We usually start the semester super focus and motivated to accomplish all of our goals. Eventually, we wind up tangled in various projects, and unexpected things happen. All of a sudden, we lose track of our initial goals.
Money is one of those things we promised to handle better. Don’t feel ashamed if you recently checked your bank account and things weren’t what you were expecting. Let me start by saying, you’re not the only one. This can happen to anyone.
Now that the first semester is over, here’s how to take a look at your budget and see whether you’re sticking to it.
What is a Mid-year Budget Check-in?
Similar to a physical check-up, a Mid-year Budget Check-in is a way of tracking your financial health to make sure you’re staying within your budget.
According to the American Psychological Association, young adults and households with below-median income reported higher levels of stress than the rest of the American population.
The good news is that tracking your finances can help reduce some financial stress. We don’t want you to worry about your finances when your academics should be your top priority. So, take some stress off your plate by staying dedicated to tracking your spending.
Why is it important?
A mid-year budget check-in is a great way to stay within the budget you created at the beginning of your first semester. With the check-in, you’ll be able to determine what needs to change or stay the same to maintain healthy finances.
It will also give you some perspective on expenses you’re over-spending on (ex: If you’re spending too much money on weekly groceries). Ultimately, it will potentially encourage you to save more money, or at least become more aware of what you’re spending.
Keeping your budget on track is important, and a mid-year budget helps you do so. Here’s the best way to check-in on your spending habits:
1. Assess your budget
Monthly bank statements are the best way to track where your money is going. That’s where you’ll see every transaction broken down into real-time.
Every month your bank will send you a summary. If you have your bank statements set up as a hardcopy version, you’ll probably get it in the mail. However, if you think an electronic version will encourage you to track your expenses more, switch to electronic statements.
You can assess your budget by gathering each bank statement from your entire first semester. Doing so will allow you to draw a clear line between which expenses can stay and which ones need to go.
Maybe consider highlighting “Good expenses” and “Bad expenses.” After assessing your budget, you’ll have an idea of where the problem (if any) derivatives from.
It’s time to highlight anything that was detrimental to your savings and initial budget. Which brings us to our next tip:
2. Highlight unnecessary expenses
What’s causing the problem? Too many nights out? Too many subscriptions? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This happens to the best of us. Moving forward, you can take the right steps into gaining full control of your budget, and that’s all that matters.
Start by asking yourself, “Do I need three different streaming services?”
If you answer no, get rid of at least one service. Your bank account will thank you later.
It’s important that you are completely honest with yourself when highlighting excessive expenses. Listen to your gut and get rid of anything that’s negatively affected your initial budget.
3. Develop a new financial plan (If necessary)
If, after assessing your budget, you determined that you’re still within your budget, congrats. You should give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
However, if this isn’t your case, it’s okay. By doing your research on how to get better, you’re already making progress. At this point, starting from zero is a good idea. Reorganize your finances using the previously discussed tips as a guide. Set a new budget with new expectations and restrictions.
There are numerous techniques you can test and play around with to start this new journey. We put together three techniques that can help you.
Banks like Chase have introduced new features to help their clients save money. One of these features is Autosave, which allows you to save money through customizable rules.
You get to choose how much money you want to save and when. You can (quite literally) save as little as $1 a day. Autosave is a great way to stack up some money without having to think about it twice.
Essentially, you automatically transfer money from your checking to your savings account. With this feature, you can save a good amount of money in little to no time.
Set up weekly allowances
Similar to the autosave feature, you can develop a system where you allow yourself to spend a certain amount of money per week. It can be any amount you want; you’ll just need to restrict yourself from using more than the amount you set up.
Start a new habit
Make checking your budget your new habit. You can choose a day or multiple days a month where you sit down and evaluate where your money is going. It probably won’t take longer than an hour, and after you’re done, you’ll know which expenses you need to cut back on. Before you know it, your new habit will positively reflect on your bank account.
It’s no surprise that affording college or higher education isn’t easy. With the rising cost of school and room and board, it might feel overwhelming.
Having a mid-year budget check-in can positively impact your life during and after college. A great check-in example would be developing a budgeting habit and potentially saving more than predicted. It could help you pay off your current loan interest rate and/or go towards a savings account for life after college.
A budget check-in can make a huge difference in your financial health. Give this a try and evaluate if your budget stayed the same or was positively impacted after doing so.
Let us know if your budget check-in motivated you to stay on track this semester!