During this time of uncertainty, it’s important to know what resources and strategies can be used to manage financially. One strategy is to create a spending plan. If you haven’t created a spending plan, now is a great time to start. A spending plan is made up of five major pieces: goals, fixed expenses, flexible expenses, occasional expenses, and income.
First, think about your financial goals. What goals do you have for the next few months? Or the next few years? Knowing your goals will help keep you on track. Next, find a way that works for you to track your spending. It’s important to know how much money is being spent and where it is going. Then, figure out your expenses. Fixed expenses generally do not change from month to month, this might include savings (pay yourself first!), rent or a car payment. Flexible expenses may vary from month to month, which include things like money spent on food both at and away from home, or gas for the car. Occasional expenses do not occur monthly and include things like buying a gift or a maintenance repair. Don’t forget about creating an emergency fund. Paying yourself first (saving money) in the fixed expenses category is one way to help build an emergency fund. Emergency funds help cover unexpected costs, and the goal is to create a fund that will cover at least 1 to 3 months fixed expenses and other basic needs. Even a small emergency fund is better than none at all.
Once you have worked your way through all the monthly expenses, look at your goals. Do you want to pay off credit card debt? Save for a down payment? If possible, work those goals into the spending plan. Finally, add up all take-home income. Now, write down the take-home income total and subtract out all expenses, including fixed, flexible, occasional, emergency funds, and goals. What is the difference between the two? The goal is for income to equal or be greater than expenses. If expenses are greater, what can be done? There are a few options: increase income, decrease expenses, catch spending leaks, or all three. Spending leaks include things like impulse buys – buying coffee out instead of making it at home, or purchasing an unnecessary item while browsing online. By catching these leaks, money can be moved to other areas where it is more needed.
There is no doubt that many are facing difficult circumstances right now. If you have a financial question, consider submitting it anonymously through Ohio State Extension’s financial assistance survey. Our county-based Family and Consumer Sciences Extension financial educators are offering FREE financial education to assist in improving both present and future economic well-being. Anyone may submit anonymous questions, and a professional will respond through email. To submit a question, visit go.osu.edu/FinancialAssistance.
You are also invited to join Wayne County Extension Family and Consumer Sciences online office hours! We plan to hold online office hours tomorrow, Wednesday, April 29th from 11am to noon. This is a reoccurring event every Wednesday at 11am through the end of May – feel welcome to attend one, or all! This week we will cover topics like those in this article, and other matters you may want to discuss, like food safety during COVID-19 or home food preservation. To register for this FREE online event, please visit go.osu.edu/waynefcsofficehours.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.