A budget is a guide that helps you develop healthy financial habits by increasing your awareness of where your money is going and how much you are saving. It’s important to develop a budget early on as part of a strong financial foundation. It’s a common misconception that budgeting gets easier when you have more money. As the rapper Notorious B.I.G. famously said, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” Why is it important to consider these budgeting tips while you’re in training?
A budget will help you develop habits of saving, even if it is as little as $20 a month in the beginning. It is important to know your cash flow. No matter where you are in your career your cash flow is key. Though managing your finances can be time-consuming and stressful to think about, ignoring them won’t make your financial situation any better. Developing a habit of reviewing and updating your finances on a yearly basis can allow you to keep your cash flow in check.
A budget will also help you answer these three questions: Where is your money going? Is it going where you want it to go? What changes need to be made?
Even though you will make more money when you’re finished with your medical training, your budget items will stay the same. Your budget items may increase in size, but whether you take $200 vacations or $20,000 vacations, you still need to be able to account for that money. Check out our related blogs for the financial stages and important money decisions for physicians and dentists.
You probably spend more than $100 a month on food. Be honest. We all wish our eating habits fit in the McDonald’s dollar menu price, but let’s face it, Dollar menu prices are not realistic.
Be as thorough as you can, but no need to stiff your waiter because you’ll go $1.13 over your dining out budget. A budget is a close estimate of your expenses because you can't predict every cost. Take utilities, for example, utility costs such as water, electricity, and gas, tend to fluctuate depending on the outside temperature and need for heat or air conditioning, therefore an estimate or average of those costs would suffice.
If you have $100 leftover every month, put that money in your Emergency Fund first. Splurging on a fancy dinner or shopping spree with the leftover $100 will not allow you to save for emergencies. You never know when you might get in a car accident or need to pay for a new phone because you dropped yours in a pool.
It’s not big adjustments to your budget, but minor tweaks, that account for getting your spending back on track. Smaller tweaks are easier to maintain and add up quickly. Adding half to one more percent of your salary to your 401(k) every month would be a minor tweak and you would barely notice it was missing from your paycheck.
Budgeting is easier than you think. 80% of your budget consists of fixed expenses. It’s the other 20% that makes budgeting seem difficult. To start on your budget, begin by writing down your fixed expenses since these are the easiest to identify. Some examples of fixed expenses are car payments, mortgage/rent, cell phone, savings, and security systems. After you write down your fixed expenses, work on your variable expenses. Groceries, for example, are a variable expense.
Still need help creating your budget? Spaugh Dameron Tenny is happy to help. Contact us to schedule an introductory call to go over your budget.
John Dameron has been a financial planner and partner with Spaugh Dameron Tenny since 2002. With the help of the SDT team, John created a lecture series called Physicians Financial Focus, authored a book entitled The Residents and Fellows Financial Survival Guide, and has coached hundreds of physicians from residency/fellowship into practice. His expertise has also been featured on KevinMD.
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