A Beginner’s Guide to Creating A Budget
If you’re anything like me, living paycheck to paycheck is nothing new. I grew up in a large family and my parents didn’t even make it to the next paycheck most of the time. I remember the struggle they faced.
When I moved out on my own, I wasn’t making much money. Just barely enough to pay for rent and utilities, and maybe have a little left to put some food in the fridge.
I didn’t have a budget and often found myself scraping by for a few days until that paycheck came in.
If you are wondering why you might want to start a budget, check out a post I wrote just for you, called You Don’t Have To Be Broke To Have A Budget.
Once I got married and started having children of my own, it became clear that creating a budget, and sticking to it, would be necessary. I started small, making sure my bills were all paid, and eventually was able to work savings into my budget.
The 50-30-20 Rule is a popular guideline for people when they create a budget. Basically what this says is: you divide your income into 3 categories. 50% goes to living expenses, 30% goes to your “wants”, and 20% goes into savings.
Now, when I was first starting out, there was no way I could put 20% of my income into savings. My budget looked more like 97-2-1.
While I do think it’s important to save, as a beginner I would recommend not stressing over a specific amount. After I started earning more money, I started setting aside a little here and there for savings. Maybe $10 or $20 per paycheck.
Eventually, I was able to allot more of my paycheck to savings, and I was able to enjoy watching my savings account balance begin to grow!
Put Your Budget in Writing
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t have something to SHOW me how much money I have to spend, I tend to think my checking account is limitless. One of the best decisions I’ve made regarding my budget was putting it in writing. There are several free apps you can use if you prefer to keep everything on your phone.
You may prefer to do what I did at the beginning and start in a notebook. I simply wrote out a budget on paper and filled in the blanks as I went along. Here is a picture of what mine looked like:
My preferred method now is to use an Excel Spreadsheet. When I started using this method, I started out small so I didn’t get overwhelmed. Once you are more comfortable with your finances, there are tons of more complex budget format examples on Google.
I won’t get into the super-detailed budgets you can do, because there was no way I was ready for that as a beginner. Here is what I started with:
Give It a Try and See If It Works For You
Once you have your budget in writing, I truly believe you won’t feel intimidated by the idea of having one.
If you’re like me (and I’m going to assume you are if you’re still reading this), seeing where your money is going each month is going to help you feel less stressed about finances.
You may also find yourself realizing you’re spending a little too much on “fun stuff” when you could be putting a little more into your “New Car (or house, or shoes, or whatever else you want to save for)” fund.
Sticking to it
Once I started really keeping track of my budget, every month became a kind of challenge for me. I made it a goal to see if I could get my electricity bill lower than the month before, or spend less on groceries. Maybe even put more into savings this month than last.
By comparing each month and creating a challenge, I was able to stick to budgeting. After about three months it became a habit, and I haven’t stopped since.
I’m No Budgeting Expert
I’m just your average mom, figuring things out as I go. If you want some expert advice on creating a budget and really sticking to it, I definitely recommend anything by Dave Ramsey.
If you have children, I would recommend you read Smart Money Smart Kids. Dave wrote it with his daughter, and it’s great! There are some excellent tips in there!
Creating a Budget Overview
- The 50-30-20 is a popular budgeting technique, but may not be outside if you’re just starting out
- Don’t stress over how much you can put in savings, just try to put a little aside
- Out your budget in writing
- Excel spreadsheet or budgeting apps are super helpful
- Challenge yourself to stick with your budget
- For professional financial advice, Dave Ramsey is awesome
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As usual, I would love to hear any tips you may have, or if you simply have a story to share, leave me a comment!