Figure out a Budget
Financial freedom starts with creating an every dollar budget at the beginning of each month and following it with diligence. When we are intentional with our money we will see a change immediately. The best way to start seeing a change in your finances is to create a budget and stick to it. Creating a budget will likely feel restricting at first, but within a few months you should get to the point where you feel a sense of freedom with a budget. A budget is simply a plan that is focused on what you are going to do with your money for the month. This allows you to be more intentional with every dollar that you have each month
Why do I need a Budget?
Some of you may be asking why you need a budget. You are probably thinking to yourself that you get along just fine without one, so let me ask you this. Do you ever wish you had more money for certain things? I am going to assume your answer was yes. When we do not live on a budget we naturally spend more money. A budget helps to create an intentional focus with your money so that you can direct every dollar to where you want it to go.
When we get on a budget we become more aware of how much money we have and where it is going. It allows us to spend wisely as well as save and give generously. A budget does not have to be restricting unless you need it to be in order to achieve a goal. Budgeting is simply a plan for your money and when you do it you will feel like you have more money each month.
How do I Create a Budget?
The process of creating a budget can be fairly simple or it can be extremely complex. If you are just starting to budget I recommend going on the simple side, because it will be easier and will create less stress. Everydollar.com is a free budgeting resource created by Ramsey Solutions and it allows you to create an every dollar specific budget online as well as on your tablet or smartphone for free.
There are tons of budgeting forms, programs and apps available for free as well as paid versions, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first thing to do in order to create a budget is look at last month’s spending. Get your bank statements and receipts and figure out exactly where your money went last month as well as find out how much money you made for the month. While you are doing this you should gather together all of your bills so you know how much you owe and to who. If you have debt gather together how much you owe total as well as what your minimum monthly payments are so that you can be sure to list them out.
Once you have gathered your information you can start putting it down on paper. Start with your income. At the top of the page list how much money you made last month. Below your income you can start out by listing the things you know you have due each month such as bills, mortgage/rent, and debts. It is also helpful to create some different categories to organize your budget such as: Giving, Saving, Housing, Transportation, Food, Lifestyle, Insurance & Taxes, and Debts. From your statements and receipts for the last month you can start putting dollar amounts underneath each category until you have accounted for all or most of what you spent in the prior month. With all of your prior months expenses annotated you can add them up for each category to help determine how much you will need to allocate in each category for the upcoming month.
When first starting your budget you will notice some subcategories underneath each category that will have specific numbers. These subcategories are typically specific utilities and rent/mortgage under Housing, gas and maintenance under Transportation, groceries and restaurants under Food, and you will likely create some of your own under lifestyle. When you do this you will see exactly what you owe each month in comparison with what you make and you will be able to see how much you have extra to do the extras like paying down debt or buying something that you want that is not a necessity.
Below is an example of a basic handwritten budget. At the top you will notice the income and I have included the main headings that I suggested as well as listed the bills and minimum payments under each. For lifestyle you will notice that I have listed cash for both him and her as well as some for kids. This is an extremely tight budget that this family is living on, but it is still important to have a little bit of spending money that each person can choose to spend how they wish. Without some spending money a budget will be extremely difficult to stick to. In this sample budget the couple is paying their bills and their minimum monthly payments on all of their debts while saving up some money to get to their $1,000 beginner emergency fund which is the first thing to do after getting on a budget.
Budgeting is fairly simple to do and it does not have to be complicated; however, if you desire to have a more complicated and specific budget and you will do the work and stick to it then you can do that, but start simple and get in the habit first. Realize that when you first start budgeting it is likely going to take some time before you are able to stick to the budget for the month. Each budget is month specific and will change slightly, but the more you do it the more intentional you will be and after a few months it should become much easier and you should start seeing some extra money each month to put toward your emergency fund, debt, savings, spending, etc.
With all of that said you will need a reason to do a budget. If you do not know why you are figuring out a budget you will not do it and if the reason is not good enough you will not do it. The easy thing to do is to just spend your money, do your best to pay your bills, and hope that you didn’t overspend or overdraft your account. The wise thing to do is to budget and to create a plan based upon your goals and dreams for the future. When your “why” is big enough you will find the desire and energy to start budgeting.
Congratulations in your quest to start budgeting and beginning down the path of financial freedom! If you would like help or have any questions along the way please feel free to contact me by calling 573-208-4266. One-on-one coaching is available in person, over the phone, and via video chat. Don’t let another day go by without a plan for your finances.
Thank you for your time and have a blessed day!