There’s a lot going on in your life. For the most part you’re pretty good at keeping things together, but sometimes it’s difficult to juggle everything. Next thing you know, you’re missing deadlines, the kitchen is a mess, and your gym bag is collecting dust.

When it feels like things are falling through the cracks, you need to regain control of your life. Especially your budget, because that’s often where we first stop dropping the ball. For instance, instead of buying groceries and cooking your own food, you might start spending more money on eating out.

What’s more, the hard questions you need to ask about your budget can be applicable to the rest of your life as well.

Getting your finances in order won’t magically make the rest of your life fall into place. But it’s a start.

What you need from your budget

There are many ways to work out and implement a personal budget. Every person will need a unique budget for their lifestyle and earnings. The aim here isn’t to cut your spending at every turn. It’s to have a budget tailored to you specifically, that helps you ask the right questions about the rest of your life.

There are a few core questions you need to ask when setting up your budget, particularly in how it relates to your life.

  • What do you want to achieve with your finances?
  • What do you really need in your life?
  • What’s your minimum standard of living?

Let’s look at them each in turn:

What do you want to achieve with your finances?

There are some bills you need to pay, like groceries and rent. But for the rest – take control of your budget by strategically determining where your funds are going to go.

What do you want to achieve with your finances? Would you like to work your way towards buying property? In that case, work out what property you can afford, how much you need, and open a savings account for a deposit. Maybe you want to be completely debt-free within a certain timeframe. In that case, stop buying on credit, prioritise your debts, and get serious about your spending.

Or perhaps you want to bulk up your retirement savings, or save for an awesome overseas trip. Asking what you want to do with your excess money is like asking what you want to do with your life.

What do you really need in your life?

Planning a budget is also a good time to question what you really need in your life, and what you can do without. Perhaps you need more home-cooked meals and fewer expensive dinners out.

Do you really need to go on a shopping trip every weekend with your girlfriends simply as a way to pass time? How about rather only buying good quality investment items when you really need them? Like buying one good pair of leather boots that will last you ten years, rather than three new low-quality boots every season. Just try to do your ‘investment shopping’ when the opportune moment arrives, like when there are great sales. If you need a luxury item like perfume, for instance, and you’re going on a trip, check out the fragrances you can get duty-free online.

What’s your minimum standard of living?

It’s no use coming up with a budget you won’t be able to stick to. And nobody wants a life so frugal they can’t enjoy it – even if it means retiring with a few more pennies. In other words, what budget do you need that lets you live within your means, while still affording a lifestyle you can enjoy.

It can be small things, like always having good coffee if that’s important to you. Or being able to eat out at an expensive restaurant once a month.

Living according to a budget doesn’t mean not being able to enjoy life anymore. Allow yourself the little things in life that mean a lot to you. This will make it easier to stick to a budget in the long term.

If you think about what you want to do with your finances, what you need and don’t in your life, and what your minimum standard of living is, you’ll be asking some questions that aren’t just applicable to your budget. But to your life in general.

About The Author

I was born in the Eastern Cape, close to the waves. After getting my degree in Media, Communication and Culture, I knew it was time to make my way to a big city. Not wanting to leave the ocean, Cape Town was the natural choice for me. At first I thought the fast paced world of marketing. But I never forgot that what I'd always wanted to do was write. Now I'm a freelance writer, where my office is my bedroom and my platform is the World Wide Web. I live with my partner and our two beloved Great Danes. When not reading or writing you can probably find me on the beach or exploring nature trails.

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