(AKA: How to afford to do the things you want to do)
You can read lots and lots of financial advice. There are books and blogs and e-courses,oh my! However, we’ve found that truly the ONE thing you must have if you want to succeed financially is the dreaded B word- a BUDGET!
The months when we get off track with our budget are the months that we lose sight of the big picture. Creating a budget gives you the space to save, invest, and prepare for emergencies. Even if your income is small, giving “every dollar a name” (Dave Ramsey stuff right there) and living under your means will allow you to do this.
I’m going to walk you through how to make a budget in the same way we have been doing one for 12+ years. All you need is a Google spreadsheet or a Excel file.
Here are the items that we budget for every single month, along with some notes:
If you don’t have a clear picture of what money is coming in each month and what your set expenses are each month, how can you prepare? What happens when 2 of your little ones get strep and the Dr visit + the medicine is $190 (hmm, wonder who this happened to?), now your sickness becomes a financial crisis.
Once you budget consistently for 3-6 months, you’ll notice something. You will hardly check your bank account! There’s no need to check it- you’ll know that you have the money because you told that money where to go!
We’ve been making budget each month since 2006. It’s never one-size-fits-all. You must meet each month and discuss the changes for that time. Utility charges vary by season, kids need clothes and shoes at different times of the year- you must anticipate these things.
- Some items are not listed (like car insurance) because we’re able to swing them through my husband’s commission. In your own budget, I would recommend breaking down your larger expenses into monthly expenses (you’ll notice I do this for our term life insurance policies). For instance, maybe you pay your car insurance twice per year and the cost is $600. Instead of trying to come up with $600 in June and December, allot $100/month in your budget and then DON’T TOUCH THAT MONEY. When the bill comes, the money will already be in your checking account. You can also do this in saving for Christmas or other big purchases.
- You must use (some) cash. It’s very hard to adhere to a budgeted number if you only use debit or credit. We take out cash on the 1st and 15th each month to pay for groceries, eating out, blow money (usually ends up being eating out) and babysitting. Having money that can be physically touched causes a different emotion than swiping a card. I’ve tried using debit/credit for groceries and I always underestimate how much I’ve spent. Seeing that there’s only $30 in my grocery envelope shows me that it’s time to buckle down and eat from the pantry or freezer, instead of making another trip to Kroger.
- A budget works better when you stay out of debt. Don’t look at your monthly budget like, “Oh, we have an extra $165 dollars every month, we could afford an upgrade on xyz.” Negative, ghostwriter. You’re looking for money to save, invest, and give. Stop asking if you can afford the payment and start asking if you can afford IT. (Notice there are no lines for a car payment?) You can’t get out of debt if you keep taking on more! Whatever you need to do to push yourself- do it!
- If there is money leftover, start saving for an Emergency fund (if you don’t already have one). A $1,000 should be enough in the short run to cushion you against car repairs, a leaky roof…or strep throat. 😉
- Notice these are just expenses. I didn’t add lines for saving, investing, or even vacations. Add whatever you need to add as long as you aren’t spending more than you make!
Do you do a budget? What does your budget look like?