It’s the beginning of the year, and I know a lot of you are looking at your budgets. This is a great time of year to check in with your money, especially in the context of resolutions.
And it’s something I do as well – my husband and I have been looking through last year’s spending and making plans for this year.
If you’re ready to tackle your 2023 budget, I’ve got some tips for you.
Review Last Year’s Budget
Looking through last year’s spending is a great exercise, and it’s something I encourage my clients to do. But I also know it can be time-consuming.
Fortunately, you don’t need to make a detailed spreadsheet or write everything down by hand (unless you want to). There are lots of great budgeting apps out there (I use Wave) that can save time and effort. I like programs that automatically pull in all of your transactions.
Remember Your Priorities
Reviewing your budget can feel overwhelming, especially if you find out you spent way more money than you thought! We had some big expenses last year (home renovations and a new baby, to name a few), but even though I knew that, seeing the amount that we had actually spent still surprised me!
Reviewing your budget might seem like it’s all about trying to find places to reduce your spending. But I really like to take another approach and find places where there were positive expenditures.
When did you spend money on things that were really important to you? Where did your purchases bring joy or support your lifestyle? Seeing those positive examples can help you decide how to allocate money this year.
Give Yourself Grace
Another way to combat spending guilt is to remind yourself about the seasonality of life. Life goes in stages, and so does your money. Your budget as a college student isn’t going to look the same as when you’re parenting your children or getting ready to retire.
My husband and I have three kids under four, and that means childcare is our primary expense right now. But it won’t always be that way.
So when you look at last year’s spending, even if it’s higher than you wanted it to be, give yourself some grace. Consider where you are in life and how your budget reflects that.
Every Step Counts – Even the Small Ones!
As you look ahead to the rest of 2023, focus on building good financial habits. Money resolutions are just like any others: built on small, consistent changes.
Financial success is all about making good choices, even in minor areas. That could mean something as simple as contributing a little bit to your company’s 401(k). The smallest investment is a still step toward progress. And don’t forget to make sure you’ve got all the basics covered: life insurance, wills, and emergency savings.
Align Your Budget with Your Priorities
Finally, think about whether you’re using your money to support your goals and priorities. And that doesn’t necessarily mean always trying to work harder or save more for retirement.
Sometimes it’s about cutting back, and sometimes it’s about spending more. My husband and I are spending a lot on childcare right now, but it’s allowing us to balance work and family and spend time with our children.
When you’re looking at your budget, analyze those numbers in the context of your situation. Maybe you’re in a season where it’s time to buckle down and save. But maybe it’s the opposite, and the best thing to do right now is to spend in areas that align with your priorities.
See you next week!