Everyone knows that a personal budget is key to financial success, but getting started can feel overwhelming. If you’re tired of getting to the end of your budget before you get to the end of the month, we’re here to help.
Money management is tricky but with discipline and determination, you can make your money work for you. There are several steps to take to create a successful personal budget. Creating a successful and manageable budget will keep you in the green and help you better understand where all your money goes. A personal budget will also help you when you ask for a raise or looking to make more money in your career. You will want to look at two to three months of your spending habits to get an idea of your current spending habits versus your income. This will make it easier to understand how savings will factor into your future. Whether you want to save money for a big trip or retirement, you’ll be able to calculate what you need to save and how long it will take. There are several tools you can use or you can go old school with spreadsheets and a traditional bank account.
Create a simple budget that you can actually stick to. Here are nine simple things to take into account:
1. Track how much money you have coming in
Take the time to understand all the money you have coming in, and that it all matches what you should be getting. In addition to your day job, do you have any other income on a monthly basis? Do you freelance or contract work with clients? Do you have a side business that brings in money? Consider these income avenues if they bring in steady cash flows.
2. Know your recurring monthly bills and expenses
List out all your monthly recurring bills, even the ones that are bi-annual or quarterly. This could include your monthly rent or mortgage, utility bills, cell phone bill, internet bill and any known medical bills. This will help you manage and you’ll be able to see where you need to re-allocate your money.
3. Live within your means
Review your expenses and make sure they’re in line with you make. If you’re spending more than you make, it’s time to reassess what you are spending. Spending less than what you make is the definition of “living within your means.” Use an app like Ask Trim to scan your bank accounts and credit cards. The app will analyze your recurring expenditures and subscriptions to determine where you can save more money or eliminate expenses.
4. Write down your personal finance goals
Create a simple spreadsheet with your expenses and income. Statistics show that people who write down their goals have an 80 percent chance of achieving them. So, why not type or write down your personal finance goals, too. Take a hard look, then ask yourself, do you have any savings or any leftover money? If the answer is no, go back and trim your expenses until you can save some money each week or month. Write down what you would like to save each month, whether it’s 10% of your paycheck or 30%.
5. Get an app to help you with your budget
You want to stay on track and on budget. Try Mint. It allows you to add budgets in different buckets such as food expenses, rent or mortgage and medical expenses. The app also warns you when you exceed them. You also have the option to automatically import your bank and credit card transactions, making it much simpler to stay on track.
6. Be realistic! Set yourself up for success
Don’t expect to be saving large amounts of money right away. Start small, and build up to more.
7. Set 1–3 “SMART” financial goals
Use the SMART method of goal setting. Your financial goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. Your financial goal could be saving for a trip or even paying off debt such as student loans. Achieving a small goal will give you confidence to set bigger goals.
8. Carry — and use — cash
Not using your debit or credit cards will help you stick to your budget. You’ll be more intentional about what you purchase and how much you want it or not. Using cash for your weekly errands and expenses will make you consider if you really need that latte or if you would rather add it to your savings account.
9. Crush your goals, take them to the next level
Once you’ve achieved something small, dream bigger! Goals can be as basic as adding to a savings account each month or as complicated as different amounts going into different accounts for vacations, savings, retirement, emergency funds or experimenting with alternative investments such as Veteran Business Bonds.
Remember there will be some hiccups and you may have to make some adjustments along the way. It will take time to adjust and be more aware of your spending. Don’t be afraid to add new goals or adjust your goals. It can be as simple as making your own coffee instead of buying it or as complex as planning for retirement. To keep up, download this spreadsheet or sync your financial accounts with an app to get it all marked down.
Then, the real challenge will be following it. Develop your budget, understand what you have, how you are spending it and how to get more of what you really want, and become less of an impulse buyer. It’s your money. Put it to work for yourself!
Boost Your Savings and Get Started with a Monthly Budget Spreadsheet
As mentioned above, one tangible way to track your budget and create financial goals is through writing it down. Download this spreadsheet to do just that. Get started or revisit your personal budget with this Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Set your monthly fixed and variable expenses and track your spending.