A budget is something that can help you take control of your money. Often people do the opposite by letting their money control them. A budget can assist you with several important areas. It can help you save up a nest egg, get out of debt, or buy something down the line. Having a budget just makes good financial sense. If you are spending more than you are making, it will eventually catch up with you. You may find yourself in debt or scramble to sell stuff so that you can pay the rent. Even if you are skeptical about how much a budget could help you, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
Calculate How Much You Make
Find out how much you make each month. A month will give you a better picture than a weekly budget. Even if you make the same amount each week, bills are often paid by the month, so let’s stick with finding out your monthly income. Make sure to look at your income after taxes. There’s no use calculating something that isn’t going to be yours to spend.
Calculate Your Expenses
Try saving all of your receipts and records of your bills. If you use a checkbook to pay everything, then it may be a bit easier because you can only look in your bank book for what you’ve spent. If you are like most people, you also pay for things via cash or credit card. Make sure to save all receipts. This includes food, entertainment, utility bills, college loan bills, tithes, rent or mortgage payment and insurance. By including everything, you will get a real picture and not end up scratching your head while later wondering where all your money went.
Divide Your Budget Into Basic Catagories
Take out a pencil and paper, or use your computer to make a graph of primary expense categories. Many people like to use software such as Quicken, Microsoft, Money, or Excel. Your categories may include but are not limited to the following: housing, insurance, utilities, medical, gym membership, entertainment, auto, food, tithes or donations. Try not to leave anything out. If you later find that you have a receipt that doesn’t fit into a category then add a category later. You don’t have to get it perfect the first month. The main thing is just to do it and try to start keeping an accurate budget.
Fill In Your Categories With The Amounts Spent
Start to list your spending by putting all of your expenses into one of the categories. Everything needs to fit somewhere. For example, the food bill should have a total amount spent for the month on food. The same will hold true for all of the categories. You may want to set up your budget like a ledger where you start subtracting your expenses as the month goes along. You will be able to see when certain categories are getting depleted. If your entertainment category is running low, that means you will have to cut back for the rest of the month in that category. Some categories you will not be able to cut back on (like your rent or mortgage) but some you will have control of cutting back. Try to stay within the budget for each category.
If you are spending more money than you earn in certain categories, you are going to need to cut back the next month. Try cutting the luxury expenses first like dining out or taking trips. You get to decide which categories are least important. Your options may be to either find ways to make cutbacks or adjust your lifestyle to a simpler way of life. You may need a lower grade apartment. Or maybe you could drop that gym membership and work out at home or outside. The cold hard fact is that you shouldn’t and eventually can’t spend more than you make.
On the flip side of this way of thinking, you may want to look for a higher paying job. Or maybe you want to take on a second job. Whatever you decide, try to keep a balanced budget. Also, remember to evaluate your monthly spending continually.
I hope this helped you in creating a budget. The biggest factor is going to be to start one. So take control of your financial future today and start a budget.
For a guide to saving for retirement, check out our article here.