4 Steps to Create a Budget
A budget shows you where your money is going every month to ensure you are bringing in more than you are spending and saving enough to meet your goals. Here are four steps to creating a budget:
Track where your money goes — You can track your expenses using your bank statements, receipts, or logging it into a journal or smartphone app. Add up the total for each month and then average it out. That will give you a good base to start building a budget you can stick to.
Put your budget on paper — Once you’ve tracked your expenses, use a spreadsheet or online/mobile application to put your budget on paper. In the expenses column, include everything that you spend money on. In another column, input your income. If you have a salary, you can input how much you receive each paycheck; but if your income varies, you can use the average of the last three months. Subtract expenses from income to see how much money you have left every month. If you have a negative number, you'll need to make some changes to your budget. If you have a positive number, that can be the amount of money saved each month.
Keep looking for ways to increase your savings — With essential expenses of fixed amounts, such as your mortgage, taxes, and insurance, you may be able to refinance your mortgage, find strategies to help reduce taxes, or comparison shop insurance to reduce premiums. Essential expenses that vary in amount, such as food, medical care, and utilities, can usually be reduced by altering spending or living habits. For instance, you can actively shop for food with coupons, exercise to get in better health, or put energy-saving lightbulbs through your house. Discretionary expenses, such as entertainment, dining out, clothing, travel, and charitable contributions, typically offer the most potential for spending reductions.
Reevaluate —It is critical to reevaluate your budget after the first few months to ensure it fits your needs and goals. If you find you are continuously spending more money than budgeted for necessities, adjust your budget. Once you get past the first few months with a new budget, reevaluate every six months or as needed.
Having a budget is key to saving money. Without one, it is easy to spend money blindly.
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