Unless you're Mackenzie Bezos or her soon to be ex-husband Jeff, chances are you budget your money. You know how much of your monthly income you want to spend on groceries, rent, and leisure, and maybe you even put a portion of each paycheck in savings. But what about budgeting for a specific goal? Is it a short term or long term goal? What are the best tools for both?
Identify Your Financial Goals
Your first step should be identifying the kind of financial goal you're trying to reach. Some examples of short term goals are things like: payments toward rent, insurance or student loans, expensive personal items (new car, new fur coat etc.), travel, a wedding or other event, and home repairs/remodels. These goals are more immediate expenses that you will pay in a matter of months and often require a set amount of money up front. In contrast, long term goals are less likely to have a set amount and more likely to be things that you'd like to continue to expand indefinitely, such as retirement funds or college funds. (Of course, things like paying off a loan or a house are a combination of long and short term goals, since a single loan payment falls under short term goals, while paying off the entirety of a loan is more likely to be a long term goal).
Prioritize Your Financial Goals
The next step is prioritizing your goals. As Nerd Wallet puts it, "Work your goals around your usual expenses, focusing on needs like food and shelter first. Emergency and retirement funds are also high priority; contribute to these funds and pay off debt next. Then you can decide how to allocate the rest of your money toward your wants and other savings goals." Essentially, if you only have a small amount of leftover money each month, you shouldn't put it all towards buying a boat if you have student loans to pay off.
How to Create Your Budget
First, if you don't already have one, budget your necessary monthly expenses as precisely as possible. These necessary expenses include paying for food, living expenses, transportation, and recreation. Try to work out how much you spend on these things in an average month, and then consider if there are any areas you could cut down without great personal cost, such as eating out one less time a week. Once you have this basic budget established, create a timeline for your short and long term goals. To do this, you can use this 50/30/20 budget calculator to determine where exactly your money should go.
After you have a plan laid out, all that's left is actually sticking to the budget you created for yourself, and then you can watch your goals get closer and closer to fruition!