Do you think starting a budget is hard?
Do you procrastinate instead of making a budget?
If so, you’ve come to the right place because we are going to show you how easy it is to create a budget and save money. Because budgeting is challenging that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. In fact, now is a great time to learn to create a budget and live within that budget. We will share our best tips and guide you through the process of basic budgeting. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is a Budget?
- Do I Need a Budget Plan?
- How to Start a Budget?
- How to Create a Budget?
- How to Succeed at Budgeting?
WHAT IS A BUDGET
A budget is the cornerstone of responsible financial planning. It shows exactly how much money you have and where it is being spent. A budget can help you find ways to save money and plan for the future. Debt Wise Solutions has compiled helpful resources, tips, and tools to help you understand and create a successful budget. Also see our book, “Your Guide to Credit, Debt and Savings.”
DO I NEED A BUDGET PLAN
Every day, thousands of consumers face financial crises. These can be caused by personal or family illness, or loss of job, but the most common cause is overspending. By tracking your spending you will know exactly where your money is going.
Our society encourages consumers to “buy now” and “pay later,” offering credit cards and convenient ways to spend more everywhere we look. This is why it is so easy to get carried away with spending, and eventually end-up “knee-deep” in debt. A budget is designed to help consumers gain control of their spending, and with proper planning it can help to improve your financial situation.
HOW TO START A BUDGET
Start by keeping track of all your monthly living expenses and other monthly bills. Personal money management tools are available to help you create a budget and assist you in staying on track in meeting your budgeting plans. Budget planning might include using hard copy, computer software, online and mobile applications financial management tools such as expense trackers and budget calculators. However, probably the easiest way to create a budget can be done by simply using a spreadsheet on a computer, or recording on a piece of paper. For assistance in creating your budget, there will be a link below that will allow you to access a spreadsheet.
- ONLINE PROGRAMS
A number of Internet-based budget templates and worksheets are available to help you account for both your income sources and expenses. You can also view most of the data stored on the online budget websites from your cell phone, which gives you greater mobility with accessing budget data. Mint.com is an example of a free online money management service.
- COMPUTER BASED SOFTWARE
In addition to online budgeting tools, computer based software applications such as You Need a Budget, or YNAB, is an example of budget software designed to assist you in managing your money. A free trial download of the YNAB software is available to help you learn about the program’s features, such as an assortment of quantitative charting features.
- BUDGET SPREADSHEETS
If you prefer simple spreadsheets rather than online and computer based software programs, Microsoft provides several free budget spreadsheet templates. More than 30 free budget templates can be downloaded into Microsoft Excel templates directly the Microsoft website. This includes general personal budget templates to project specific budgets, such as a wedding budget template. We will link to the Microsoft templates in the “How to Create a Budget” section below.
- BUDGET TRACKERS
Expense tracking involves accounting for your individual purchases to ensure you do not go over your monthly budget. An expense tracker tool becomes particularly important if, for example, your food expense includes meals from restaurants and frequent snack costs. In such cases, a mobile application, such as Buxfer and BillMonk, is a suitable tool to keep track of daily expenses.
- BUDGET CALCULATORS
A budget calculator tabulates your monthly savings, monthly expenses, annual expenses and income. Input the information into the budget calculator to automatically obtain a budget review. For example, the You Can Deal With It online budget calculator rounds up the information you input to let you know whether you are under or over budget. Bookmark a budget calculator to use as a resource to quickly run alternative budget scenarios.
- CUSTOM CALCULATORS
Budget calendars help you keep track of when your bills are due and the exact day your income sources will be delivered to you. Online budget calendars generally include calendar tickler systems that can be customized to send you reminders about upcoming bills via email or text message.
HOW TO CREATE A BUDGET
Creating a budget will give you an accurate picture of your financial standing, and will help you to make responsible decisions needed to reduce your debt and live within your means. (Take advantage of our FREE books “You, This World and Your Money” and “How to Get Out of Debt”).
In just a few steps, you can easily create a budget in Excel.
