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How to Budget Using the 50/20/30 Rule

April 24, 2017

One of the first steps to financial success is learning how to budget and sticking with it. Setting up a budget provides visibility and control over personal finances, allowing individuals to track how much they are spending and where and helping them avoid frivolous spending by staying within set limits. However, traditional budgets are not for everyone and for young professionals at the beginning of their financial journeys or business owners and freelancers who might have irregular incomes, sticking to a complex budget may be difficult. Fortunately, there is a different approach to budgeting that is more flexible and easy to use — the 50/20/30 budget.

 

This budgeting system is perfect for people who think they are “bad” at budgeting because it does not require meticulous record-keeping or maintenance. Instead, it is simple and less stringent, and can really work where traditional budgets have failed. The 50/20/30 budget works on a percentage system, with 50 percent of total income going toward paying fixed expenses, 20 percent is allocated to savings or other financial goals, and the remaining 30 percent is flexible spending money. Let us break it down a little further:

 

50% – Fixed Expenses/Essentials

 

Instead of allocating money into dozens of different categories as one would in a traditional budget, a 50/20/30 budget only has three categories. The first, and largest, is fixed expenses or essentials. These expenses are the things that take precedence over all other expenses, as they are the things you cannot live without. These include rent or mortgage payments, insurance, utilities, auto or education loan payments, and anything else you consider essential.

 

Groceries are essential expenses as you cannot live without food, but because buying groceries is a variable and not a fixed expense, it can fall under the essentials category or the 30 percent flexible spending category — this is completely up to you.

 

20% – Savings/Financial Goals

 

Remember the financial goals you set last month? This is where they will go. Money that goes to this category is for saving or investing. Whether you are saving to build an emergency fund, putting back money for retirement, or trying to pay off your student loans or credit card debt faster, 20 percent of your take-home pay should be allocated to this category.

 

30% – Discretionary Spending

 

Here is the fun part — the remaining 30 percent of your income is for flexible or “lifestyle” spending. These are things that are not necessarily needed, including travel, clothing, eating out, entertainment, gifts, and anything else on which you enjoy spending money. This percentage is intended to make life fun; however, if you find yourself needing to cut back on spending, this category should be the first to go.

 

The Perfect Budget for People Who Need Flexibility

 

One of the greatest benefits of the 50/20/30 system is flexibility. If you are at a time in your life when you want to achieve a financial goal, such as buying a home or paying down debt faster, you can adjust the percentages you allocate to each category. For example, if you total the costs of your fixed expenses and they equal 53 percent of your total income, you can adjust your discretionary spending category to equal 27 percent each month. It is all about what works for you and your particular financial situation. If you are notoriously “bad at budgeting,” and you have only tried traditional methods, this may be the right method for you.

 

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Closeup of graduated college student counting money
2019-11-05
10 Ways to Save Money After Graduation

If you’re just graduating from college, the job market is an unfriendly one. It seems like every job post wants 5 years of experience, a Master’s degree, and pays just $28,000/year. As if you don’t have enough to worry about, you can’t seem to get away from the advice about saving for retirement and the value of buying a house over renting. How are you supposed to do either on a $28,000 salary and a bucket of student loans that coast at least that much? You have to get creative with your savings. To kickstart your thinking, here is ELFI’s list of 10 creative ways to save money after graduation.   When it comes to saving money after graduation, there are two methods: save more of what you make and decrease spending. Find what works for you based on your bills and habits. Also, don’t feel like you have to follow all 10 tips. Implementing even one of these tricks for saving money after graduation can help you be more financially savvy.   

1. Use Direct Deposit to Save 10%

Direct deposit isn’t just for eliminating a paper paycheck. It can also be your best friend for saving money after graduation if you request to have your employer automatically send 10% of every paycheck to a separate savings account. On that $28,000 salary, you could save $2,800 a year, which is only about $110 per paycheck. If you set this up as soon as you start that first job, you will never miss the extra money. If you already have a job, it’s never too late to set up a “rainy day” fund.   

2. Install “Round-Up” Apps

The same way your grocery store clerk asks you to round up to the nearest dollar for charity, you can use round-up platforms like
Acorns to set aside leftover change from purchases you make. With the Acorns debit card, the spare change from each purchase is placed in an investment account of your choosing. And when you shop via the Acorns app or Chrome Extension at 350+ retail partners, a percentage of your total purchase is contributed toward your investment accounts.  

