I have spent many of hours reading other people’s ideas on how to do a budget and trying to adapt those tips and tricks to fit my life. My results end up being a good picture of where my money goes and that allows me to see where and how I want to cut back or save.
Why We Budget
There are many reasons why we want a budget. Here are some of the most common that I have come across and I’m guessing one of your reasons will fall into this list.
- To see where your money goes
- To hold ourselves accountable for our spending
- To see what our living costs actually are.
- To plan for a big future event (buying a house, having a baby, getting married, planning a vacation or any other big life event)
- To figure out a savings plan (Retirement, College Fund or any other goal you want to save for)
Whatever your reason may be for wanting to make a budget, once you do it then you have the power to act on that reason. It is extremely rewarding to have power over your financial life. Now don’t get me wrong I still fail at times to hold myself accountable. I happen to love going out for an unplanned dinner and getting a Starbucks when the mood strikes. However, I am human and am lucky enough to not have to stick to an extremely tight budget to live.
Where To Start
The first place I like to start is the decision that you are a paper and pen person or a tech person. For me, it’s a combination…I like to start with paper and pen but love the updates I get using an “E-budget.” So decide which route is right for you and if you’re not sure then try one or the other or both and see what works. If you are going the paper and pen route get it out and get ready to start making a rough list. If you want to go the “E” route I recommend using Mint.com. It is easy to use, free and has an app to use on your phone.
Time to choose the categories where your money goes. Here is a master list and you are welcome to break them down even further if you choose. For me, I stick with a general list and then write down each specific bill in those categories.
- Credit Cards
- Utilities( Power, Water, Sewer and Garbage)
- Insurance (Health, Auto, Life and Personal)
- Loan Payments( Car, Student, and Personal)
- Miscellaneous (Storage, Memberships, Subscriptions, Etc)
Budget For A High Average
Go through the list and write down each bill you have monthly. Some bills will flex based on the season or other reasons so what I do for those ones is to budget a “high average” of the usual bill. It never hurts to have extra money but if you didn’t budget for a high bill the let down of over spending will disappoint you. If you need a more exact budget than you will have to update your budget based upon those changes.
Calculate Your Income
The next step is to add up all the bills for your total monthly cost of living. Then you’ll need to add up your income. If it is fixed simply add it up and subtract your total bills to see your leftover monthly income. If it is not fixed then I like to use a “low average.” Again you won’t be disappointed to have extra money but will be if you thought you would have more income and it turns out you’re already over budget. Subtract the bills from your income and you will have your monthly budget of how much you spend on your bills and how much extra income you have left for all the fun stuff.
Enjoy Your Financial Power
The end result can go a lot of ways, sometimes you’re so happy you have extra money each month to spend and sometimes you’re alarmed by how you’re getting by when you’re not even making enough to pay your bills. Either way having a budget give you the power to act on your finances. Save for that great vacation or call and change your cable package to get your monthly bills down. Knowing your budget allows you to choose how you want to spend your money and why and allows you to reach financial goals because it makes you aware of just how that money comes and goes. Enjoy your newfound financial power!
Let me know how you plan to use your new budget below! What are your tricks to creating and using a budget? Please share! I love to see how everyone’s brain work differently!