The importance of making and sticking to a budget cannot be overemphasized, says TCU’s Director of Financial Wellness and Wellbeing Jeff Sobieralski. A budget helps you identify your long-term goals, work toward financial security and build wealth.
“If you just drift aimlessly, how will you ever save up enough money to buy a car or put a down payment on a house?,” Sobieralski said. “A budget forces you to map out your goals, save your money and keep track of your progress.”
Many free budgeting tools are available to help you manage your finances, including the apps Mint and BudgetGuard. TCU also offers a household budgeting calculator that can help you run the numbers.
If you’ve had difficulty budgeting your money in the past, you may need some patience and perseverance.
“A budget is a lot like learning how to walk,” Sobieralski said. “If you fall, get back up and try again. It may seem like it's a lot of work to start, but before you know it, it will be second nature.”
Sobieralski is a fan of tricking himself into saving money, acknowledging that even the most priority-minded people can stumble. His favorite mental override to cut useless spending and shuttle away more savings is the zero-sum budget — which forces him to hide money from himself every month.
The central concept of a zero-based budget is to set up multiple savings accounts and assign a dollar amount you owe to each account every month, like a bill you pay to yourself.
“Think of an expense as absolutely anything you put money toward, whether it’s bills, savings or investments,” Sobieralski says. “At the end of the month, there should be zero unspent or unassigned money remaining in your budget.”
He says if you name one savings account “vacation” and another “emergency,” your mind will treat those accounts as such, and it’s easier to stay on track. It’s a tool that helps him save in other ways too.
“My wife and I have an account identified for insurance,” he says. “When we pay our premium upfront for the entire year, instead of monthly, it’s saving we put toward other expenses.”
And he recommends automating savings. TCU’s Mobile App and Online Banking lets members regularly transfer money to a savings account (Primary Share Savings, Choice Savings or Premium Money Market) from another eligible account such as a checking account.
Instead of waiting to put money into savings until after you pay your bills every month — Sobieralski says automatic transfers allows members to save money first.
To schedule automatic transfers from TCU’s Mobile App and Online Banking, go to “Transfer Money Now.” Select “From Account” and “To Account” and choose the “Frequency” (1st of the month, last day of the month, every other week and so on).
Sobieralski advises scheduling transfers when you know you have enough money in the originating account, such as after each payday.
Members can adjust transfers at any time, but Sobieralski says if you stay the course, you can see big rewards over time. For example, if you save $58 a week, in one year you would have $3,000 saved, which could be enough for a down payment on a car, a home repair or a vacation.
Jeff Sobieralski is TCU’s Director of Financial Wellness and Wellbeing. With 15 years of experience in retail banking, Sobieralski uses his expert knowledge to help members understand and use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting and investing.
This article is for educational purposes only and doesn’t constitute tax, legal or accounting advice. The following is general information, not recommendations. Please consult with an attorney or tax professional for guidance.