Things You Will Need
- Monthly Bills
- Pen and Paper
- Microsoft Excel
- Internet Access
We have designed a simple personal budget you can use instead of creating your own. Click the budget link below to get started, then save it to your computer.
Download DWS Excel Budget Form
(NOTE: You must have Microsoft Excel application to make the DWS Excel Budget Form operational with the Microsoft Excel Budget Template.)
To Create Your Own (See Instructions)
To download Microsoft Excel Budget Template, click on the link below or cut and paste the link in your browser.
- Once on the Microsoft site, “click” on Excel which just below the search bar.
- Scroll down to the Top Categories section and “click” on Budgets.
- Scroll through the budgets to find “Family Monthly Budget” and “select” that budget, then “click” the download button.
- Click “Accept” to consent to Microsoft’s service agreement and to begin the download.
- Open your download template with Microsoft Excel. Adjust and customize the categories to reflect your income and expenses. Input data to create your budget.
HOW TO PREPARE A BUDGET PLAN
- Create a list of all your regular expenses that are basically the same every month. These include utilities, credit cards, rent, cable, internet and the car payment. Type or write these down in a column under the heading “Regular Expenses.”
Double-check your list to make sure you aren’t forgetting any automatically deducted payments, like a gym membership or Netflix, etc.
- Add expenses that vary from month to month. These include food, gas, and pet expenses. Estimate the monthly amount of these by looking through old bank or credit card statements. A good budgeting tip is to estimate high and round up so you’ll always have more than you need.
- In the next column, create a list of your sources of income. These include salary, child support, residual income, and freelance income – any money that is coming in that you can spend freely. If these amounts vary, estimate to the best of your ability using old check stubs or online records. Estimate conservatively for these – you don’t want to create the illusion that you have more money than you do.
- Subtract expenses from income. You can do this automatically in Microsoft Excel by using the AutoSum function, or you can use a calculator. If this amount is negative, it means you are living above your means. You either need to cut some of your unnecessary expenses, like cable or internet, or find ways to make more income.
- Figure out if your budget is balanced. Ideally, your income should be segmented as such: housing 35%; savings 10%, other living expenses (food, entertainment, clothing) 25%; debt 15% and transportation 15%. See how your expenses add up. Having a balanced budget that incorporates savings and makes sure you aren’t spending too much on housing and transportation will help you eliminate debt and alleviate stress.
HOW TO SUCCEED AT BUDGETING
Once you’ve got the hang of tracking your spending, then what you need to do is reduce your spending down to a level that allows you to accomplish your goals. Most of us need to work at reducing our spending to where it should be. In order to pay-off debt, you should save money which may require you to stop eating lunch at restaurants and start making lunch at home. There are other small changes you can make to get out of debt faster. (See our book, “Common Cents to Savings”).
First identify your goal. Is it paying off debt? Buying a house? Buying a new car or putting a child through college? Maybe it’s just having emergency fund to give you peace of mind. Whatever it is, use that to determine how much you need to reduce your spending. And if you’re married or in a long-term relationship, get your finances in order as a couple so you can pursue goals together.
As time goes on, you’ll continue to track your spending and notice how those amounts in each category are changing. You can then readjust your budget to reflect the new spending levels if you want. Of course, it can be hard to change our behaviors. That’s why it’s important to understand how your mind works in order to shift into new ways of thinking.
To maintain your budget plan, you need to control your emotions and impulses that stimulate your desire to spend money. You should keep close track of what you spend every day. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to buy this? Maybe I should cook dinner everyday instead of eating out.” Try to cut back on your “fixed” monthly expenses. You should always be able to cut back on your personal care, hobbies and entertainment. Of you can get this under control and maintain these key factors, you will be well on your way to having a successful budget and savings plan.
Discover more information on credit, credit cards, savings, debt, and become an empowered consumer when it comes to saving money. Debt Wise Solutions has several books that would be beneficial to you. Take a minute and visit our bookstore.
Don’t forget to take advantage of our FREE book offer.