When it comes to looking like you have your adult life together the best place to start is managing your money. If you can pay all your bills on time and throw some money in savings each month you are doing pretty well. It can also save you a lot stress and time scrambling that you can put into other difficult adult activities, like figuring out how to clean your whole apartment before your mom comes over in 15min!!! GASP! (Don't worry I got you! The post is coming soon)
Where was I? Oh yeah budget!
Creating a budget can also save you a ton of cash and give you a lot more freedom with your money. You won't impulse buy those cute shoes and then find out a week later you have no money for food for the rest of the month. If you know where all your money is going, then you know that you can totally afford that cute dress! (...and you should so get it! It is ADORABLE! btw)
So here is my starter guide to creating a budget and sticking to it!
Get all that paperwork together in a big pileGather bills, bank statements and anything that involves money going in or out. (If you are a paperless person, log into your online financial accounts)
Step 1.5Figure out how you want to create your budget. I use a combination of things. Usually a paper worksheet or spreadsheet to plan, then a budget tracker like Mint to keep up on how I am doing and how much I actually spend each month.
Oh and just to make the not so thrilling topic of budgeting SO much more exciting I created a super cute worksheet you can use! (you can get a sneak peak in the image at the top of this post) It goes hand in hand with my steps in this post. Click the button below to get it!
Figure out your money coming inMake a list of all the income you have in a typical month. The easiest way to do this is by looking at how much you made last month and using that number. If you have a steady job where you make about the same every month this part is super easy! If you have an inconsistent income go with the lowest income month out of the past few months. That way you know you typically make at least that much and can budget around that number.
List Necessary ExpensesThis is all the stuff you don't have much of a choice in paying for. Stuff like Rent, Utilities, Phone, Garbage, Water, Laundry, ect... When I do this I make a list in order of the bills that would have the biggest impact if I didn't pay them.
For Example: If I don't pay my rent I will be homeless. If I don't pay my electricity I will freeze to death in the winter. If I don't spend $100 in clothes this month I won't look new and fresh.
Your list should look something like this:
Rent - $1,000
Groceries - $400
Utilities - $150
Student Loans - $300
And so on...
ADULTING BONUS POINTS!
You can look at what you spent in previous months and take the average to use as how much you should budget for that category. Your budget will be more accurate and you may find fluctuating patterns that can help you save money once you know to watch out for them!
List The Non NecessitiesThis list is just all the stuff you would like to include in your budget if the money allows. Everything that didn't make it on the Necessary list. No you do not NEED a $100 monthly shoe budget... but if new shoes are super important to you add it to this list and see if you can make it fit in the budget later on. List these in order or what you want the most. It is best to use your numbers over the past few months to see what you typically spend in each of these categories.
Put it all together!Take your total number from your income list and put it at the top. Now going one by one down your Necessary Expense list subtract each expense from your income number.
If you get through your entire Necessary list and you have money to spare CONGRATS! You are living a life you can afford! skip to step 7!
If your starting income number runs out before you make it to the end of your necessary expense list continue to Step 6.
Make some tough callsOkay time to put your big girl pants on and take a deeper look at these lists to find your issue. When it comes down to it, you are either not making enough money, Spending too much money, or Both. Luckily these are all solvable problems!
If you are not making enough money
You can get a better job or an additional job. To make ends meat this might mean taking on a job you don't want, but unless you can make cuts in your spending you might not have a choice. It doesn't have to be a forever job, just one that will pay the bills until your situation changes.
If you are spending too much money
It is very simple you need to be spending less money. You need to make some cuts. This might mean downgrading your phone plan to bare bones, moving into a smaller apartment, trading your car in for one you won't have a payment on, or lots of other options. Now if you didn't listen to me and you put some non-necessities on your Necessary list you could just cut them and you might be done! So go make some cuts! Stop spending so much money!
Oh by the way rant warning...
Eating out is not a necessity. Take that money you were going to spend on dinner out and buy some groceries and MAKE YOUR OWN DINNER. Cooking is not hard and anyone can do it. I don't want your excuses. I don't even care if you are boiling pasta and heating up canned sauce to put on top. If it tastes bad then that is just all the more incentive for you to learn how to cook! You might even find out you like it! GASP!
Cut some more & saveIf you have made it all the way to step 7 you are paying everything you need to pay. Hopefully you even have some left over. Now before you go out and spend all that extra money you have because you budgeted, you need to take care of a few things.
Go back and make more cuts to that budget, yes I know there are some things in there you feel like you need, but you need to start with bare bones before you can start adding "Luxuries" like new (insert items you think you need) the one you have works fine so stop complaining.
NEXT you need to put some money into savings. Before you make that budget for your obscure kitchen gadgets collection, take a nice heaping amount and put it into a savings account. You should have an emergency fund of at least $1000 to start off with. After that you can start throwing money into savings for big purchases or maybe a vacation? This cycle of saving up before you spend is what keeps you out of debit so it is a good habit to start on now.
Let loose a little :)If you are too stingy with your money and not already in good spending habits you are at high risk for a spending binge! You need make a few small purchases like coffee with the girls or that dress you have been eyeballing, so you don't just give up and go back to an unbudgeted life. GASP!
WARNING! This is NOT an excuse to impulse buy things. Give yourself a certain budget for these items. (I call it fun money in my budget) You can also use it in combination with your non emergency savings to finally buy that new TV you have been saving for months and months to get! This time you actually deserve it and it will be a completely guilt free purchase!
Add your non necessitiesIf you still have something left after all this you can start making your budgets for the non necessities. (or pay off debt!!! I know I am no fun...) Just make sure that before you start spending money according to this new awesome plan you have made, that you know exactly where every penny is going! Every bit of extra cash you may have not accounted for should go someplace in your budget. So if you find some extra cash you missed go back and update the budget, because if you leave it up for grabs it will end up lost.
Watch, Rinse, Repeat!This is not a do it once and done type of thing. This is something you have to keep tabs on and revisit at least once a month to see how things are going. It took me 4 months of tweaking twice a month to get a realistic budget for myself the first time I did it. I had no clue how much I was typically spending on food! I spent all of what I thought I would need in groceries for the month in the first week of my first budget. So keep at it, it gets easier the longer you do it.
Still need some help? Don't worry I got you! Click the button below for the 6 page interactive budget worksheet I made just for you! (It is the cute one at the top of this post +4 more pages!) It goes right a long with the steps I have laid out in this post. AND it does all the math for you! (I tried to take out as many icky parts as possible!) You're Welcome!
So tell me what it your biggest budgeting tip?
What are you saving up or splurging for?