It wasn’t too long ago that I too had to Google how to create a budget.
Budget. What an icky word. It is one that used to make me feel confined. Now, this very word means freedom.
For Rob and I, our path to paying off our debt and was made possible because of this handy dandy tool. For us, our budget is the tool that allowed us to start living for our now and our future!
We realized that money is not the root of all evil…stress is! The thing about stress is, the source of the pressure is not always apparent. That is where Rob and I found ourselves at the end of 2017.
We had responsible debt
- A mortgage
- An auto loan
- A home improvement loan
The problem? We were not managing our home and had no clue how much money we earned collectively every month, nor did we know what our household expenses were. It was a passive approach to our managing finances which resulted in a passive approach to life, and it prevented us from living!
If any of this sounds familiar to you, then you are in the right place!
Today I will show you the value of a budget, starting with a beginners perspective. I will take you step-by-step through a simple budgeting plan for beginners that works.
Read more about our debt pay off journey:
What is a budget?
A budget is your ticket to living
A recent study by US Bank discovered that nearly 6 in 10 Americans are living a passive life. The study showed that most Americans are not actively keeping track of their money. This same study also concluded that stress over money is impacting close to half (47%) of our population.
For us, these statistics were in line with our life.
Rob and I spent years avoiding a budget. For us, a budget reminded us of the days when we lived paycheck to paycheck. It was our constant scolding voice that told us “No, you cannot have that because it is not in the budget.”
What have we learned since we decided to pay attention to our finances and our life?
We have learned that our budget is our opportunity finder! It is the tool that helps us to find money and to make decisions with the money we spend that offers us the greatest reward.
Our budget is now the reaffirming “Yes!” that allows us to know the financial outcome of our decisions.
Why is a budget so important?
Your budget is your estimation of how much money will come in and go out to cover your day to day living.
At its purest, it is your roadmap to meeting your financial obligations. It’s your game plan that includes the money that you expect to receive and what you anticipate spending.
Your budget is your high-level review of your dollar as it breaks your money down into two simple categories, INCOME, and EXPENSE. From there, your dollar is broken down into sub-categories that allow you to see the ins and outs of your money.
There is not a right or wrong or wrong way of developing your categories. A personal budget is just that: Personal.
When we started our budget, our primary focus was to pay off our debt. Now that we have our debt paid off, our goal has shifted to increase our savings. Since a budget is an ever-changing management system, we have updated our budget to reflect our new goal.
Let’s get started with creating your successful budget
To help you with the budgeting process, we have created a simple template for you to use. This is a free template that will help you create a spending plan that you can stick to.
Take a moment to download budgeting tool and then we can get started walking through the simple steps that show you exactly how to make a budget planner that works!
1. Identify your “WHY” before you break out with the calculator
With a positive mindset start dreaming. Identify where you are and where you want to be. If you have a partner, they must be included in this dreaming phase for your budget to succeed.
Dreaming is the part of budgeting in which you will identify your “why.” If you do not know why you are budgeting going into this process, then success will be out of your reach.
Please remember that budgeting is a PROCESS!
It is not a one-time deal. A successful budget is a living, breathing document that keeps up with your changing dreams. One that will highlight all of the ugly before you can experience the rewards.
If you have a partner, they must be actively and willingly involved. You are working together to find your “why” is the most critical step. This simple action will allow everything to fall into place.
Creating a budget is a relatively simple thing to do.
To get you started, we will use the old school is the way of using paper since it is a good way to jot your ideas down, scratch them out, throw away the paper, then start over again.
Just know that there are so many tools out once you have perfected the basics.
There are digital tools such as a spreadsheet or free online tools from places like mint.com, Personal Capital, or Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar App that can help you to track your purchases.
2. Create a list of your income and your expenses.
The hardest part of starting a budget is just getting started. Do not over think it. Know that it is not going to be perfect. It is a never-ending work in progress. Just start with your known values and work out from there and know that there are going to be some surprises and setbacks in the upcoming months.
Review your bank statements, phone a friend, or merely guess. You have to start somewhere!
Tip: In the Monthly Recurring worksheet and the Expense Tracking worksheets that you downloaded are perfect to help you to get your thoughts in order.
It will take a bit of time, but you will get the hang of it!
You are going to jot down your money into two categories: Income & Expense
Income: Whether you receive a set paycheck, or you work on commission, finding out how much money your household brings in is the easy part as there are fewer transactions to review. Your deposits to your bank will generally always be fewer in numbers compared to your withdrawals.
Be conservative with your income estimation. More money is always better than less money.
- Cash Back Bonuses
- Returned Purchases
- Bonus Money
- Interest Income
- Side Hustle
- Rental Income
Do not ever limit your income! Just because you earn a paycheck, do not allow that paycheck determine your worth, your value. You are the only one that can do that!
Expenses: This is where you can get bogged down. Start with your bills: housing, utilities, and insurance and then set target values for the variable items such as consumables, dining, entertainment, etc.
You need to have an idea on the sources and uses of your dollar. Here are a few ideas of categories and subcategories to get you started. How granular you get is entirely up to you. The way we look at it is the simpler, the better.
- Annual Expenses – Property Tax, Auto Registration, Insurance
- Auto – Fuel, Parking, Service
- Bills & Utilities – Television, Electric, Internet, Phone, Water
- Consumables – Groceries, Paper Goods, Cleaning Supplies, Skincare, Pet supplies
- Dining & Entertainment – Coffee shops, Fast Food, Restaurants, Alcohol, Arts, Music & Movies, Travel
- Fun Money – This is a small amount of money that you do not need to keep track of
- Gifts & Donations – Gifts, Charity, Tithing
- Personal Care – Gym, Hair, Spa & Massage
- Savings – Emergency, Vacation, New Home, New Car
- Shelter – Mortgage, Rent, HOA Dues, Insurance
3. Now for the math part of the budget
Once you’ve identified your income and your expenses, it is time to total them up. Take the income total and subtract the expense total. No matter what the outcome is, know that it will be okay. You have survived this far and now you have a starting point.
If you fall short and your expenses exceed your income, it is time to get scrappy and find more money or reduce your spending.
If you have a surplus, now you have some goal money!
Every month you will update your budgeted income and expenses numbers and calculate the difference between the amount you planned (budgeted) and your actual amounts.
4. Keep up with your budget
There is no time better than today to start taking charge of your life. Although it may sound a bit overwhelming, managing your money is a liberating way to reduce stress and start living your life.
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. – Jim Rohn
Creating a budget and living by it does involve some discipline but it is a truly proactive approach to turning your dreams into realities. Your budget will serve as your accountability tool. It will document your successes and remind you of your shortcomings as it guides you to building meaningful wealth.
Be prepared for some rough waters. Learning how to budget will take practice. Our biggest advice to you is to set up a budget that you can succeed at.
- Underestimate your income and
- Overestimate your expenses
Your dreams must be at the core of all of your financial goals. The goal of your budget is to improve your life, enhance your awareness, and steer you toward doing really awesome stuff!
Do you track your money with a monthly budget?
Does your budget prevent you from living your life or encourage you to live your life to its fullest?