Create and Manage a Budget that Fits Your Lifestyle

illustration of stages of saving

Setting a budget and tracking your progress each month is key to setting yourself up for financial success and achieving your goals. These simple steps will allow you to have a plan in place to meet new financial heights and be better prepared for the future. 

Step 1: Set your Financial Goals
The first step in setting your budget is to identify your financial goals and determine what is important to you. Short-term goals are typically achievable within a shorter amount of time, such as paying off a small amount of credit card debt or purchasing a small appliance. Longer-term goals could be things like purchasing a home or putting a child through college. If you want to take a family vacation, that’s another goal that might fall somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, it’s important to be thinking about how much you want to save and over what period of time.

Budgeting ProTip: Get everyone on board to save
Everyone’s budget is different based upon your individual goals, lifestyle and life stage, and whether you have financial dependents, among other factors. If you do have a partner and/or other family members that have a stake in the household’s financial decisions, it’s a good idea to involve them in goal-setting and budgeting as well.

Budgeting ProTip: Start the kids early
Starting a savings account for your children or teenagers to manage is a great way to teach kids about financial responsibility. Our Youth Savings accounts were built to help young savers build up their savings.

Step 2: Identify your Income and Expenses
It’s important to have a good handle on your income and expenses — how much money is coming into the household each month and how much of it are you spending? You can do this with our free online budget calculator or through a standard spreadsheet.

Next, take a look at how much of your income and expenses are fixed versus those that are variable. For example, rent and mortgage costs (“needs”) are usually the same from month-to-month, whereas monthly spending on things like dining out and shopping (“wants”) will usually vary. For those items that do vary, you’ll want to set a certain maximum spend amount for yourself (or your household) each month according to those short and long-term goals you’re working toward.

Step 3: Set a Budget for Every Expense
As you create your budget and set aside dollars for each line item, make sure the “need” line items are filled in first — housing, transportation, groceries, childcare, utility bills, etc. Based on what’s left when you subtract these necessary expenses from your income, you then need to determine how much of the remainder goes toward “wants” — dining out, seeing a movie, purchasing gifts — and how much you need to save to achieve your financial goals on time.

Budgeting ProTip: Don’t forget about seasonal and annual expenses
Expenses such as gym memberships and insurance policies sometimes come up quarterly, semi-annually or once per year. There are also things like back-to-school shopping and holiday gift-buying that you’ll want to account for in your budget. Making room in your budget for these expenses ahead of time will ensure they don’t sneak up on you later.

Step 4: Track your Progress
One of the most important parts of maintaining a successful budget is to track your progress every month. Especially in the beginning, you may need to adjust your budget to make sure you are working toward realistic goals. On an ongoing basis, you’ll want to check in on your expenses each month — are there areas in which you’re overspending against your budget, or areas you might be able to save a bit more?

Budgeting ProTip: Account for unexpected expenses
Finally, consider putting aside a little extra money for unexpected expenses that you may not be able to plan for. Our I Can Save account helps people save for unexpected events and emergencies.

Want more budgeting tips and tools?
Check out our free Financial Education Center with modules covering saving, investing, credit scores, mortgages, identity protection and more to help you Live Greater.

Having the right checking and savings accounts to help you save and earn extra cash can go a long way in helping you meet your budget and financial goals. GNCU offers several different account types to fit your needs and your lifestyle.

Not sure which account is right for you? Talk with one of the financial experts at GNCU by calling (800) 421-6674.