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Key Questions to Ask When Reviewing Your Budget

BY: Guest | Category: Finance | Post Date: 2010-01-26

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Just because you have a family budget doesn't mean that it is helping you. Many families create a budget, save it on their computer, and then only revisit it when something catastrophic happens. In reality, a budget is a living document that should bend and flex depending on your life situation. When you get a raise, start a new hobby, have kids, move, get a new car, or change jobs, you should review your budget. However, you should also review your budget based on your actual expenditures every few months, just to make sure that you are following the budget. Here are a few key questions you should ask to make the process easier.

What were my expenses?

This will help you get an accurate picture of where you stand. You can do this through going through your credit card bills, receipts, and bank statement. Each of these documents gives you key information regarding where all the money goes. Without this starting place, it is nearly impossible to cut down on your expenses, because you don't know where you are spending your money in the first place! If you prefer to use a computer program to help you, Quicken is great. Otherwise, you can make a basic form on Excel or just use a pad of paper and a calculator.

What purpose does this serve?

Look at each of your categories. Remind yourself why that category exists. If your 'Housing' category's purpose is to give you a place to lay your head, then you might want to move the decorating expenses to your 'entertainment' category.

Can I reduce my activity?

Question the necessity of every transaction. Did you really need that candy bar at the movies? Probably not. If you want it anyway, you can buy one cheaper at a drug store. If you find a lot of transactions in the 'health' category, consider the reasons why you went into the doctor. Many minor injuries and illnesses that can be treated with basic first aide are taken to the doctor's office. If your health insurance company has an advice line, make sure to call it before going to the doctor's office.

Can I find cheaper service providers?

Just because you have been with the same company for years, doesn't mean they have the best price for what you are looking for. Shop around by browsing the internet or calling companies directly. Once you find a few good prices, give your current provider a call and see if they would be willing to reduce your current rate in order to keep you as a client.

If you are finding a lot of purchases on your bills for material possessions, ask these two questions before you buy anything else:

Can this be borrowed?

If you are looking for something that will only be used for a short time (such as kids' clothing or toys), ask some friends or family if they have anything that you can borrow. A lot of families have a few boxes in storage that they will likely never use again. If you are going to buy something (like a kitchen appliance or supplies for a new hobby), do likewise. You don't want to invest a bunch of money in something that you'll discover a few weeks later that you don't enjoy anyway.

Can I find it at a thrift store or garage sale?

If you are willing to put in a few hours a month to find good deals, thrift stores and garage sales are a great place to find bargains. Keep an eye out for three things: (1) Items you need, (2) Items you can sell online for more money, and (3) Items that a friend might like as a gift.

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