Money management can be one of the biggest sources of anxiety, with 64 percent of Americans citing money as a stressor, according to the American Psychological Association. While most people have a desire to take control of their finances, they are often at a loss when it comes time to make a plan.

Whether you have burdensome debt to pay off or simply want to increase your savings, here are four tips to help you make—and stick to—a monthly budget.

1. Establish your income

Take stock of the pay you actually receive—subtracting 401(k) contributions, health insurance premiums, taxes and any other payroll deductions. If you’re paid a salary, your take-home income is easy to track. However, if your pay depends on unpredictable variables like hourly wages or commission, look at past pay statements and determine a reasonable average monthly income. Try to err on the side of expecting lower paychecks, taking unusually high amounts out of the equation. It’s always easier to figure out what to do (responsibly) with extra money than it is to figure out how to make ends meet when you don’t have enough.

2. Make a plan

Most spending can fall into three buckets: needs, wants, and a combination of savings and debt repayment. While there are many schools of thought on how to budget, one of the most popular—and simple—is the 50/30/20 budget. According to this plan, you should budget to spend 50 percent of your after-tax income on needs like housing, groceries and utilities; 30 percent on wants like dining out, travel and entertainment; and 20 percent on savings and debt repayment. If you need to tweak how you break up your spending, be sure to always take from wants first, so that your needs and savings or debt repayment don’t suffer.

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If you’re having trouble creating a budget that fits your income, there may be ways to save on your expenses. Perhaps you haven’t shopped around in a while and are paying too much for auto insurance or cell phone service. Or you may need to make concessions and shop less at that high-end grocery store or start cooking at home more. AAA Members can also take advantage of exclusive discounts to save on regular expenses.

3. Track your spending

The most difficult part of any budget is sticking to it, and bad spending habits can be some of the most difficult to break. Persistence and discipline are key, especially when you’re first starting out. Popular apps like Mint and PocketGuard can help you track what you’ve spent and keep you in control. Don’t get discouraged if you slip up—healthy financial management is a marathon, not a sprint.

4. Refine and adapt

Perhaps your grocery bills are lower than you expected. Or you’re driving more than you predicted. Maybe you got a raise at work. Whatever the reason, it’s likely your budgeting needs will fluctuate over time. Revisit your budget when your income or regular expenses change to ensure that you’re allocating the right amount. Make adjustments with your financial goals in mind, avoiding the temptation to make your budget what you wish it was rather than what it needs to be.

Help Your Budget Work Harder

AAA Banking can help you get more from every dollar with great rates on financing and accounts that earn you interest.

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