Learn how to create a budget that works for you. When you decide where your money goes, you control what you cultivate in life.
If you’ve ever reached the end of the month and wondered where all your money went, you’re not alone. Somehow that big, fat paycheck you received on the first of the month has disappeared, and now your left finishing your month eating Ramen and hoping you have enough gas in your car to get you through Monday.
It’s time you start keeping a budget.
By being intentional with your spending, you’ll learn to be in control of the money you earn, as well as exercise self-discipline, which can seep into other areas of your life.
Sticking to a budget isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
My husband made a career change about a year ago, and while I think it was absolutely one of the best decisions we’ve made, it came with a temporary pay decrease.
All of the sudden we found ourselves with more month than money, and we weren’t entirely sure what to do about it.
So we buckled down, looked at our spending, and cut the excess.
We prioritized what we were obligated to spend money on (such as rent, utilities, and insurance) and identified our variable expenses (groceries and gas). We explored all of the “extras” we spend money on and found ways to cut back.
For example, we were paying for cable, but absolutely never used it. We like to eat out which was costing us way too much, so we committed to eating only at home unless there was a special occasion (such as our anniversary or family visiting). Along those lines, we also committed to eating the food already in our pantry and only buying the bare basic essentials each week.
Extreme? Only a little.
We still have Netflix (because let’s face it, when you have a toddler and a new baby Netflix is a total lifesaver), we still have a book subscription for our little girl, and we enjoy getting small surprises for each other occasionally.
We’ve seriously cut some of the excesses without canceling everything. It’s about balance, friend. It’s about prioritizing what you want to spend that cash on.
Take a serious and honest look at where you’re spending your money.
Could the money used for smoothies each month be better spent paying off debt? What about that TV subscription you only use once a month?
When you take an honest look at where your money is going, partnered with a willingness to take absolute control over it, you may be surprised to find that you have more in your account than you thought.
Intentional spending leads to a life where you are in control of not only the cash itself, but also your own activities, habits, and pursuits. As a result, you get to decide what is truly important to you, and what needs to go.
It’s about more than money. It’s about your priorities in life.
Be realistic – If your spouse drives 30 minutes to work every day, your $20 gas budget isn’t going to work. Be honest and realistic about how much you spend and how much you need.
List EVERYTHING you spend money on – It’s so easy to overlook things in your budget, so get out your bank statements and see where your money’s been going.
Commit – A budget does nothing for you if you don’t stick to it. Commit to your budget and start seeing control over your cash.
Build before you start – Your budget should be prepared before the start of each month.
Look for ways to reduce spending – Cancel your TV subscription, reduce your restaurant budget, cut out the daily latte, learn to meal plan to reduce your grocery bill. Just because society expects you to pay for something, such as TV, internet, or a smartphone, doesn’t mean you can’t survive without it.
Look for ways to increase your income – Sell things you no longer need or want, start a side hustle, invest to start getting returns.
Above all, a budget is not some mystical, magical thing that will evolve on its own and keep you from overspending. It’s your sidekick. Your guide. Your coach. You need to check in with it monthly to reevaluate your spending and your goals, as well as daily or weekly to keep your spending in check. A budget is meant to control your money, not track your money.
“This is all well and good, but how do you actually stick to it??”
Use a spreadsheet or program to help you keep track.
Use an app that links to your bank account or one that requires manual input – just remember to actually record everything!
Pay with cash – Use Dave Ramsey‘s “envelope system” to physically keep yourself from overspending. OR
Use a debit card – the idea is to not use credit cards and put yourself into even more
Adapt your budget to work for you.
Be mindful of where you overspend your money, and do your best to avoid or exercise self-control in those situations. (Examples: coffee shop every morning, clothes shopping, online shopping)
Choose to think about using what you have or creating what you need rather than thinking about what you can’t or don’t For example, eat the food you have in your house before buying more groceries. Make your own laundry detergent. Or take it a different direction by creating something that will help bring in additional income, such as starting a blog or opening an Etsy shop.
Regardless of your level of wealth, a budget is a necessary tool for being in control of your finances.
As you create your budget, think long-term. This isn’t a fad or “diet for your cash.” It’s a commitment to being a better steward of the money you earn. Your budget will adapt and grow as you do, so don’t feel shackled to it. Make it work for you.
Finally, here’s something fun – challenge yourself to spend $5 or more under budget on all variable expenses. This could bring in an extra $5-50 to throw into your savings account each month.