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Budget Check-In

Published Sept. 2, 2016

No matter how good your intentions are, budgets can change. You can plan everything out but sometimes expenses arise and circumstances are different. Or maybe (hopefully) you don’t spend as much as you were planning and have extra money you might be able to save or use to pay down debt.

As proactive and diligent as you should be with your initial budgeting process, you should never disregard how well a 5-minute budget check-in can keep you on your financial track.


Not only will it help you adhere to your goals during the month, it helps you stay on top of your financial future. This check-in shouldn’t replace your monthly budgeting process, but it helps you know where you are throughout the month.

There is no need to look at how much you have spent in each category in the previous weeks of the month. This check-in is supposed to be forward looking and if you start analyzing your past spending, the task will take much longer.

#1. Determine How Much Money You Have Available: This is as simple as looking in your checking account and/or seeing how much cash you have.

#2. List Out Upcoming Bills (Phone, Mortgage/Rent, Water) & Expenses (Food, Gas, Events): What do you have coming up before the end of the month? How much and when? This is the longest part of your 5-minute budget check-in. The better you understand your upcoming expenses, how much a gas fill-up costs, and what your pantry is looking like (and therefore how big your next grocery trip will be!), the easier this process will be.

#3. How Much Are You Over-Allocated or How Much Do You Have Left? Using the money you have left compared against your upcoming expenses, see if you have extra money or not enough to finish out the month. To see if your budget is on track in general, compare your new leftover number to what you had projected at the beginning of the month.

#4. Adjust Projected Spending & Savings Based On What You Have Available: If you suddenly realize you have an extra $100, you can plan to put that extra in savings or towards a retirement account. Or if you found that your leftover money is $100 beneath what you projected at the beginning of the month, then you need to look at the opportunities to cut expenses.

More Info: The first category that may be best to trim down would be entertainment and food. Both can get expensive but both have options that are either inexpensive or free to take advantage of.

It’s important to remember this is your budget and you have the ultimate say in changes - not all adjustments have to be made because of bad spending habits.

On a weekly basis, some of those minor adjustments may not move the needle that much. But this way, if you start over-or under-pacing your budget, you’ll know sooner rather than later and can always adjust discretionary expenses on the fly.

Spend too much on food one week that puts you on pace to spend $50 more than you thought during the month? Well now you know and can adjust how much you should be spending for the rest of the month.

Have extra? Instead of spending it you can plan to put it in savings. Perhaps a doctor’s appointment or home improvement expenses were $100 less than what you planned for. Well, the weekly check-in can let you know where you’re at so you can potentially put that money towards debt or your savings.

You shouldn’t go a full month without knowing where your finances are netting out versus what you planned. After all, being proactive helps you get ahead with your budget and its one of the best steps to gain control of your finances.

Further Reading: For more information about how Meriwest can help you with budgeting, please contact us or visit our website.

The preceding information was repurposed from Money Smart Guides.

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