3. Negotiate Bills & Eliminate Unused Subscriptions

You likely have a dozen or more automatic monthly payments coming out of your checking account or linked to a credit card. Some banks or apps like Truebill and Trim can help you find and cancel subscriptions that are unused or that you forgot you signed up for in the first place. These apps can also help you negotiate some services like your cable and internet or even your cell phone bill to help you get lower monthly rates.  

4. Make New Rules for Eating Out

From coffee runs and grab-and-go lunches to happy hours and GrubHub deliveries, millennials eat out an average of five times a week. If you can eliminate just one of these outings, you can save a minimum of $5/week (that’s $260/year). Try setting unwritten rules for yourself—or if you’re a “write down your goals” person, use a dry erase marker and your bathroom mirror. Try rules like only eating out only on Fridays and Saturdays. Or only eating out only with friends. You can even make weekly cash-only envelopes, and when you’ve run out of dollars, you have to eat in for the rest of the week.  

5. Make New Rules for Eating In

Sometimes, splurging on fancy groceries makes eating at home feel more fun. But you have to be careful at the grocery store or your bill can end up just as expensive as all those meals out. Consider rules for eating in, like Meatless Mondays. By eliminating costly animal-based proteins just one day a week, you can help save the planet and save money after graduation.  

6. Keep Impulse Buys Out of Your Cart

Do you always find yourself tossing extra items into your cart at the store? There are several tricks to avoid impulse buys to save money. The first, and easiest, is to never shop hungry. This keeps those extra tasty, and rarely healthy, items out of your shopping cart. Also, consider only shopping online. This helps you keep to your list. You can clearly review your cart before checkout, and you don’t have to feel guilty for making employees restock your regret items.  

7. Wait 24 – 48 hours Before Hitting the Checkout Button

Shopping online has many perks. The excitement of variety and good deals can hook even the savviest of shoppers, but practicing restraint and making yourself wait 24 to 48 hours before finalizing online orders can do wonders for your money-saving efforts. After a day or two, you can really think about if you “want it” or if you “need it.”  

8. Don’t Buy Anything New

Our eighth way to save money after graduating from college is to go retro and buy everything used. Buying second-hand isn’t what it used to be. In the past, shoppers had to roll the dice at garage sales or Goodwill stores, but in the days of Craigslist, Next Door, and Facebook Marketplace, you can be picky about your second-hand items. If you have patience, you can find everything practical like dishes and clothes, as well as everything unpractical like skis and AirPods.   

9. Freeze Your Credit Cards, Literally

Another “old school” method of saving is to freeze your credit cards...in a block of ice. You might not literally need to freeze your cards, but putting them in an inaccessible place or by simply not having credit cards, you keep yourself from racking up debt that comes with costly interest rates. Keeping yourself on a cash-only system will limit you to using money that’s truly yours. In case of emergencies, there’s always hot water.  

10. Refinance Your Student Loans

We can’t end this list about saving money after college without advocating for recent grads to consolidate or refinance their student loans. Student loan refinancing is the process of consolidating your loans (you can consolidate federal loans, private loans, or both) and obtaining a new loan at a new interest rate. People typically refinance with the goal of obtaining a lower interest rate or lowering their monthly payments to make paying their loan more manageable. Keep in mind that when you consolidate federal loans, you’ll lose access to certain benefits and protections such as income-driven payment plans.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
Woman holding a smartphone
2019-10-15
Best Apps for Budgeting in College

