The 14 best money management tips from real people's budgets
Over the last few months, over a dozen readers from across the US have been generous enough to share their budgets with Business Insider.
From a 25-year-old with impressive financial management skills to a would-be retiree trying to figure out if he can afford to take the plunge, they all have something to teach the rest of us.
Here are some of the highlights.
Don't sweat the dollars and cents.
It doesn't matter exactly how much you spend, just how it relates to the amount you planned. Clarence Reed, a 57-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, highlights any cell in his Excel spreadsheet that shows he's spent less than 75% or more than 125% of what he planned.
And if a few categories seem a little out of whack in a month, he doesn't drive himself crazy about it.
"I love to travel," he tells Business Insider. "I spend what I consider a reasonably high amount of money, but as long as the yearly number is within the realm, I'm perfectly OK. Boating is another bigger one: I do not care about it."
Keep your budget in perspective.
Brett Schock, a 32-year-old father from Fort Worth, Texas, has two budgets: His real one, based on his actual income and spending, and his "happy budget," or how much he and his wife estimate they'd need to live a life that makes them happy.
In fact, the Schocks have started earning enough money — $142,000 a year before taxes — that their happy budget is more reality than dream.
"The 'happy budget' is more of a self-realization thing, because I've seen too many people who work themselves really hard for that little bit of extra money, and I don't know if it's worth it," Schock explains. "Right now things are pretty good — we feel like we've kind of made it."
Start planning for retirement as soon as you can.
Ron Zahn explains that he and his wife Joan have been investing for retirement from "day one."
"In 1962, we started investing $25 a month into a mutual fund," he remembers. "Those investments, over time, allowed us to have resources in retirement, and I committed to not extracting more money than the required minimum distribution each month."
In retirement, the Zahns live comfortably on a little over $4,000 a month, and don't touch the bulk of their retirement savings.
More from Business Insider:
11 short books to read if you want to get rich
I spent 2 weeks researching restaurants at every price point before my mom came to visit NYC, and here's where we went
13 tips to save up to $1,000 in 30 days or less