Having a budget is important because it is the only way you will be able to have financial freedom. If you are spending more than you make, you’ll just dig yourself deeper and deeper until you’re under a mountain of debt.
Debt is the opposite of saving, and saving is what you need to be doing if you want to have a bright future ahead of you.
If you want to do all the great things an adult should like buy their first home or start your own business, you’re going to need savings to do it. This is where a budget comes in. Below I have listed a step by step guide on how to make a budget, as well as what to do with debt you already may have.
Figure Out Your Expenses
The first step you need to make is to find out how much you’re actually spending on a monthly basis. At the beginning of a new month, save every receipt you get after paying cash for something.
At the end of the month, print out all of your statements from your debit and credit cards. Make categories for things you normally spend money on like rent, your car, entertainment, etc.
I like to use Excel for this because it’s easier for me to sort and add but you can do it by hand if you’d like. Put all of your expenses under the appropriate category and add each column up. The total that you get is how much money you spend on average each month.
Figure Out How Much You Make
The next step that you should do is figure out how much you make. If you’re a regular employee this should be easy because you get paid the same amount each month. Or if you’re paid bi-weekly, make sure that you add both checks together.
If you work on commission or run your own business, you probably make different amounts each month.
When this is the case, add up all the money that you made in the past six months and divide it by 6. This will be the average income that you take home every month.
Are You Spending More Than You’re Saving?
If you’re looking at your income number and see that it is less than your expenses number, then your budget isn’t balanced. If you keep doing what you’re doing when it comes to your spending habits, you will go a little further into debt each month.
In addition, you won’t be saving toward your future and retirement.
Is there anything that you are spending money on that you could cut back on? For many of my friends in their 20’s, going out to bars and clubs in the city usually run them over budget each month.
Think about it. In NYC it costs about $20 to get in and $18 for one drink. Most of the people I know have about 4-5 drinks when they go out, sometimes more.
If you go out once every weekend and have 4 drinks with your friends, that’s an extra $368 dollars you’re spending on drinking. That’s not even including the tips you give to the bartender!
Needs Vs. Wants
If your budget is way over what you make, you need to first focus on your needs and then you can focus on your wants. Your needs are things like rent and food.
Your wants are things such as entertainment, phone, gas, shopping, etc. If your income doesn’t cover your needs, then you need to take a step back and think of either getting a second job, a different job, or moving to a location that is more affordable for you.
If you can afford your needs, take a look at your wants and see what is most important to you. Usually, your phone tops the list followed by keeping your transportation.
My husband and I decided to get rid of one of our vehicles and just share one car. Since I work at home and he gets home in the early afternoon, we don’t really notice the second car is even missing.
Making the decision to get rid of a vehicle not only saved us $1000 in lease payments, insurance and gas, it also helps decrease our carbon footprint.
Within your budget, you should also have some money for the fun things in life. Going to the movies, vacations, and shopping all fit under this category.
Since the 50/30/20 rule doesn’t work because of my overpriced New York City Rent and groceries, I needed to come up with a different rule.
My rule is to save 20% of what I spend for mandatory expenses on entertainment and the rest goes to savings. For example, I make $4000 a month and my rent is $3000. If I take 20% of $3000 I’ll have $600 for entertainment and $400 for savings. Not too bad at all.
If you have to cut back your entertainment budget, you’ll probably have more free time on your hands. Why not focus on taking care of yourself? Check out my best self care ideas that are mostly all free. You can even grab your friends and do some of these activities together!
Did you know that in 2017 46% of millenials had nothing saved? This makes the future a terrifying place to think about, and having an emergency can be catastrophic to your finances.
Many finance guru’s say you should follow the 50/30/20 rule, but with the rising cost of living and the stagnant growth of our paychecks, it can be hard to save 20% of your monthly income. The main goal is to have all of your bills paid first, and focus on saving right after.
I like to think of my savings as another mandatory bill that has to be paid. On the day that I pay my bills, I also take out my set amount (usually $200) and put it into my savings account.
This way, I force myself to save before I spend my money on entertainment and other wants.
Saving is mandatory if you want to build a solid future for yourself. Unless you have rich relatives, nobody but you is going to save up for the downpayment on your first home, or your hospital bill for your broken ankle.
What to Do With Current Debt
Do you already have a lot of debt holding you down? Do you have a car loan, a mortgage, or student loans? Having trouble paying your credit card on time?
Maybe you took out a private loan to start a business that ended up failing. When you have debt, you don’t have the same advantages as people who are financially free.
Four years ago I had some medical issues that needed to be taken care of. Since I have no health insurance, I had no choice but to put my medical bills on my credit cards.
Month after month I tried to pay down the balance. But I was getting charged over $300 in interest every month along with my minimum payments.
At one point I had over $30k in credit card debt from my medical bills. Because of this my beautiful 790 credit score was also being lowered by the day. I felt like I was in a hole I would never get out of.
How I Got Out of Debt
After looking for a few weeks for a solution to my mounting debt, I came across National Debt Relief. I spoke with a super friendly agent right away. He explained to me how the process worked and answered all my questions.
Basically, if you have over $7k in unsecured debt (credit cards, private student loans, etc.) National Debt Relief will negotiate with the person who lent you the money and settle for about half of what you owe.
While they are negotiating, you will be paying a specified affordable amount monthly into your National Debt Relief escrow account. National Debt Relief will pay the remaining loan balances to your creditors/loaners with this money.
For me, we set up my payment plan where I would pay $600 monthly for three years interest free. This was much cheaper than the $2000 I was paying to my credit cards every month.
In addition, they negotiated with all of the creditors and cut my debt from $30k to $15k! Another thing that I liked about National Debt Relief is that there is no penalty if you pay more than your specified monthly payment. I paid a few hundred extra every month and became debt free in two years instead of three.
No words can describe to you the weight that was lifted off my shoulders after working with this company. I would highly recommend them if you have accumulated a decent amount of debt.
Learning how to make a budget is one of the most important skills you can learn as an adult. If you want to make your dream life a reality, you’ll need to save money consistently over many years. This can only be done if there is a functional budget in place.
Learning how to make a budget is the first step to becoming financially free. It’s easier to learn than any school course you’ve ever taken. Do you have a budget system that works for you? Let me know in the comments below.