How to Create a Budget

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When I went away to college, my parents told me to “make a budget”.  When I graduated from college, my parents told me to “make a budget.  When I was planning my wedding, my parents told me to “make a budget.”  When we were looking to buy our first home, my parents told me to… you guessed it, “make a budget.”

By this time in my life I should probably be an expert on budgeting, but I am not.  Like most people, I occasionally fail to see the big picture and give in to impulse buys or spend too much money on a pair of jeans, or eat out too many times per week.  But, that does not mean I should throw in the towel and just spend money all “willy nilly”.

Occasionally I hear my father’s voice reminding me to “tighten the purse strings” and that “money doesn’t grow on trees”.   This is my conscience reminding me to sit down to redo our loathsome, yet necessary household budget.  I am after all, a reasonably responsible adult with a child who will be going away to college in less than 8 years.

There are many factors that play a role when creating a budget from scratch, especially if it is your first time.  The task may seem overwhelming, but there are a few very basic tips to follow.

  1. List all “fixed” expenses.  These are expenses that do not change month to month.  These may include rent/ mortgage, car payment, insurances, utilities, loans, credit card bills etc.
  2. List all “variable” expenses.  These offer some flexibility such as groceries, entertainment, travel, eating out and general “fun money”.
  3. Know all sources of monthly income.
  4. Do the math… subtract fixed expenses from income.  Then factor in variable expenses.
  5. Don’t forget to factor in all of your savings/ retirement plans!

That’s it!  You now have a very basic household budget to work off of.  Once you have a budget created, whether you choose to use any of the many software options available, or if you prefer to create your own spreadsheet, keep it handy.  Look at it often.  Remember to reevaluate and adjust your budget over time as things in your life change and evolve, as they will naturally.

Remind yourself of your long-term goals.  This will help strengthen your will power and make it easier to walk away from those $100 jeans or that $6.00 cup of coffee. Personally, I hope to be able to retire and live comfortably when the time comes.  I want to be able to travel some and spend plenty of time on some beach.  That dream, along with my parents voices saying “make a budget” help keep me on track.

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