- How to Stick to a Budget
- For a Budget That Works, Get Control of Your Debt
- What Do Average Families Spend?
- Balancing Your Budget in the Big City
- Income Dropped? Expenses Have to Drop, Too
- How to Beat "Frugal Fatigue"
- Fast Ways to Cut Cable, Cell Bills
- What to Do with an Extra $5,000 a Month
- Planning a Family? How to Prepare Financially
- Facing a Layoff? Rule #1: Conserve Cash
- Living Paycheck to Paycheck? Knock It Off
- Why Your Budget Doesn't Work
Why Your Budget Doesn’t Work
Q: My husband and I have not had any credit cards for almost ten years. We just paid off our vehicle with his retirement account. We now owe only for our home. We have no other debt except utilities. I draw a disability check each month, and I keep thinking that we should be able to save, but we have been unable to. We are not extravagant, by any means—we rarely go out to dinner or the movies. What are we doing wrong?
A: Well, for one thing, you drained a retirement account to pay off debt. That’s extremely shortsighted because you incurred unnecessary taxes and perhaps penalties to tap money that should have been left alone to grow.
What’s probably happening is that you’re waiting to save until you’ve paid all your other expenses. That rarely works because expenses have a mysterious way of rising to meet your income.
You need to turn your priorities around and save first—take something out of every paycheck or other money that comes your way.
The best way to do that is to put your savings on automatic so that the money is swept out of your checking account into a high-yield savings account. If you have to make a decision each paycheck to save, you’ll typically find other things to do with that money.
If you try that and find yourself still falling short, your fixed expenses may be out of whack. Often when people aren’t extravagant but still have trouble saving, the reason is a home or a car that’s eating up too much of their incomes. If you’re spending much more than 25% of your gross income on housing or 10% on your car, you may find that you have trouble making ends meet.