How to Create a Successful Budget and Stick to it

Budgeting is like dieting. Instead of putting limits on the kind or amount of food you eat, you restrict what you spend your money on. Neither one is fun and they both take a lot of discipline and dedication.  But, without some sort of healthy eating plan, your health could be on the decline and without some sort of harness on your spending habits, you might find yourself in financial trouble.

I started my own personal budget to save money. Now, it has become such an important part of my financial life that living without a budget just seems scary. Looking back to when I started, it is truly amazing to see how much money I was able to save and still continue to save today. How do I do it? I follow some simple rules that really anyone could follow.

Figure out budget

 

Simply gaining the awareness and insight of how much income you have, and what exactly comes out of it, will help a lot in managing your finances. The easiest way to set up a budget is to start with how much you make each month (after taxes) and the total amount you pay in expenses. Expenses to include are your rent or mortgage, utilities, phone, cable, internet, car payment, credit card, car insurance and student loans. You also can’t forget other expenses like a gym membership, any subscriptions to music apps or magazines, gas for your car, childcare costs, groceries and miscellaneous costs such as dining out, going to the movies, pet costs, shopping trips and anything else that might not be needed but you still spend money on.

I know… just when you think the list is over, it keeps on going.

Do the math                               

On a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle. The left side will be to list your monthly income and the right side will be to list of all your expenses for the month. List each individual expense and what exactly it costs each month. Then, add up your income. Add up all your expenses. When you subtract your expenses from your income, the number you come up with is what you have left at the end of the month.

The below example is pretty basic, but yours might have more than one income and many more expenses if it’s a budget for more than one person or an entire family.

Budget

If you have money left over, that’s great. You’re on your way to building a great budget. If you’re just breaking even or you are spending more each month than you make, make some adjustments. Decrease the amount of money you spend on the unnecessary items. If you want to really make some changes, see how you can adjust the must-have items. Call your cable company, insurance company and cell phone company to ask about other package options.  Maybe switch gyms or ditch the membership and work out from home instead.

Manage your budget

Everybody’s budget will differ depending on their own situation. The good thing is that it can be managed by trial-and-error.

When I first started, looking at the entire month and trying to budget that way was really overwhelming for me, so I divided all my fixed monthly expenses to see what they were costing me per week. I took the amount of my total monthly expenses and divided it by four. Then, I subtracted that from my weekly income. What I came up with was what I had left over for each week. I was then able to get a solid amount I could spend during the week, and know that my expenses would still be covered at the end of the month.

It was kind of like a weekly allowance for myself. It sounds like a drag, but I knew that all of my bills were paid with no problem, I had money going into my checking account for a cushion and I still had some spending money for things like going out to eat, shopping, etc. Plus, I list my savings account as a monthly expense in my budget and that is how I am able to save.

As time went on, I got more comfortable following a budget and learned how to spend more wisely. I am now able to manage my spending and my budget based on the month instead of going week-by-week. It’s easier now because I had lots of practice while I was following a weekly budget.

Don’t be afraid to try new things with your budget that are better for your lifestyle. Remember, what’s good for you might not work for someone else and vice versa. Try out all your options!

track your spending

While you might have a budget set up and know how you will manage it, how can you really stick to it? An easy way to do this is to track your spending each day.

  • Use your cell phone to list what you spend. Most smartphones have notepad apps built right in.
  • Keep a notebook at home that you fill out at the end of every day or
  • Keep a small notepad in your car or purse so you can fill it out on the go.
  • Put the date(s) you’re tracking at the top of the page.
  • Write your spending limit right on the list and don’t spend over it. Like when you’re watching calorie intake on a diet.

It can feel somewhat like a chore at first, because it kind of is, but once you start seeing where your money goes, it becomes an easy and fun way to stay on track. Try it out for a couple weeks or a month and see how tracking works for you!

Here are some quick tips to stick to your budget:

Keep your budget handy: Whether you have a document on your computer that you can print out, or use your cell phone, it’s a good idea to keep your budget accessible so you can look at it whenever you need.

Keep it up to date: Things in our lives are always changing, especially in finances. Make sure you keep your budget updated with new or changing expenses – whether they increase or decrease. Same goes for your income if you change jobs.

Let expenses roll over: If you go over your budget this month by $120, take $120 out of your monthly spending allowance next month. Everything will even out and you are technically still sticking to your budget.

Don’t freak out: Once you start seeing your savings pile up and your cushion increase, it can be a little unsettling when you have to suddenly tap into your savings or take a chunk out of that cushion. Just like when you binge on burgers and chips during the weekend and come Monday the scale goes up 2 pounds and your world feels like it’s crashing down. Don’t give up! As long as you stick to your budget as you move forward, you’ll be fine. Things can’t always be perfect in this life full of surprises.

Money is a stressful topic as it is, and budgets are supposed to help make it less stressful. Do you have any favorite budgeting tips? Let us know in the comments below!

One Response to “How to Create a Successful Budget and Stick to it

  • Great ways to manage your money! Many different ways that you can succeed in saving.

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