The “B” word sends a shudder down the spine of many people. It conjures up fears of never being able to do anything with their money. That it is somehow locked up in this budget and cannot be used for anything else. That in fact is not the case. A household budget is simply a way to see where all your money is going. And more importantly to give you a plan that tells your money what it is supposed to be doing, whether that’s paying bills, going into savings or retirement accounts, or to buy groceries.
Every successful business or person has a money plan. This is what a budget is, a plan for your money, telling it what to do instead of it telling you what to do. With a budget you can set and achieve your financial goals. You can also get a better view of what your money can do for you now and in the future.
With a household budget you can create a spending and savings plan that puts aside a certain amount of money each month for known and unexpected expenses. It will also give you a good record of your monthly expenses based on each month’s expenditures.
The first thing you need to do when setting up a budget is figure out what your monthly income is. If you have a salaried job this is easy because it is a set amount each pay period. If you work on commissions or are self employed this may be more of an estimate. Write this number down at the top of your budget sheet.
Now comes the fun part. Start writing down all your monthly expenses and include even the smallest of expenses. There are certain fixed expenses such as mortgage, car payments, insurance that you need to make every month. You will also need to track those expenses that are more fluid, such as groceries, gasoline, clothing, and entertainment.
If you start by subtracting your fixed expenses from your income what you are left with needs to be budgeted to pay for those expenses that seem to change from month to month. Once you are done allocating money to all your expenses what you are left with is either a positive or negative cash flow. The nice thing about a budget is you can quickly scan what you have written down and see exactly where the money is going. This is very helpful if you are living pay check to pay check because chances are you can find some areas that you can easily cut back on or do without to leave you with extra cash at the end of every month.
Here are four quick tips to help get your budget on track.
1. Learn money management – Successfully dealing with money is 80% behavior. Most people work for their money instead of having their money work for them.
2. Make a plan – A budget is a money plan. Most people would never dream of building a house without a plan. In fact most every activity in life involves some sort of plan. But our most important asset, our money, is left plan free and when we run out or are weighed down with debt we don’t know why.
3. Needs and Want – Know the difference. Needs are basic things like a home with a roof, groceries, clothes (in moderation), transportation to get to work. You don’t need a $400 plus car payment to get to work or a pair of $100 designer jeans. You may want them but you don’t need them.
4. Be a little frugal – This doesn’t mean live in a cave. You can still have fun but make sure it fits into you budget.
Creating a household budget is the first step to getting your finances under control. You will have to be patient with the process because chances are it will not work the first 2 to 3 months you do it. But remain diligent and around the third month you will begin to see patterns that will help you refine your budget into a financial plan that will set you on the right path.