I’m not sure when it happened – but I’m obsessed with my personal finance budget. My parents have always been super organized when it comes to finances (and pretty much everything else) so perhaps it was subconsciously embedded into my brain. It wasn’t until I graduated college and officially became 100% responsible for my own finances that I started becoming super interested in how others spent, saved, and tracked their money. Websites like Refinery29’s Money Diaries can put me in the deepest rabbit hole, and I don’t shy away from asking those in my life how they save and track as well.
In my opinion, money shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Quite the opposite. Juggling finances is the one thing we all have in common – and while it’s easy for some, others could really use the help. So why not speak up and offer what it is that you do that works? My friends and I talk about finances all the time, so do me and my guy. This doesn’t mean that you have to wave around how much you make (or don’t make), and yes it’s still an offensive question to come right out and ask someone what their paycheck is. So let me be clear that this isn’t what I’m suggesting.
What I mean is, it shouldn’t be an off limits conversation to discuss how important it is to save, and to learn healthy habits and tricks to keep us on track and within our limitations so that we can have a fruitful life. One that celebrates saving money, not spending. One that honors a comfortable retirement plan and doesn’t leave us fighting paycheck to paycheck.
Why Is Budgeting Important?
The truth is, the minute you start to take budgeting seriously and you get in a groove – your life will change. Maybe not drastically, but it will. You’ll start to look at money differently. You’ll value it a bit more, and you’ll come to truly understand what you have. When you don’t use a budget to keep yourself on track, you are ten times more likely to spend more than you earn – to find yourself in debt and to be irresponsible with money. Creating a budget will reduce stress about money because you’ll know where you stand.
If this sounds familiar, I want to help you change that.
How to create a simple budget that works
Know what your bank offers you in way of tracking your accounts. For me, I have a couple of accounts since I have my own business. I’ll break it down for you quickly:
My business account is set up through Chase Bank. I have a business checking account and a business credit card, so all of my paychecks/income go into my business checking account and my credit card is paid off in full each month using that same account (since I only use this card for business expenses).
I pay myself twice a month (every 2 weeks) and put that income into my high yield personal checking account over at Ally Bank. I also put my monthly savings (once a month) into my high yield personal savings account over at Ally. Lastly, I put 20% of my monthly income into my high yield taxes account for the end of the year.
So Chase holds my business accounts, and Ally Bank holds my personal accounts (plus my tax account)
I have a Roth IRA (retirement fund) as well as some mutual funds that I invest in as well. My Roth IRA is a monthly, automated deposit on the 1st of the month, and my mutual funds was a one time deposit that grows on it’s own.
I also have one other credit card through Chase that I use for personal use, and is paid off each month through my personal checking account with Ally.
In order to be successful with your spending and to live a simple life within your means, you have to be honest with your spending habits and with those areas that give you trouble (retail therapy, anyone?) If you don’t own the problem, you can’t fix the problem.
For me, my issue has always been over gifting to those in my life. It’s one of the ways I show love and appreciation, and it’s something I work on minimizing each month. It’s not something that I want to give up entirely, so I give myself a strict budget on what it is I can spend. This also makes me look at my relationships closely, honor who really showed up that month, and celebrate them for it.
So grab a little notebook and get real with yourself. Jot down where most of your money goes each month (if you don’t know, pop open a bottle of vino and scroll through your statements to track your spending habits) and get to know yourself a little better. This is such a crucial practice in living mindfully, rather than just going through the motions and not being intentional with your hard earned cash.
At the end of each month, start to think about the month ahead. Make notes of what events you have coming up (friend’s birthday dinners), or maybe you know you’re taking a trip and your spending will look a bit different. Whatever it looks like for you, write it down in as much detail so that when you sit down to do your monthly budget, you’ll know what it needs to look like.
An example could be that your grocery bill will most likely be cut in half, since you’re traveling. Or your dining bill may be a bit higher because you have three birthdays to celebrate (remember, you can always say no thank you to one of them if it doesn’t feel like a priority!)
Check in often. It may seem like a pain at first, but I promise it’ll become second nature. If you’re anything like me, you’ll look forward to doing this! Simply open up your spreadsheet and change anything that needs changing. Whether you spent a bit more on gas that month, or you decided to put a bit more into savings. It’s important that you stay up to date with your finances and don’t let it become something as dreadful as taxes (nothing worse than having to sift through receipts and bills!) Value your time. Make your budget work for you, not against you. Doing these regular check ins will ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, and you know where you stand for the upcoming month.
Fixed Expenses vs Variable Expenses: What’s the difference?
This question is so common you’d be flabbergasted if you saw how many responses pop up when you google this. But allow me to break it down for you plain and simple:
Fixed expenses are the costs that don’t change from month to month. A perfect example would be your rent/mortgage payment or your car lease/payment.
Variable expenses are the costs that (you guessed it) vary from month to month. This would include things like groceries, gas for your car and money you spend on dining out.
Now, onto your budget. Setting them up can be a little overwhelming, so I wanted to make sure I shared the one that I designed for myself, and made it accessible to all of you.
Each month, you can go in and customize it to fit your lifestyle. For instance (as we discussed above), some months you may have more birthdays to celebrate than the last. Or perhaps you know you’ll be driving a lot more, therefore your gas expenses will be higher than usual. Maybe you don’t have a car. Adjust accordingly.
If you’re not 100% sure of what your variable costs will be, always assume you’ll be spending more. Better to be safe than sorry! Plus its always a lovely surprise when you see how much you have left over at the end of the month that you can put into savings or treat yourself to a massage. This is also a really good time to see what fixed expenses you can try and lower. Every few months I call my cable/internet and cell phone company to chat about lowering my rates. Spoiler alert: I’ve been successful 100% of the time.
Tips for keeping yourself accountable with your monthly budget
Set reminders on your phone
Set an alarm every two weeks and every month to sit down with your notebook and update your budget accordingly. Don’t skip this and don’t fall behind. You’ll only end up back where you started, which is blowing through your money and being unintentional with your spending.
Talk about it with your friends & family
Let go of the idea that money is taboo. Stay respectful and don’t get specific about dollar signs, but don’t be afraid to ask how people go about saving their money. One person could completely shift the way you start thinking about money, and put you on the track to financial freedom. This is also a great way to keep yourself accountable since you’ll have it on your brain. Let your loved ones know you’re on the path to taking your money more seriously, and ask them to check in with you once in a while to see how you’re doing.
Download an easy-to-use budget template
Find a template that works well for you and that’s aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. I wasn’t able to find one that I enjoyed working with each month, so I finally got around to creating my own and I love it. So much so that I want all of you to have it :) Click on the image below to grab your free copy.
So there you have it – four tips to create a simple budget and a FREE template to get you started and keep you on track each month! I hope my opening up to you about this subject that’s often hush-hush was helpful, and as always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. xx