Creating a budget may seem like a daunting task but it is a very necessary starting point in understanding your financial picture. Budgeting does not have to be boring or daunting. It just takes a bit of creativity and a mindset change to turn a negative into a positive. Lets look at the basics on how to create one!
It is important you are honest and truthful with this whole process. Doing so will allow you to make the changes necessary to put you and your family in a better financial position.
- Figure out your income: Find out how much you take home from your job, side-hustle, odd jobs, etc. on a monthly basis. Gather it all and add it up. If you have income that fluctuates, get the average and use that for your number. Once you have your monthly income we can move on to the next step.
- Create a list of monthly expenses: Be sure to include ALL expenses including debts. Even if they change. Listing all of your expenses out gives you the unique opportunity to evaluate what is truly necessary. For even more clarity, be sure to categorize your expenses! Examples
- Eating out
- Determine fixed vs variable expenses: Once you find out the expenses that stay the same and the expenses that change, we need to create a baseline for the variable expenses. You can get an average of the last 4-6 purchases and use that number or set a static number you would like to stay under. The most important thing is getting it on paper.
- Total the income and expenses: You guessed it. Now that you have all this information, you want to total it all together. Income – Expenses = Leftover $$
Congratulations! You now have your first basic budget. How does this help you? I’m sure you have found out how much money you spend in various categories and can already see places that can change. This is the power of a budget! It clearly shows us where our money goes. You can then plan and even cut expenses completely to help keep more in your pocket. Be sure to set money aside in an emergency fund or in your savings account for a goal of yours. It will come in handy one day and you will feel great knowing you achieved a goal and made a purchase responsibly.
One of the most popular strategies for budgeting and spending is the 50/20/30 rule. This is a general rule to follow and guide you to responsible spending. Following it to the best of your ability will ensure you have a healthy relationship based on your income.
- 50% for needs
- 20% for savings/debt
- 30% for wants
Keep in mind this is a general rule to follow. If you can and want to pay down debt faster, you could consider taking out a % from your wants and throw it into the savings/debt category. Adjust as needed within reason. As a goal you should strive to keep your needs at or around the 50%
Keep It Moving
Now that you have your budget and an understanding on where your money goes how do you use it? Well the key here is consistency. You need to diligently add expenses and track where your money goes for this to work. Allocating a specific amount per category will help you limit your spending and ensure you spend less then you make. Some people refer to this as the “envelope system”. If you are disciplined enough to follow this without envelopes, more power to you. If you find its difficult to follow then incorporate physical envelopes to help you make this change.
When circumstances change, you should also take some time and review your budget to ensure you stay on track and tweak as necessary. It is best practice to review and tweak every few months to make sure it is working for you. Consistency and accuracy are very important here.
Making It Fun!
Now for the fun stuff! Here are a few ideas to make budgeting and goal setting fun.
- Turn going under budget into a challenge! Compete with your partner or a member of your family. Whoever wins gets a prize of your choosing. Think of free things like a message or a game night. After all the goal is to save money. If you cant help going out with the money your saving, limit it to once a month or once every 2-3 months. This will ensure you do not spend it all away.
- Use coming under budget as a way to save for a vacation! Use a dry erase board or a sheet of paper to keep track of your progress. As you reach milestones toward your goal, do something fun or eat something you enjoy. Your way of treating yourself for treating yourself.
If you want a few resources to help you budget, excel and google sheets are valuable tools to help you get the ideas down and tweak with ease.
The google resources below should be copied to your google drive. You can do so by clicking the link -> File -> Make a Copy. Do this for BOTH links below to create the spreadsheet link. The MWS Budget Template will show you your budget history and the MWS Input Form can be used to input transactions to the sheet on the go! Preferably right after you make a purchase by using your phone. Be sure to only edit the yellow cells
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