Guest Post By: Jessica Thiefels
When it comes to financial management, a budget is one of the most intentional and useful resources at your disposal. When you create—and stick to—a budget each month, you’re able to monitor both the income and outflow of your cash. This is critical to managing your money effectively.
The better you get at budgeting, the more you may find that you can start allocating extra money toward amenities you couldn’t afford in the past. But if there’s a surplus in your budget each month, you don’t want to spend it just anywhere—the idea is to be strategic with every cent you have. As you consider ways to spend your extra budget, here are some areas ways to get the most bang for your buck.
Services that Save You Time
Next to money, time is your most valuable resource. If your budget allows, put some extra money toward services that can be performed by someone else to eliminate certain demands from your schedule. This will add more flexibility and convenience to your routine, so you can use your time more wisely. Here are a few time-consuming chores you can outsource instead of doing yourself.
Grocery or meal delivery: If you work full-time or have a family and house to take care of, you may lack the bandwidth to shop for food and cook a meal each night of the week. If this is you, it may be worth investing in a meal kit subscription or ordering groceries online to be delivered to your home.
Both options streamline the process of creating a weekly menu, braving the supermarket, and preparing dinner after a hectic day.
Wash and fold dry cleaning: Whether you reserve those piles of laundry for the weekend, or you tackle them at night after your commute home from the office, the amount of time spent washing clothes—not to mention, linens and towels—can feel exhaustive.
With a same-day wash and fold laundry service, you can drop off the items to be cleaned in the morning, then return for pick-up later in the evening. What’s more, most companies will text or email you when your laundry is done, so you don’t even have to call and check. Bonus: you don’t have to worry about dealing with that stain on your favorite dress!
Dog walking: If you have a dog, then you know firsthand that, while Fido enriches your life, he also requires hands-on time, care and attention. Dog ownership is a commitment, but you can alleviate some of that burden with the help of a professional dog walker. Websites can match you with local, affordable and reputable walkers. You can even choose the time-frame and the number of walks your dog needs each day.
No matter how many decades stand between you and retirement, it’s never too early to start planning for the future with an investment portfolio. When you allocate a portion of each month’s income toward a diversified portfolio of stocks, mutual funds or ETFs, the potential for growth is monumental.
This is how you build wealth and increase your net worth over time, which is crucial as you save for long-term financial objectives. As such, the sooner you can initiate this process, the higher your return-on-investment will be.
If you’re new to the investing but want to include saving for your retirement as part of your budget, use a tool like Nest Wealth to manage your money and investments for your future.
A Financial Planner
In today’s economy, it is not uncommon to operate your own business, work as an independent contractor, or supplement your income with a side hustle. If you fall into one of those categories, then it’s wise to budget for the services of a financial planner. In addition to filing your tax return, decreasing the risk of an audit, and maximizing the refund amount, a qualified financial planner can assist you in other important areas of financial planning too, like planning for your financial future.
While the price to retain a financial planner can seem expensive, it is an investment where the strategic benefits can outweigh the initial costs. Whether your goals are to self-direct your retirement, enter the real estate market, diversify assets, launch a business, or save for your child’s college education, a financial planner is trained to consult in all these areas, so you can make both informed and calculated monetary decisions.
No matter your career path, the more expertise you acquire, the more valuable and marketable you will be in that industry.
This broader skill-set often translates into a higher income bracket too since you’ll be in a better position to negotiate a raise. As such, this is a smart way to use your surplus in your budget. Not to mention, in 2017, an estimated 83 percent of corporate executives ranked continuous learning as one of the main attributes they look for in employees, based on Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report.
Invest your extra budget in a training workshop, seminar, conference or online course to bolster your skills. Websites like Udemy and Skillshare provide access to thousands of online courses on all kinds of topics, making it easy to learn from home.
With a fast-paced schedule and extensive list of responsibilities, to a certain degree, stress is routine and inevitable, but chronic stress can be detrimental for your health. In fact, almost one-third of polled Americans indicate they have seen a doctor for medical issues related to stress, according to Everyday Health.
From depression and anxiety to heart disease and high blood pressure, the effects of stress can wreak havoc on your life. For this reason, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care with your extra budget. Here are some ideas worth the added expense.
- Yoga or meditation classes: The focus on gentle movement, inner awareness and a mind-body connection make these two practices ideal for stress modulation. In fact, when yoga and meditation are combined, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience has found the result is often a better mood, reduced inflammation, strengthened immunity and more resilience against depression.
- Counseling or life coaching: Just as you would make a doctor’s appointment to address a physical concern, a counselor can help address your mental health needs. Whether you seek out a certified therapist or a life coach, the emotional benefits of therapy can be as effective—if not, more so—in treating stress disorders than some forms of medications can, suggests psychologist Shannon Kolakowski in an article for Forbes.
- Hobbies and physical exercise: From creative pursuits like animation or pottery to fitness activities like a spinning or playing in a soccer league, making time for your hobbies can stimulate both your mind and body. Both leisure and strenuous activities are needed for stress management, suggests The Society of Behavioral Medicine, as the blend of relaxation and exertion works together to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
Spend Your Extra Budget Wisely
Your budget is a framework that tells you how each dollar in your bank account should behave. If you maintain this precision and intentionality, over time, there will be more cash flow in your budget, allowing you to invest in services that save your time or people who can keep your money in check or your mind healthy. Use this extra budget wisely and you’ll find every area of your life can improve with a little bit of investment.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and has more than 700 published articles worldwide. She’s written for AARP, Reader’s Digest and Lifehack and regularly contributes to The Financial Diet, Homes.com and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn