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Creating a budget that sticks

Young woman taking notes. Photo: iStock
Young woman taking notes. Photo: iStock

This content was provided by Citibank Singapore

Many of us create budgets but fail to follow them because they go too hard, too fast. The allocation of funds to spend on your needs and wants might be unrealistic given how much you earn. You might not even be aware of how much money goes toward your needs and wants. If you want to be able to follow your budget, the key is to strive for consistency and sustainability, not immediate results. We share in this article tips on how to create and stick to a budget.

Write it down somewhere you can see it

Have your budget in a place you can access easily. It could be a pinned shortcut to your online spreadsheet pinned or a special budgeting app on your phone. If it is unmissable, there is a good chance that you will be reminded to use it habitually.

Once a prime location has been secured, it is important to create a budgeting system. Systems ensure that your propensity to budget are not one-off occurrences, but you’re setting up yourself for repeatable success.

If your choice for a budgeting tool is a spreadsheet, you could set it up as follows. Plot the months into the future along the “X” axis e.g. January, February etc. Along the “Y” axis, list down all of the below as separate line items:

1. Monthly sources of income.

2. Monthly expenses, categorising them into:

a. Essential items (e.g. savings, investments, insurance, rent, transport, food).

b. Entertainment items (e.g. night out with friends, subscription fees).

3. One off “big ticket” items in the future categorising them into:

a. Needs (e.g. buying a home, a wedding)

b. Wants (e.g. a new phone, vacation)

Creating a budget. Photo: Citibank Singapore
Creating a budget. Photo: Citibank Singapore

You can then subtract your expenses from your income to get an idea of the amount you have left each month. You should project this (along the X-axis) for 12 to 24 months. Having a comprehensive view of what you can spend on each item every month will help you stay clear of your budget goals.

Set up an environment for success

There is common advice on the internet about setting up multiple bank accounts with standing instructions to route your salary to a separate savings account every month. A setup like this ensures that you are consistently saving. If this works for you, that is great! However, if you find yourself tapping on savings which you have set aside, consider placing your savings in a low-risk fixed deposit every month. This is the general idea of setting up your environment for success.

How much should you set aside every month, though? Budgeting for essential daily items is straightforward, but strong financial literacy is required to know the target amounts you should put into your savings, investments, and other expenses. Set yourself up for success by keeping updated with financial insights and guides to learn how to approach your wealth goals and budget plans confidently. For example, reading up on saving strategies may help accelerate your path to financial independence. With proper guidance and advice, you can save smarter, stick to your budget plan, and grow your wealth.

Citi Plus customers get access to Wealth Smart and Wealth Digest modules available on the Citi Mobile® App. These modules help build financial literacy with learning guides, articles, quizzes, videos, and insights.

Set the bar low

Set your initial bar in following your budget low. A plan that you can achieve is better than a plan that is ambitious.

For example, in the past, you might have spent all your salary after paying your bills, contributing nothing to your savings. With some motivation, you plan to contribute 1% of your monthly salary to your savings. In a year’s time, you could have saved 12% of your income – a substantial amount considering you had no previous savings at all. The saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short.

Track your money

What is not measured, cannot be improved. A budget is not something static. You should track your actual spending against your budget at the end of every month to know your progress. Because you have planned your budget well and in detail, you would be able to evaluate all the items on a line-by-line basis on how well you are doing.

Re-evaluate expenses and goals to reclassify them as needs or wants or move them along the time axis (the X-axis) to purchase them at a different time.

Tracking your money. Photo: Citibank Singapore
Tracking your money. Photo: Citibank Singapore

At the same time, you can also check on where you are with your investments and savings and evaluate if you need any changes. You can set up reminders on your phone or calendar to review your budget on a weekly or monthly basis. You decide what best works for you. Ultimately, by constantly reviewing and adjusting your budget plan, you will have a more realistic budget that you can follow sustainably.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be hard

To create a budget plan that you can commit to in the long run, you need to save and spend smarter. Citi Plus offers an all-in-one personal digital wealth starter kit, you can have the finance knowledge to grow your wealth and manage them on-the-go. You can also use financial goal-tracking tools such as Money Goals to help you set your goals and keep track of your progress.

Grow your wealth

Instead of having your money stay stagnant in your bank account, grow your wealth by putting it in a high-yield savings account. This helps you earn more while spending and makes sticking to your budget less daunting.

Journey with a Trusted Wealth Partner

This International Women’s Day, Citibank Singapore seeks to #embracequity by championing financial inclusion for women. Whether it’s improving your financial literacy, saving more, or investing better, take the first step towards owning your financial independence with Citi.

This article is for general information only and is not intended to be a forecast of future events nor a guarantee of future results and should not be relied upon as financial advice. All views and opinions are as of the date hereof, and are subject to change based on market and other conditions without notice. The article has no regard to the specific objectives, financial situation and particular needs of any specific person. It is neither an offer nor a solicitation to purchase, nor endorsement or recommendation of any products or services mentioned therein, and the products or services mentioned may or may not be offered by Citibank Singapore Limited, its related entities and their respective directors, agents and employees (together "Citigroup").

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