Let’s face it. No one likes budgets. However, when you fail to budget, you really aren’t getting the most out of your hard-earned money.
Most people equate the word “budget” with austerity and most times, extreme measures don’t have to be applied.
Making a budget might not be a trip to Disneyland, but it isn’t that difficult. You can make a budget in 4 simple steps:
- Look at how and where your money is spent
- Evaluating those expenses
- Setting your financial priorities
- Cut expenses or move money to reach those goals
When you break budget planning down to these 4 steps, you can see that it isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Where to Begin
Start by determining your monthly take-home pay. Don’t rely on overtime, tax refunds, or a possible Christmas bonus.
Do a Little Fact Finding
For the next two months, track where every dollar goes. Don’t try to cut back right now, go about with your usual spending habits. You can take a little notepad with you or use an app, like Mint.Com, which tracks your purchases.
You can also download two months’ worth of bank statements, but if you usually take out cash and then purchase items, this method won’t work for you.
Evaluate Your Findings
Using your computer or a piece of paper, write down a few categories to break down those purchases. Think of categories like groceries, gas, car payments, fast food or lunches, utilities, entertainment, etc.
This should paint a clear picture for you about where your money is actually going.
Financial experts say that you should live at least 90% below your take-home pay, saving the remaining 10% for other financial goals, such as buying a home or making an emergency fund.
Where to Cut Back
You might be a little shocked at where your money goes and how those little things add up to become a major drain on your cash.
Don’t try to make major cutbacks in most categories. Chances are that you won’t stick to a budget if it’s too strict.
Start with one or two areas where you can reasonably eliminate or cut back without really noticing.
For example, some people choose to cut their daily Big Bucks coffee habit down to Friday’s only. You could decide to stop buying any new video games for the next 6 months and selling ones you own but no longer use.
Continue to track your expenses and do a reevaluation in another 2 or 3 months. See if you are sticking to your budget. Maybe you will discover new areas that you can cut back or you might find that you aren’t sticking to it because your first budget was a bit harsh.
Don’t feel bad if you have difficulty sticking to a budget. Most people struggle to find a good balance in their lives, but once you become accustomed to watching your cash flow and reaping the benefits, you will wonder why you didn’t start sooner