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Financial Planning: Create an Honest, Realistic Budget

MP900387250The thing about a budget is that it has to work for you…or it may be more hindrance than help. There are a lot of financial planning books and online tools that can give you sample budgets and budget guidelines, but it is up to you to tailor any materials you consult to fit your lifestyle. If there are spending categories that you feel are missing, add them. And if some spending categories don’t apply to you, take them out.

Recently, McDonald’s took heat for offering what some felt was an unrealistic budget sample as an online tool to help its workers and later CNNMoney asked some actual McDonald’s workers to share their budgets. Each person had a unique situation that did not exactly fit the template. The restaurant’s sample budget included income from a second job, something that some workers don’t have for various reasons.

Whatever your opinion of McDonald’s and their efforts, the backlash serves as a lesson that people really need to engage in financial planning on a personal level. Even if the sample was not realistic, just seeing it might have been a wake up call for some. The fact that they included a daily spending money goal might have caused some to consider what they spend each day. Many of us just spend money each day as we see fit without thinking.

Some of create our own budgets and leave off certain things that we don’t want to think about. Influenced by something we’ve read, we may create a budget that only includes necessities, ignoring our tendency to peruse sales and pick up a few non-essential things or spend a lot on entertainment. Pretending that we don’t spend the money we do will not help us plan adequately for the future.

If you need someone to help you be more accountable and are looking for expert advice, get in touch with a Fee-Only financial planner.