How to Make a Better Budget

Having a budget is essential in order to better manage your money and reach your financial goals, such as paying off debt or saving to buy a home. A budget can help you set spending limits and feel more in control of your money. So, we’ll be going over how to create your own personal budget.

Budgeting First Step: Track Your Income and Expenses

The first step of budgeting is finding out your net monthly income. To calculate how much money you will be taking home, you will need to deduct taxes, insurance costs, and business expenses from your monthly salary. This will leave you with an exact amount that you will be receiving at the end of each month, known as your net monthly income.

No matter how much you earn, it is still possible to end up with no money if you don’t know how to spend it properly. So, the next step is the figure out how to allocate that amount by tracking your expenses and seeing exactly where your money is going. Start by dividing your expenses into two categories, fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are recurring monthly payments such as rent and phone bills which typically remain the same each month. Variable expenses tend to vary based on consumption, such as groceries, gas, entertainment, and eating out.

Step 2: Find Savings in Your Budget (Yes, You Can)

To determine areas where you can save more money, review some of your credit card and bank statements from the past few months. If your net income is greater than your total expenses, then you can start putting aside the extra money for your retirement or emergency fund. However, if your expenses exceed your net income, then you must look for ways to cut down on expenses as soon as possible. This involves going over your variable expenses and identifying unnecessary expenses such as subscriptions that you no longer need or eating out too often. Variable expenses are typically easier to cut down on in order to stick to a strict budget., but you may even need to look to adjust your fixed expenses in case you are still going over your budget.

Step 3: Make Plans for Savings and Paying Down Debt

While budgeting differs depending on each person’s situation, the 50/30/20 budget is a popular choice that works in most circumstances. Under this strategy, your net income will be split 50% for needs, 30% for wants, and 20% for savings or paying off debt. It is absolutely critical that you commit to paying down debt and then setting aside savings. The entire point of budgeting is to help you generate “future-forward” momentum in your financial life. The only way to do that is to free yourself from debt that may be choking your ability to save for the future. The next step? Save for the future.

This is why budgeting is key. Looking at the reality of the numbers that shape your life allows you to get clear about what is happening in your financial life. Think about it this way: what are your big life goals? Retiring? Traveling? Being financially secure and independent? You can’t do any of those things if you find yourself having to shovel part of your money each month into a credit-card debt hole. So make a plan to get out of that hole, today. (Consider debt consolidation loans as an easy option: you can pay off all your cards and pay a single monthly bill that charges you less interest than your cards.)

Budgeting Is Never Actually “Done” — And That’s Good

Also, your initial budget isn’t set in stone, and it must be adjusted regularly as your financial situation changes. When you get out of debt, you revise your budget to set aside an emergency fund. When the emergency fund is complete — 3 to 6 months’ living expenses — then you can start saving for the good stuff: retirement, investing, more. Keep making plans and keep revising your budget — and build yourself the stable financial future you deserve.

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