Give Yourself a Budget Check-Up!

01 April 2015

April is National Financial Literacy Month

What if someone handed you a million dollars and told you that you could do whatever you wanted with it-- no strings attached.  Would you purchase a house? Put it in a retirement account? Buy that fancy sports car you’ve always dreamed of? Give half of it away to your favorite nonprofit and invest the rest?  So many possibilities!

Except that someone isn’t giving you a million dollars.  And, yet you still have to have a place to live, and a reliable car to get you to and from work.  Not only that, but you want a college degree for your kids, and you don’t want to rely solely on social security in your retirement years. 

Since April is National Financial Literacy Month, why not take the opportunity to check in with your personal finances?  Here’s a list of 5 steps you can and should take to make sure you are on the right track to financial stability:

  1. Review your family budget.  See what has changed—has your cable bill gone up? Are your kids now renting a school instrument?  Has your phone plan changed?  Budgets often change based on personal circumstances.  If you said, “I don’t need to follow step one because I don’t have a written budget”, then proceed to step 2. 

  2. Create a family budget.  Using your favorite spreadsheet (mine is Google Spreadsheet because it follows me wherever I go), make a list of income, expenses, and debt/obligations.  Categories include monthly expenses like rent or mortgage/taxes/homeowners’ insurance, utilities, groceries and household supplies, pet supplies, auto payments, entertainment, and other expenses.  Don’t forget yearly expenses that often come at a less than ideal time, such as semi-annual car insurance payments, registration, and inspection, wood or oil delivery, veterinary visits, summer camps for the kids, or car repairs.  For an example of a budget template, go to this link:

  3. Open a Retirement Account.  If your workplace has a retirement plan, make sure to take advantage of it.  Many plans now offer Roth contributions (after tax) so that you won’t have to pay tax on your withdrawals during your retirement years.  Strive for 10% of your salary.  Can’t do 10%?  Then do 5%, or at least the amount that will be matched by your employer.  But do some amount and start!

  4. Open a Retirement Account.  Wait. Didn’t I just say that?  I’ll say it again—the earlier you start saving, the more your money will grow, and the better off you will be.  Your workplace doesn’t offer a retirement plan?  The MyRA might be a great option to get you started.  A program of the federal government, the MyRA is an easy, no-fee, federally insured retirement account to help kick-start a retirement nest egg.   If your employer offers direct deposit, you can ask them to direct deposit as little as $5 per paycheck into your MyRA account.  Go to for more information. 

  5. Save $500 for an emergency.  We know it’s nearly impossible for most of us to set aside the recommended 3-6 months’ worth of income in the event of a job loss; setting aside around $50 per month in a savings account will go a long way to helping you avoid a financial pitfall like a car repair or a broken washing machine. 


    There’s lots more you can do to ensure that you are on the right track to a sound financial future.  If you’d like a free and confidential budget consultation with a Capstone financial coach, call me, Liz Scharf, at 477-5215 or send me an email at



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