I know, budget is not a sexy word. So let’s call it your Money Plan, Wallet Date, or Make It Rain Schedule, call it whatever you want. The only thing that matters is knowing what it is.
So grab your favorite beverage, maybe a snack, and let’s dive into what makes up a [insert your creative word for budget here.]
1 | Estimate all of your monthly income
This is going to be the basis of your budget. Without knowing an estimate of how much money you are going to make this month, you have no glue to your money plan. But be honest and realistic with this amount. Only include an income if you know you can count on it. I would hate for you to count on $100 for a side job only to be shorted in your budget because it was never a sure-thing.
2 | Locate your monthly expenses realistically
Go through your online banking, your paper bills, your automatic payments, anything that you spend money on during the month. Yes, including that Netflix that magically disappears from your bank account on the most inconvenient day of the month. Get everything (don’t forget its due date) written down in one place. The easy thing about this is, most bills give you an online portal that you can easily login to view your due date and amount due. This makes your bill hunt easier to access. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of locating your expenses, you’re not alone. What matters is that you’re taking action. Tip if you need some extra help is to think about how you pay for things during the month. For example, if you pay 90% of things with your debit card, pull your bank statement from the last couple months and look in the “debit and withdrawals” column. You’ll see the trend of what bills you are paying from month to month along with their amount.
3 | Add up your monthly necessities
Think about what you need to survive throughout the month. This is your food, your rent, the gas for your vehicle, the morning coffee runs, drinks on friday night, insurance, everything that makes your month tick. The number one rule in adding your necessities is being realistic with the amounts you provide. Sometimes it’s hard to admit you spend $60 a month on Uber, but if that's what you’ve noticed when looking back on your last couple statements- then that’s the number you need to go with. When you actually sit down and review these things, ask yourself if you see any trends. Could you cut back your coffee runs per week from 3 times to only 1 to save an extra 10 bucks a week? (That’s an extra $520 a year!) Do a little reflection as you gather all of your amounts.
4 | Track the difference
Now take the amount of all of your monthly necessities added and subtract it from the total of your monthly income. Is it a positive number or a negative number? I’m hoping it’s positive. But just in case it’s not, a negative number means that you are living beyond your means. Don’t panic because there are ways you can fix this. The first way being to look back at your list of monthly necessities, are they all truly necessities? Are there a couple expenses you could handle a month without? Every unneeded expense taken off this list gets you one step closer to financial freedom. Let that be your mantra. Your second option is to increase your income to make up the difference. Other end of the spectrum, if your number is positive where will that money best serve it’s purpose? If you don’t have a savings set up, that would be a great place to start. Cue next point.
5 | Pay yourself first
Saving is a huge part of getting your foot into that door of money freedom. I recommend making it your goal to save 20% of all your income, but if that seems out of reach for you right now, that’s okay! Just save something. Even $25 a pay cycle adds up over time. Having a savings in place for emergencies is one of the most important things you can do. Prepare for the inevitable because being an adult is all about life throwing curve balls at you.
6 | Put it all on a calendar + Schedule it
Even if you’re not a visual person, do it. Put the days you’re going to get paid and bills on their due dates. This way you can easily see everything laid out in one place and it will show you what bills need to be paid on which pay date. And then because you have everything so awesomely laid out (and the power of the interweb), you can schedule you bills ahead of time. So when pay comes, you can sit back and relax because you know how much is already planned for your weekend festivities.
I know how tough gathering a budget together for the first time can be. Especially for the first time. Expect your first go-around to be wonky. Rule of thumb is to give your budget at least 3 months to stick. That means that you need to challenge yourself to 3 months of money dates. Once a month or before every paycheck (your choice!) sit down with a glass of wine and get your money stuffs organized.
If you’re feeling like you need more accountability and in-depth budget troubleshooting, fly on over to my Financial Adulting Fast Track. This will be the answer to your questions and guidance to your worries.
I want to hear from you, how are you going to have a money date with yourself this month? Mine are always with a sweet cup of coffee and Lord Huron playing in the background to ease any stressors.