Managing money is hard, but budgeting in college? That’s a whole different ballgame. For a lot of students, you have so much to worry about with classes, work, and other involvements that finances often slip your mind. So how do you hold yourself to a budget when you can barely remember to feed yourself dinner? Luckily, we live in an age full of apps to help you get a jumpstart on budgeting and money management. Here are a few of our favorites.   Mint®. Mint is a free mobile app where you can view all of your banking accounts in the same place. It automatically updates and puts your transactions into categories so you can see where all your money is going - and where it’s coming from. It also recommends changes to your budget that could help you save money. Its features include a bill payment tracker, a budget tracker, alerts, budget categorization, investments, and security features.   PocketGuard®. Like Mint, PocketGuard allows you to link your credit cards, checking, and savings accounts, investments and loans to view them all in one place. It automatically updates and categorizes your transactions so you can see real-time changes. PocketGuard also has an “In My Pocket” feature that shows you how much spending money you have remaining after you’ve paid bills and set some funds aside. You can set your financial goals, and this clever app will even create a budget for you.   Wally®. This personal finance app is available for the iPhone, with a Wally+ version available for Android users. Like other apps on this list, it allows you to manage all of your accounts in one place and learn from your spending habits. You can plan and budget your finances by looking at your patterns, upcoming payments and expenses, and make lists for your expected spending.   MoneyStrands®. Once again, with this app, you’ll have access to all the accounts you connect. Its features allow you to analyze your expenses and cash flow, become a part of a community, track and plan for spending, create budgets and savings goals, and know what you can spend without going over budget.   Albert®. A unique feature that Albert emphasizes is its alert system. When you’re at risk for overspending, the app will send you an alert. The app also sends you real-time alerts when bills are due. Enjoy a smart savings feature, guided investing, and the overall ability to visualize your money’s flow and create a personalized budget.   Before you download any budgeting app, make sure you check out the reviews and ensure it’s legitimate. Because a lot of apps ask for your personal financial information, it’s essential you verify their legitimacy before entering your account number. Listen to what other people have to say and then choose the option that works best for you, because not every app will be perfect for everyone. Budgeting in college may be hard, but downloading an app is just one way you can make it easier. Maybe you don’t want to use an app at all. If you’re in that boat, you can check out some other approaches to budgeting here or here.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.
Woman sitting on floor looking at laptop computer
2019-10-14
Motivating your student to apply for scholarships

Do you find your child lacking motivation when it comes to finding grants and scholarships? While some students are intrinsically motivated and will search out and apply for scholarships on their own, other students may need a little encouragement in order to accomplish these tasks. While it can be frustrating, it's important to remember that this is likely the first time your child has had to navigate financial waters. Because of that, we're sharing some simple ways you can motivate your child to apply for scholarships before and during their college years.

Discuss college costs and finances with your child.

Your student may not fully understand how much college can cost. Hold an honest discussion with your child where you review the costs of their top college choices, how much money (if any) you will be able to contribute, the significance of
creating a college budget, the realities of student loans, etc. While they may be more focused on which clubs they'll join and their newfound freedom, helping them understand the importance of financial help can make their college year much more enjoyable.

Share scholarship success stories.

Sometimes, all it takes to motivate your student to apply for scholarships is sharing how their peers are reducing the cost of college. Ask other parents which scholarships their child was able to secure, and even let your child know the lump sum their friend was able to save. Take note of the steps each student performed in order to obtain the scholarships and go over with your student ways they can implement strategies into their application process.

Assist with developing a scholarship organization plan.

When it comes to applying for college scholarships, it pays to be organized. From deadlines to account passwords to application requirements, your student will have a multitude of details to remember. Developing a scholarship organization plan will help deter your child from becoming overwhelmed, which in turn will motivate them to complete applications. Share these organization tips with your child to make the process of applying for scholarships a little easier.

Provide incentives.

Using extrinsic motivators, such as rewards, can prod your student into action. Just as you may have bribed your toddler during the toilet training phase, that same concept should work with your teenager. Consider making a deal with your child that if she applies for a certain amount of scholarships, then you will provide half of the money so she can purchase that new phone or outfit for which she has been saving up money.

Give your child a free pass.

Most teens would gladly give up their household chores to complete other tasks, even if the task involves academics. Allow your child a free pass on chores if they use that time to search out and complete scholarship applications.

Set realistic goals.

If you expect or nag your child to spend most of her free time looking for scholarship leads and filling out applications, no wonder they aren't motivated. Work with your student to set realistic goals for the number of hours spent each week on the scholarship application process.

Acknowledge and encourage your child’s efforts.

Positive encouragement can work wonders to increase your child’s motivation. By letting your child know that you have seen and appreciate their efforts to apply for scholarships, you are giving them the confidence they need to continue applying for more. For more information about scholarships, be sure to read the scholarships and grants from our friends at eCampus Tours. Your teen can also perform a free scholarship search by clicking here.   Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.