Most people know that the best way to control their finances is to establish and maintain a budget. If you do not, however, you may be surprised how much of your money slips through your fingers.
One of the first things a financial planner will do with you is layout a comprehensive budget based on income and expenses, trying to expose the net income and what kind of leaks your spending might have. Many people already know which things they are currently buying that they probably shouldn’t but these numbers are more than revealing on an individual basis. As a matter of fact, the trends they expose tell us a lot about the culture in which we live. As understandable as many of these statistics might be, they are still quite alarming at first glance.
A new report shows exactly what consumers might expect to pay in discretionary purchases, especially things that you probably don’t need to be spending your money on in the first place. Cigarettes, for example, are one of the leading causes of budget-leaks (not to mention health concerns) in the country. On average, smokers spend nearly 15% of their incomes on the habit. This equates to one-seventh of total income (and yes, that’s a very large number).
In New York State, which charges some of the heaviest tobacco levies in the country, the average pack of cigarettes is now $10.14. At the other end of the spectrum, the lowest average price of cigarettes is found in Missouri, at $4.02. Nearly 40 percent of the states in the union, however, charge more than $6 per pack. This is especially interesting considering that the average taxes in New York alone are near $5 ($4.74), pricing cigarettes in some areas of New York at more than $12 for a single pack!
Smoking is only one of the many budget-leak culprits which consumers might encounter in their day-to-day lives. Fortunately there are more non-smokers than there are smokers, so not everyone falls prey to these high taxes. Still, everyone has a vice: some people spend more on clothing, electronics, food, and other commodities than others. It doesn’t matter how you spend your money, you probably know how important it is to regulate your own spending. Most everyone would benefit from some kind of budget, but not everyone knows how to implement one. Fortunately, there are many tools available to help you.
One such tool is known as the 50-30-20 rule. More of a strategy for separating your finances into easy to manage sectors, this rule is greatly advised by Elizabeth Warren. Warren is a Harvard professor but is probably better known as the creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This rule, basically, says that you should allocate 50% of your net income (after taxes) to your “needs” (living expenses such as housing, food, transportation, insurances, etc.), 30% of your net income to your “wants” (wardrobe, entertainment, dining out, travel, vacations, excursions, hobbies), and 20% of your net income to your financial security (including a savings account, stocks, investments, and holdings).
Another such system is simply known as the 60% solution. Author Richard Jenkins suggests that you devote 60% of your income to your “committed expenses.” These are things that fall under “50” in the previous system. After this, allocate 10% of income on fun (dining out, hobbies, entertainment), 10% on irregular/unexpected expenses (repairs, vacations, things that you will only purchase once in a while), 10% on saving for retirement (dispersed into investments and savings), and the final 10% on reducing debt in order to save for long-term, big-ticket items.
Furthermore, Suze Orman, financial guru and author also challenges consumers to cut everything in half. She suggests trying to live on 50% of your income for six months or more and saving or investing the other half. This challenge will expose leaks in your budget and what your absolute needs are to help you establish a better plan.