Making a budget doesn’t sound like the most exciting way to spend your free time. But if you’re like the vast majority out there, it can be stressful living paycheck to paycheck, not knowing where your money is going. The best way to cover the necessities, have money left for the extra frills, and watch the savings pile up is by creating a strict budget and implementing a plan to adhere to it.
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How to create your budget.
Follow the steps below to make a budget that will not only organize your wallet, but also set you up for successfully reaching your financial goals:
Add up your income.
Calculate all the money you have coming in…that way you can determine the proper paths for the money to go out. Be sure to include monthly take-home pay from all sources—jobs, interest earned, or assistance from sources like the federal government or that philandering ex-husband of yours. Use the net number that you come up with as the starting point for your budget.
Tally necessary expenses.
Make a list of all expected and necessary expenses you plan on incurring over the duration of a month—things you can’t live without. This includes payment for the roof over your head, that new car payment, insurance, keeping the lights on, basic groceries, gas to get to work, etc.
How much is left?
Once you’ve figured out the items each month that absolutely require payment, then you can gage what kind of financial room you have for the fun stuff. Subtract your necessary expenses from your total income and the number you are left with is the money available for discretionary spending. Now, think about the extras that you like to indulge in each month and sort them into categories. You might have one for entertainment, clothing, beauty care, household goods…and the list goes on. While thinking about what you’re going to spend your last bit of cash on this month—stop right there and read the next step…
Save, save, save.
So you have a sad piggy bank full of IOU’s and a savings account at your bank with a total of $4.32. Time to change your ways. As exciting as it is when you have some leftover cash each month after you’ve paid your bills, think before you splurge on that fabulous new handbag you’ve been eyeing. Consider taking a set portion of your paycheck each month and putting it into a savings account that will grow and accumulate interest. The peace of mind knowing that you will have the funds to cover an emergency or even a family vacation will be worth so much more than a purse that will only be in fashion until next season.
How to make your budget work.
Are you someone who is motivated to save some money and starts ambitious budgets only to completely abandon them after just a few weeks…or days? The truth is that it’s up to you to make a conscious effort to improve the system. If you are someone who is afraid of budget-commitment, the good news is that there is a way to build a long-term relationship with your budget by following these few tips:
Track your spending.
Once you create a budget that works for you, you will never know if you’re sticking to it or not if you don’t record your spending. You can do this very simply with pen and paper, an excel spreadsheet, or by means of several online budgeting services such as Mint.com, Lemon.com and many others.
Target the problem areas.
Review the budget you’ve created and take a look at where you are spending the majority of your discretionary money. Once you’ve studied where your hard earned dollars are going, you may find that it might be a bit excessive for you to be eating out $300’s worth each month. Identify your priciest areas and wherever you see that you can cut back, do so.
Make it a good habit.
Sit down and study your budget at a specific point of each and every month. If you make this a routine, it will be much easier to stick to your budget in the long term.