight. If I spend too much money, I will owe more than I have. On the other hand, if I do not eat I suffer starvation; if I take too many breaks from job searching I miss great opportunities.
One way to stick to a plan is to convert to cash, instead of using a debit or credit card. Putting cash in separate envelopes can be helpful, and then you know exactly how much money you have to spend in each category, such as rent, groceries, utilities, etc. Also, there are apps that help us keep track of the calories we eat and how many we burn through exercise, and there are many free apps that can help with budgeting. Also, I highly recommend books written by Dave Ramsey, who overcame his own bankruptcy by sticking to a plan.
#3 – Save, save, save! It’s hard to save money these days, but if you break down your savings into small chunks, it can be done. For instance, put your change in a box and see how much you have by the end of the year. For those that have a bank account, you could have a certain amount of money transferred into savings each month. When you don’t touch it or think about it, it will grow. A savings account can be used for those extras, like a nice vacation, Christmas gifts, or a rainy day fund – like that unexpected flat tire you just got. Dave Ramsey suggests having a minimum of three months’ salary in a savings account. In job searching, we also suggest that the job seeker divide the day into different areas, such as networking with people, applying for jobs online, and knocking on doors. Essentially, we try not to put all our eggs into one basket by diversifying our job search similar to how we’ve been taught to diversify our finances.
I need to budget so that I have money left at the end of the month, instead of a hand full of bills. I need to create a plan for my job search as well so that I know what jobs I am going to apply for, where I’d like to target my search, and with whom I need to network with. If you need help with budgeting, take a look at the United Way THRIVE program. If you need help with your job search, visit any of our Workforce Solutions Offices, or our website at wrksolutions.com. We don’t want the Grinch to be part of your holidays with the undoing of your budget or your job search.
Velta Worley is Supervisor of the Regional Navigator Team specializing in training, educating, and assisting community partners, Workforce Solutions staff, and job seekers throughout the 13 county region with adult education and literacy, and employment for people experiencing homelessness. She has over eight years corporate management experience, and over 10 years with Workforce Solutions as a Facilitator, Technical Assistant, Office Manager, and College Navigator. Ms. Worley holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Sam Houston State University.