Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coming up with a new budget fast

We all think we'd manage our family money better if we had time to sit down and figure out how.

But, at Tuesday's news of another 10,000 General Motors workers hitting the unemployment line underscores, time can be as tight as money in the current economy. Sometimes you need to come up with new numbers fast. You don't need to lose a job to do it. You may only want to get a firmer grip.

Guest blogger Erica Douglass at Get Rich Slowly recently posted a 10-minute plan for wrangling your household budget into submission. It also reminded me of things that some Kansas City area financial planners shared with readers of The Kansas City Star's old Moneywise section, when we asked them how average folks could tune up their finances in just a couple hours.
  • Start with broad numbers and don't try to fine-tune them, said financial planner Sandi Weaver in Prairie Village. First, check how much emergency savings you have and how comfortable you are with that amount. Next, check your retirement savings, college funds and other big expenses you anticipate. Checking amounts against your comfort level will point out your priorities, Weaver said.
  • If you aren't already tracking expenses, pull together a few months of check stubs, credit card receipts, pay stubs and other records to see where your money goes, suggested Jeff Sheets, then with Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Kansas City. It may be an eye-opener.
  • Divide those expenses into three categories - fixed expenses you have to pay, such as rent or mortgage; variable expenses you also must pay, such as utilities, and discretionary expenses, which could be used for something else, suggested Stewart Koesten of KHC Wealth Management in Overland Park. Measure those against income, then decide what to cut, Koesten said.
  • Re-examine your insurance coverage too, added Leon Torkelson, a financial planner and insurance specialist in Atchison, Kan. That seems like a lot of ground to cover, but the key question is whether the policies protect you from financial losses that would be devastating if you had to pay.

No comments: