Okay, so I will admit that I am a bit of a numbers geek. I love playing around with numbers and creating my budget each month. Creating a budget gives me a sense of security so I’m truly baffled that the word Budget strikes fear in so many people. Don’t you want to have a plan for your money?
So here’s some theories I have on why you don’t have or want a budget:
Maybe you have so much money you don’t need a budget because you’re free to spend whatever you want worry-free. In that case, I’m not sure why you’re bothering to read my little money blog, unless of course it’s just to have your weekly dose of Holly-ness.
Or maybe the more likely scenario is that you don’t have enough money and you think a budget isn’t for you. DUH!! I’m right there with you in the not enough money scenario and that’s exactly why I know it’s so important to have a monthly budget because you don’t want to be running out of money on day 22 of a thirty-day month.
Maybe you just think it’s too complicated and you’re not a numbers geek like me so you don’t even know where to start. Wow, this is your lucky day because guess what?? It’s not complicated and I’m going to tell you how to do it. My kid is taking calculus, that’s complicated. Geometry…that’s crazy complicated, all those stupid shapes. Setting up an easy budget is not complicated if you know how to add and subtract. You can even use a calculator or a spreadsheet…that’s not cheating, I promise.
I use a simple excel spreadsheet. You don’t have to though, you can do this with pen and paper if you want. First step is to figure out your income. Add up your net deposits for the month. For me this includes my two paychecks from my main employer, any paychecks I get from my second job, deposits from my kids for their car insurance (they pay their portion but the bill is taken out of my checking account), and Nick’s Social Security payment. Add those numbers up, I’ll wait while you punch the numbers in your calculator or carry the ones if you’re doing it by hand). I am lucky (well, that’s not necessarily the right word if you were to see the amounts but I digress) that I am on salary so my income generally stays about the same each month. If your income fluctuates then I would say to take a look at your past paychecks and base your budget on the lower paycheck amounts to play it safe. Okay, that’s the big number we have to work with, or small number in my case.
Next, you have to figure out your monthly debts. Generally my debts include my mortgage payment, HOA fee, car payment, credit card payments, cable bill, Nick’s Planet Fitness payment, student loan payment, Verizon bill, LGE, and car insurance. I also have a spot for Groceries, entertainment, restaurants, and gas. Your categories are probably going to look different then mine and that’s okay because we all have different situations. Okay, add those up. Don’t worry, it usually freaks me out a bit too but you got to know this number. Done?? Good.
Next step, take your income number and subtract the monthly debts number. Ideally you’re going to be left with a positive number. But don’t freak out if you don’t. If you are short (negative number) then you have to start tweaking the budget. Some of those monthly debt numbers are fixed, things like your mortgage, and student loan payment, etc. There are several categories you can probably adjust though. Entertainment, restaurants, and and groceries are usually the first to be tweaked for me. Yes, I fully believe you should have an Entertainment fund, even if you’re crazy poor. I personally budget $50 a week. This might cover a movie, or whatever potluck supplies I’m bringing to book club night, or whatever. Most of the time I don’t spend this amount each week so I’ll let the unused amount roll over to the next week. Running a little short this month? Guess what, your grocery fund needs to be adjusted down to include what’s on sale, or maybe the generic version of the cereal. The vices definitely need to go, if you’re short on funds then you shouldn’t be buying alcohol, cigarettes, diet cokes, eating out every other meal, whatever your particular vice is. Mine is diet coke and eating out when my son is home.
I update my budget daily. It takes just a few minutes and that allows me to see where I am at for the month. If I have already spent $60 of my $200 allotted for restaurants for the month and it’s only week one then I know I have to dial it back the next week or so. I’m disciplined enough to do that but if you’re not then maybe you could try the Dave Ramsey method of using envelopes. If you have $30 a week to spend on restaurants or alcohol then put that amount of cash in an envelope at the beginning of the week. When the cash is gone then you’re done. Pretty easy.
I’m telling you, even if you think I’m crazy, try it for two months. I say two months because if you haven’t used a budget before then you’re probably going to be way off on what you’re actually spending versus what you think you spend on some categories. And that’s okay, the next month you’ll have a better idea of what you’re spending, where you can cut back, and what you need to adjust your totals on. Believe me, it’s nice not to always have to worry about how you’re going to survive on no money the next two or three or seven days until you get your next paycheck.