This is usually a pretty scary word for people, generally, people don’t want to create a budget for fear of failure. The thought is If you create a budget, you have a plan, if you break away from that plan, you fail. This is wrong on so many levels. How many times do you make plans with friends and at the last minute things get changed or expanded on?
Stop looking at a budget as the be all end all rule – it’s a guide, a tool to help you prepare for next month. You shouldn’t fear the budget, embrace it, make it your own. Be the Boss of the Budget!!!
Say it with me “I will be the boss of my budget”
The most time-consuming part of a budget is having to gather all the data, you need to have an idea of how much money you have coming in and how much money you have going out. I have spent hours pouring over my bank accounts going back up to a year to try to figure out what I’ll spend on food next month unless you consistently eat the same thing every day, this is a waste of time. Yes, it gives you a general idea of how much you spend on groceries but as long as you have a good estimate, you will be fine.
I know what you’re thinking, I don’t know how much money I have coming in because I work different hours every week, or I have no idea how much money I’m going to spend on groceries or fun next month so I can’t create a budget. Oh darn, guess I’ll have to just keep doing what I’m doing… yeah right – you don’t get out of it that easy.
I’m going to break this down for you into 5 easy steps. Are you ready to get your money in order? You can thank me later!
Write down your bills that don’t change every month and how much you owe
This includes rent, phone bill, utility bills if that applies, car payment (or bus pass), internet, cable (I really hope you aren’t paying for cable, if so we have to have a different conversation), insurance, and savings
It should look something like this:
You know you need at least $720 next month to pay your consistent bills, your next step is to estimate how much you need for the bills that change monthly (groceries and fun money). The easiest way to do this is to look at how much you spent the previous month. For simplicity lets say I spent the following last month:
Add up all of your bills
Figure out how much you make at a bare minimum, for example if your job guarantees 30 hours a week and you make $11 an hour the minimum amount you would be paid bi-weekly is $500 (30*11=$330 X 2 = $660 – I usually multiply my earnings by 30% to account for taxes, it may seem like a lot but I’d rather under estimate and have money left over).
Subtract what you make from what you owe for the month
|Incoming||$1000 ($500 bi-weekly)|
That’s it – that’s all it takes to budget. I like to do a budget every 3 months so that I can plan for things like birthdays, parties, concerts, and other events I want to attend.
A lot of people ask about the left over $80 and what to do with it. You have three options
- Add it to your savings and/or fun money
- Take it out as cash and put it somewhere in your apartment (this way you always have cash on hand)
- Leave it in your account as a buffer in case something comes up unexpectedly (this is what I do)
Another frequent question I get is “Why do you only suggest saving $50 a month”?
The hardest part of money management for young adults to accomplish is saving money. If you can start small (heck, make it $25 if that works) you are still starting and getting ahead of other young adults.
I’ve attached a spreadsheet here for you to print out and put on your fridge