Let’s be honest. No one likes doing a budget. Although it’s an extremely effective tool for understanding your spending habits and for identifying potential opportunities for additional savings, often times it can be a painful process. It can feel tedious and time-consuming if you have many different accounts and cards. It can bring up some uncomfortable discussions with your partner, if you have different spending habits. You might also just be avoiding it because you really just don’t want to know where your money goes to every month. Or maybe you’re like some of us and you do a budget every year or few years, but then just don’t have the time to continue to track it on an ongoing basis.
So if you’re not up for doing a complete budget but you’re feeling stressed about your finances, try instead a simpler approach to reviewing your finances at a higher level. Grab your most recent pay stub and use it to make some general estimates and to do some quick math like this:
Take Your Gross Income
- Less Your 401(k) Deductions
- Less Any Other Pre-Tax Deductions (HSAs, Medical Plan Dental Plan, Vision, Life Insurance, etc.)
- Less Federal Tax Withholding
- Less Any Other After-Tax Deductions (Supplemental Life, Stock Purchase Plan, etc.)
This is Your Estimated Taxable Income
- Less Estimated Income Tax
- Less Contributions to Any Savings Accounts
- Less Contributions to Any IRAs or Other Investment Accounts (Joint, individual, 529s, etc.)
What’s Left Here is Probably All Being Spent
Just because you don’t have a budget, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to feel guilt or anxiety about your finances. Because truth be told – It doesn’t honestly matter what you spend your money on each month. What matters most, is having a general idea for how much you’re saving and spending overall each year. These are at the core of all our financial plans that we build with our clients. How much you spend will help quantify some of your financial goals, like how much it will cost to live in retirement. How much you save across your 401(k), savings accounts, and other investment accounts can then be used to project out whether you will have enough to achieve all your goals.
We’re not saying budgeting doesn’t have its place in financial planning, but if you’re looking to take a pulse on your finances, this is one methodology for getting a general sense for how you’re doing.