3 Keys To Starting Your Budget
Updated: Jul 24, 2019
Adulting is hard. Learn the 3 Keys To Starting Your Budget by Hannah Nickerson today!
So you're trying to become a more responsible adult - looking to learn some tips on how to start budgeting your funds, or simply interested in ideas to improve upon what you already know? You have come to the right place! If that is not what you are looking for, quickly click away before you get sucked into the exciting world of budgeting!
If you are still with me, that means you must love budgeting as much as I do! If this is something you are dreading, have no fear: I am here to provide you with some financial support and easy tips to try to start managing your money better.
There are a lot of programs out there that can do a lot of the budgeting for you: and if you have some extra spending money you can go out and buy those. I personally love Quicken. It is user friendly and has a lot of different features. If you are broke like my dear friend EMM, however, I am going to help you budget by using Excel. If you don’t have Excel - not a problem - as these tips can work by even writing your budget out (should you choose this option, you are just going to have to do all calculations by hand).
Let’s get down to business and talk about our first - and my personal favorite - budget item…
( If you are a true Disney fan, make sure you sing that last sentence )
The first thing you are going to want to identify when starting your budget is all of your revenue sources:
(that’s the money you make)
For some of you, that might just consist of one full-time job, but for others (like Elissa and I), there may be a few different sources: whether it be a full-time job, multiple part-time or seasonal jobs, or an allowance from your parents (please leave comments below on how to still obtain this in your twenties). You are going to list them all out separately.
Your set up should look something like this in Excel:
Some of you may not have a steady paycheck where you get "X" amount of dollars (or other forms of currency) each and every week. For some of you, it may change from week to week. One of my employers, for example, will call me in when they need me, so sometimes I work a handful of hours for them and other times I don’t go in at all!
If you have been at that kind of job long enough, try to make your best guess as to what you would make every month. If you really have no idea, I would leave it off. When you are budgeting this way, you won’t overestimate your income (if you overestimate, that could leave you in a bad place). If you are estimating, I always suggest to go on the assumption that you will be on the low end of whatever you are thinking; because if you end up with more, it is almost like bonus money!
If you have one steady job where you are guaranteed a certain number of hours or amount of pay (i.e., my "salary" workers), you should consider that as your main source of income and try not to have your expenses go over what you make from that one (or multiple) source(s).
Next, we move on to my (and I'm sure everybody's) least favorite… expenses.
(If anyone has found of way to totally eliminate these from their life, share your secrets with me in the comments)
(Also you should write a book because I guarantee that it would make you millions)
This one can be a little trickier to do than income, as a lot of our expenses will - naturally - fluctuate from week to week and month to month. If you can look back at a few months’ worth of expenses or more, that is probably going to be the best way to get a good estimate for some of these items.
I am sure you have expenses that are the same every month. These will be easy to calculate and input into your budget. For example, I have a mortgage payment that stays the same every month, so that is an easy one for me to input into my budget (though it is one of my least favorite expenses).
(Also, if anyone wants to generously volunteer as tribute to pay off my house for me, I would be eternally grateful)
For the expenses like food & beverage or gasoline - where it changes depending on the week or month - try to overestimate what you will spend on these so it is not as bad if you are wrong. More than likely it will be less than what you thought if you have a good estimation. This will ultimately lead you into coming in under budget.
Once you get all your expenses figured out you should put them into your Excel spreadsheet and it should look something like this:
Now that we have all of our numbers plugged into the correct places, we can begin to analyze our budget! Don’t let the word "analyze" scare you, as we are working with a really simple budget.
The first (and most important) thing you are going to want to look at is whether or not your total revenue is more than your total expenses: If the total revenue does not exceed your total expenses, then we have a big problem! If your revenue is higher than your expenses, that is a great thing and you can leave your budget as is, but if you want to have even more money in your bank account at the end of the day, keep reading:
Now, if your expenses are too high, there is a way to fix it. To put it simply: cut back spending on the things you don’t need.
Prime example: I am not able to cut down my mortgage payment, but I can cut back on the amount of coffee I am drinking every day if my expenses are more than my income. That may seem like a really small thing to cut back on, but a little goes a long way! If you can find a bunch of small things you can cut your spending back on, it will most certainly add up.
In the end - to have a good budget - you need your revenue to be more than your expenses. I can’t tell you where to cut back, for that will come down to each of your own personal budgets.
However, I promise you this: there are always areas to which we can cut back on. It may not be fun, but in the long run, it will be a good thing. Here is an overall picture of what your budget should look like when you are finished.
Still have questions about starting your budget? Leave me your questions in the comment section below!
Now that you have set up your budget without too much pain (hopefully), find something fun to do for yourself!
- As long as it is in your budget, of course -
Pssst... Did you know that you can have Excel set up your budget so that it does all of the calculating for you? That's right! All you would have to do is just punch in the numbers! It makes the entire personal budgeting process super easy.
Stay tuned for more on budgeting like a freelancer by subscribing to Les Décideurs - and get ready for part two of budgets (coming soon)! In this next cycle, I will go into more detail about how to manage your budget, as well as answer all your questions from part one!