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Creating a budget might not exactly sound like the most enjoyable task in the world, but it’s a necessary part of keeping your finances in order, and keeping you out of mounting debt.
If you’ve already tried starting a budget and keep running into obstacles, perhaps it’s time to start looking at the fundamentals. It only takes a misstep or two to turn your detailed budget into a total mess. Here are some helpful budgeting tips to help you come up with a functional budget to keep your finances healthy.
Know Exactly How Much You Really Bring in
The answer here isn’t simply your annual salary, nor dividing that number by 12 equal parts for each month. What you should really be basing your budget on is your actual take-home pay each month.
For instance, if you make $50,000 annually as a salary – or around $4,200 per month – you need to take into account your income tax, benefits, pension plan, and other costs that you’re paying that get docked off your monthly checks. Because of all these other hidden expenses, using $4,200 as a basis for your budget really isn’t accurate. It’s probably closer to $3,000, and maybe even less. It’s crucial that you know exactly how much is coming in every month, because that’s the figure you’ll be basing your budget around.
Get a Handle on Accurate Numbers When it Comes to Monthly Spending
It’s best to work with real numbers when coming up with a solid budgeting plan. This involves keeping every receipt after every purchase, and tallying up how much you’re really spending. Your first budget essentially reflects how much you’re spending on average every month.
In addition to regular bills, don’t forget to include all your irregular spending too, such as driver’s license renewals, property taxes, property insurance, and so forth. These bills should really be planned for throughout the year, and not necessarily considered ‘surprise’ expenses.
Have an Easy-To-Use Budgeting Tool on Hand
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If you’re starting off your budget using a complicated tool, you can quickly and easily become overwhelmed by its complexity and the myriad of options available. This will cause you to more than likely throw in the towel when it comes to keeping up with your budget. Your first budget should really be easy to manage and keep up with to help you get a handle on your finances.
Using a simple, free budget template is recommended, which is basically like an online version of the paper-and-pencil type. While there are a number of great options out there, many of them can become too complicated – the more confused you are about the tool you’re using, the less likely you’ll keep up with your budget because it’s “just too complicated.” Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, stick to simple tools, especially when you’re just starting out.
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The Mint app makes it easy to track your monthly expenses.
Use a Budgeting Tool Specific to Your Situation
Depending on what phase of life you’re in, you’ll want to use a budget template that’s catered to your situation. For instance, college students may have a completely different budget than a newly married couple.
Click here to download the XLS filefree budget template.xls.
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There are a variety of free budget templates available to suit your needs, whether it’s for college students, parents with children in daycare, single-income households, and so forth. Choosing the one that fits your lifestyle is crucial to help you develop a clear understanding of how your take-home pay covers all your expenses.
A Free Budget Template Awaits You at Mint.com!
For help setting up a budget to track your spending, Mint.com makes it easy for you. This online tool offers a number of budget templates to suit your lifestyle, and gathers all your financing accounts into one convenient place. This site allows you to streamline your budgeting efforts, giving you total visibility of your income and spending so you can easily and quickly see exactly what’s happening in all areas of your finances. The best part? It’s completely FREE! Visit Mint.com to get started budgeting your finances today!
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