Setting up a budget is relatively simple; sticking to your budget can be much harder! Ask yourself why you want or need a budget in the first place – that way, you have a goal in mind! Think about aligning your budget to a shorter-term goal like buying a home or affording a vacation. That way, the finish line isn’t so far off! Achievement is just around the corner!
After you determine the why, the next steps aren’t complicated, but they will take time and discipline. Devote your full attention to where your money is going so you can figure out how to make it work harder for you. Here are some steps to get you going:
Determine your net income. Add up your after-tax income, alimony, child support, investment income, and any business income to get this number. If your monthly income varies, take the monthly average and use that number as your budget for each month.
Scrutinize ALL spending habits. Dive deep into looking at every dollar you spend over a 30-day timeline. Pick apart every purchase on every bank and credit card statement and look at receipts to see where you spent.
Factor in irregular yet recurring expenses. Pull out a calendar and previous bank statements to emphasize high, regular costs. Whether it’s Christmas presents in December, tax bills in April, or back-to-school shopping in August, they must have a place in your budget.
Choose your favorite budgeting tool. Whether you’re more comfortable with newer apps and software (such as Mint or EveryDollar), your trusty Excel spreadsheets, or a piece of paper and pen, find a tool that works for you. Track expenses over the previous 30 days, making sure to organize spending into the appropriate category.
Once you’ve completed the budget, the next step is holding yourself accountable to sticking to it. The easiest way to do this is by using an online budgeting tool, which can provide real-time discipline through automated alerts. Also, get your loved ones involved in budgeting from the beginning. Like anything worthwhile, you build the skill of money management through consistent practice. The earlier your start, the better off you’ll be!