Pounds & Pennies for Things You Love Most
“Budgeting isn’t about limiting yourself – it’s about making the things that excite you possible.”
Things are a little tight financially, but aren’t they always? Whenever we hear about the economy, it’s like a yo-yo. Interest rate hikes, bearish stock market, inflation, rising unemployment and so forth – how to make heads or tails of it?
We need to establish a financial plan to pay for goods and services we need and want. That means we need a budget. Today, we’re going to delve into budgets and how they work. It’s possible to make accommodations for your favorite pastimes if you follow these steps to setting a budget.
There are a zillion articles on budgets, but this one is about budgeting for the fun stuff. So, let’s get started, folks!
Back to Basics: What Exactly is a Budget?
First, let’s figure out what a budget is. A budget is more than a tool to track your income and expenses so that you can make informed financial decisions. It’s essentially a road map for your money.
Creating and following a budget can help you achieve your financial goals, whether it’s saving for a rainy day fund or taking that dream vacation. A budget can also help you curb overspending and get out of debt.
There are different budgets, but the most common is the 50/30/20 rule budget. This type of budget allocates 50% of your after-tax income to essentials like housing, food and transportation; 30% to wants like entertainment and travel (the movies, casino games, eating out, ice skating, staycations, getaways, tours, etcetera); and 20% to savings and debt repayment.
Understanding the difference between needs and wants is key to making this work. Needs are items or services you cannot live without, such as shelter, food and clothing. Wants are items or services that improve your quality of life but are not essential, such as cable TV, online gaming or dining out.
Once you know the difference between needs and wants, you can start setting some limits on your spending. That leads us nicely into our fun case study.
Case Study: Setting A Live Blackjack Budget
Know your spending limits
The first step is to get an idea of how much you can afford to spend on live blackjack games without putting yourself in financial jeopardy. This will require some soul-searching and number-crunching.
To get started, list all your current monthly expenses, including mortgage or rent payments, car payments, insurance premiums, credit card bills, student loan payments, child care expenses and other recurring costs.
Then add up all these expenses to get your total monthly outlay. Once you know your total monthly expenditures, you can start thinking about how much wiggle room you have in your budget for discretionary items like blackjack games.
A good rule is not spending more than 10% of your after-tax income on discretionary items each month. So, if your after-tax monthly income is GBP3,000, you shouldn’t spend more than GBP300 per month on entertainment, eating out or gambling.
Determine how often you want to play blackjack
Now that you know how much you can realistically afford to spend on blackjack each month, it’s time to figure out how often you want to play. Do you want to play blackjack once a week? Twice a month? Once a month? It’s important to be realistic here because if you set unrealistic goals, it will only lead to frustration later on when you can’t stick to them.
Suppose you determine that playing blackjack once a week is feasible, given your budget constraints. That means throughout four weeks, you would have four opportunities to play blackjack and need to budget accordingly. The smart players practice playing blackjack for free to avoid any unnecessary expense associated with the blackjack learning curve.
Know Your Limits
The first step in setting any limit is knowing how much money you have each month (your income) and going out (your expenses). This will give you a good starting point for creating a budget that works for you. You can use something as simple as a pen and paper or Excel spreadsheet to track your income and expenses, or there are many free personal finance apps available that can do it for you automatically.
Determine Your Priorities
Once you know where your money is going each month, it’s time to take a closer look at your spending habits and determine what’s important to you. For example, do you want to save up for a down payment on a house? Or pay off credit card debt? Maybe you want to go on an annual vacation or save money for retirement? Whatever your priorities are, make sure they align with your overall financial goals. Then, allocate funds in your budget accordingly.
Set Spending Limits
Now that you know where your money is going each month and what’s important to you financially, it’s time to set some limits on your spending. One way to do this is by giving yourself a weekly or monthly allowance for discretionary spending – fun money! – then sticking to it. Another option is to track all of your spending for 30 days so you can accurately see where every pound goes. This will help you identify areas where you may be able to cut back, such as eating out or shopping impulsively.
Adjust as Required
Creating a budget doesn’t mean it will be perfect from the start. Life happens, and things may throw off even the best-laid plans. If this happens, don’t beat yourself up – just adjust accordingly and move on. Also, remember that further adjustments may be needed based on what you’re trying to do.
There are also budgets within budgets. For example, if you allocate X amount to entertainment, you will have to divvy up that budget to satisfy your entertainment requirements. Going on vacation (food, travel, shows, activities, clubs, etcetera) is a classic case.
Enjoy your discretionary spending, folks!