Get Your Green On

12 Months to a Better Financial Foundation—Step 6: Check your budget

Earlier this year, we walked through the steps to set up a monthly budget to help you reach your financial goals for the year. Now that we are half-way through the year, it’s time to take a step back and see if you are on track. Walk through every category of your budget to compare your actual spending with your plan. If there are areas where you are spending more than you budgeted for, can you reduce your spending in that category or shift money from one category to another?

  • Income:
    • If there have been any changes to your income, adjust your spending or savings as needed to come up with a balanced budget.
  • Essential expenses (utilities, rent/mortgage, loan payments, food, transportation, medical/dental, tuition)
    • Are these in line with the budget you created earlier in the year? Do you anticipate further changes? Adjust your budget as needed.
    • Did you or do you need to refinance any high-rate credit cards or other debts to reduce your monthly spending or pay off your debts sooner? Learn more about refinancing debt.
  • Discretionary spending (holidays, gifts, entertainment, vacation, travel):
    • Were you able to stick to your budget for discretionary spending? If your essential expenses are running higher than you budgeted, now is the time to adjust your discretionary budget number to ensure that your total spending doesn’t exceed your income.
  • Savings:
    • Hopefully, your savings account(s) are growing steadily. Even if you start slowly, getting in the habit of saving can help you reach your long-term financial goals and break the cycle of credit card spending.

Do you find you have trouble sticking to your budget? Here are some practical tips for managing your spending.

  • Have utilities and other regular expenses automatically deducted from your account. This eliminates the temptation to pay bills late or spend the money on something else. This is particularly important when paying down loans so as to avoid late fees or increased interest rates.
  • Multiple accounts: When you get paid, divide your money into multiple accounts. You might have one for essential spending and one for discretionary spending. When you’ve spent all the money in the discretionary account before your next paycheck, it’s time to stop spending.
  • Balance out your energy costs: Most utility companies allow users to average out their bills across the year, making it easier to stick to your budget and pay typically higher bills in the cold winter. Learn more on PS&E's website.
  • Save energy: Consider installing solar panels or getting a GreenUp Loan to reduce your energy consumption. Learn more.
  • Use an online budgeting app such as:
  • Switch to cash: When all else has failed, consider using cash for your discretionary spending, transportation, and grocery shopping. Once the money’s gone, you’ll have to stop spending. Have money left at the end of the month? Stick it in an envelope (or back in your account).
  • Ask your friendly member service rep! If you’re having trouble sticking to your budget or are unsure where all your money is going, contact your local branch and ask to schedule an appointment with a member service representative. They can sit down with you to review your expenses, propose options for reducing your borrowing, and help you design a more comfortable way to reach your financial goals.