Creating a budget is one of the best things you can do for your financial health. Budgets are like road maps giving you direction. To help you manage it all, we’ve rounded up the ultimate budgeting for beginners guide.
We’ll go over how to make a budget, where to start, and budgeting tips to help keep you on track. Here’s your go-to guide to creating a budget.
Where to Start
When creating a budget, you’ll want to start with your goals. Your goals could be anything from building up your emergency fund to saving for a home. Thinking about your goals will help you better understand where you should put your money.
If your goal is to retire early, for example, a good portion of your budget will go towards retirement savings. If your goal is to pay down debt, you’ll focus your efforts on reducing your credit card bills.
One helpful tip is to set small, attainable goals that will help you reach your larger goal. Let’s say your end goal is to pay off your debt.
Start with the low-hanging fruit and pay off your smallest or highest interest debt first. Paying off a small credit card, for example, will leave you with a few hundred extra pounds each month to pay off a larger card.
Write Out Your Income and Expenses
After you’ve set your goals, you’ll want to write out your income and expenses. You can’t make a plan for what’s coming out if you don’t really know what’s coming in. Write out any income sources you have.
Next, you’ll need to write out all your expenses. Separate your fixed expenses as well. Fixed expenses are expenses you have to have or pay such as rent and electricity.
Non-essential expenses include gym memberships, music subscriptions, and the money you spend on clothes. These are all expenses you can trim if the money in your budget becomes tight.
Check your bank statements for anything you may have missed. Go back a few months so you can see anything that’s paid quarterly. The more detailed you are, the more accurate your budget will be.
Where to Make Cuts
Once you see how much you have coming in versus what you’re spending, it’s time to make some cuts. Be realistic here. If you cut too much, you won’t be able to stick to your new budget.
Look at anything that’s non-essential. If it isn’t being used, cancel it. You may be surprised by all the subscription services you have that you aren’t using.
If you have three group fitness class memberships, for example. Choose your favourite and stick to one.
If you’re spending more than you’re bringing in, cutting items will help you get back on track. Keep your goals in mind here. If it isn’t helping you reach your goals, cut it.
Making a Budget
To start writing out your budget, begin with your fixed expenses. Rent, student loan, and your car payment are examples of fixed expenses. You need to pay for these each month.
Next, look at your utility payments, cell phone, and grocery bills. Groceries are one you can be flexible with if you need to. If you’re eating out for three meals a day, cut this down and increase your grocery budget to save money.
When you’re assigning items a budget, be realistic. If you’re used to spending £500 a week on groceries for a family of six, start by cutting that down to £300. If you try to live off £50, you’ll probably end up ordering takeaway and blowing your budget.
The next part of your budget should include reaching your goals. Remember to work on small goals to help you reach your larger one.
Carve off any disposable income towards reaching your goals. If these aren’t included in your goals, make room for saving for emergencies as well as retirement.
What to Use
Your budget can go on anything from a piece of paper to an online app. A spreadsheet that you can access online and from your phone is also helpful. You want to be able to see your budget whenever you need to.
There are a number of helpful budgeting apps as well. These often synch with your bank accounts, so your income and spending are tracked.
Cutting Down Fixed Expenses
Fixed expenses are harder to cut down. Rent, for example, has to be paid. If rent is too expensive, this is where getting a flatmate is helpful. You can split the rent, utilities, and even some groceries. You two can also share a car.
If you live in an area that’s walkable, you can also sell your car. You’ll use less petrol, save on car payments, and insurance.
The more you save and pay down, the less fixed expenses you’ll have. With budgeting, you can go from paying three credit cards to one.
Have Weekly or Monthly Meetings With Yourself
Once your budget is in place, you’ll want to make sure you’re staying on track. Host weekly or monthly meetings with yourself to make sure you’re staying on budget. It’s so rewarding to see yourself meeting your goals.
If a goal is to pay down debt. Pull up all your accounts online and check on your progress. When you see that debt number go down, put that money towards your emergency fund or another goal.
Budgeting for Beginners
Budgeting for beginners starts with accountability. You need to hold yourself accountable for your spending.
The only way a budget works is if you keep it realistic and set small, attainable goals. For more money advice, check out the finance section.1